The pandemic has impacted almost everyone in a variety of ways. Only recently have I noticed just how much my mental health has changed because of it. My normal struggles with depression and anxiety have morphed in ways that make it hard to recognize when I need help. I know I am not the only one struggling, and I even believe I am one of the luckier ones. I am financially secure, healthy, and do not know anyone who was hospitalized due to COVID.
One of the more noticeable differences in my behavior is how I crave social interaction. I always considered myself an introvert, but after a year in relative isolation, I look for ways to be around people. Most times, I am not even looking for a conversation. I am happiest sitting in a room where other people are living their lives. I just want to know that I am not alone in the way I have felt for so long.
I have even begun romanticizing things that I disliked a year ago: crowded parties, loud concerts, frequent travel. Overstimulation is a very real thing to me but having spent so long without it, I find I am longing for it. I cannot imagine myself being in a crowded room with the pandemic still on-going, but the idea of being around so many people dancing and singing without having to worry about the virus has become very attractive to me.
Going so long without serious social interaction has made it difficult for me to process the interactions I do have. I struggle to understand when someone is angry at me or just tired from a long day staring at a screen. While I want to interact with others, I find I lack to motivation to leave my room or plan COVID-safe activities. I binge watch tv shows, scroll social media, and avoid doing my homework for as long as possible. Even classes that I am extremely interested in often fail to convince me to get work done.
I know I am not the only one feeling unmotivated and isolated, but it often feels like everyone else is handling the situation much better than I am. I hope that once the vaccine is widely distributed, I’ll be able to cope in healthier ways beyond binge eating pretzel sticks, but until then, I hope that sharing my struggles will help other people feel less alone.