“Nevertheless, those of us who were fortunate enough to contemplated our mental health and learned that the things that we did to feel better weren’t always making us feel better– they were sometimes distracting us from ourselves.”

    When we are busy—out and about—it’s quite easy to avoid checking in with ourselves. We might feel a slight inclination to, perhaps a brief moment of “that felt weird”. This brief moment likely happens before we move on to going out with friends to forget our troubles. We’ll frequent the bar, the gym, maybe even a yoga class or two with some friends, and that is all the stress relief we’ll need to make it through the upcoming week. This is certainly a reasonable strategy for maintaining mental health.
    Of course, there were no problems with the above strategy until 2020. I firmly believe that 2020 will go down in history as the year we all collectively learned that we, in fact, do not have our shit together– at least mentally. It’s funny, as I write this, I am humorously reminded of a video I saw posted on Instagram, wherein a man decides he wants to sit down and meditate to “know his inner self”, and he barely makes it thirty seconds into the meditation before he realizes that even he doesn’t want to step foot into his own messy mind. “Whew, I don’t know how anyone would want to stay in there for too long”, he remarked.
    While it is also perhaps the most jarring realization of 2020, the increased alertness to our own mental health needs has also been the most beneficial realization of 2020. Being isolated in the way that we are has forced us to sit alone with our minds, in addition to seeking out the tools necessary to clean them up. Or at least fine-tune them when necessary (that is for those of you with well in-tact mental health; don’t rub it in). Even more so, we’ve learned that 1.) we have historically judged others (but mostly ourselves) for needing help maintaining our mental health, and 2.) we used to think we had very limited access to mental health services.
    It was easier, I think, to laugh it off in the past when discussing mental health. “Well, I’m not crazy so I don’t need a therapist”, and so on and so forth. Naturally, this discourse led us to believe that those who seek therapy are “crazy”, giving us a leg up comparison to lean on when we don’t feel safe enough to dive into our own psyche. Yet, because 2020 has forced us to do so, we’re taking a peek inside and learning that we’re all just a little bit “crazy”. I would argue that this has helped us de-stigmatize the need for therapy. More and more lately, I’ve been hearing from others that we all need some therapy, even if to maintain. It’s almost like therapy has become the going-to-the-gym for our minds. You don’t do it often, but going enough makes you feel at least a little bit better about yourself.
    I feel, at the very best, a little odd to be fortunate enough to claim that the pandemic has forced me to look at my own mental health more closely. At worst, I feel selfish, given that some were too busy with sick and/or dying family members, losing jobs, or even both while I contemplated if I was really “okay”. Nevertheless, those of us who were fortunate enough to contemplated our mental health and learned that the things we used to do to feel better weren’t always making us feel better—they were sometimes distracting us from ourselves. And sometimes this is okay, but I think it’s fair to say that a lot of us learned that it’s not always helpful. And in facing our own mental health by force, we’ve learned that it’s okay to need help. The best part though? We’ve learned that in asking, we shall receive too.

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More about the Author

Vanessa Hatton is currently a graduate student studying Psychology at Rutgers University. Vanessa can be reached at vanessalhatton@gmail.com