Trigger Warning: Suicide
Conceptually, I was ready for the pandemic to be over, almost as soon as it had begun.
It was a surreal, worldwide experience: there was inexplicable loneliness, disappointment and loss paired with a paradoxical moment for some of us to take a breath.
But that can be hard to admit, after all, there was a death count.
In hindsight, I cannot help but thank the momentary lapse of the stress associated with everyday life.
November 11th, 2019 was the last day I attended my senior year until early March, just before isolation began. Sometime before 11:22 p.m. that night in November, I had fallen asleep on FaceTime. 11:22. My best friend texted me, and within the next hour, he decided to end his life.
I did not go to school the next day. November 12th, 2019.
For about five months following his suicide and prior to COVID, I could not bring myself to go to school, the grief which overtook me after that night was truly unbearable. Two weeks before the world shut down I finally returned, as was insisted upon, I dropped a class, and struggled to look into the eyes of my classmates.
For the majority of my life, I battled with anxiety and depression and having to fight off horrible thoughts of self-harm. Now, I had lost someone I loved to suicide.
I wondered how I was possibly going to reinsert myself into “normal” life. I had spent so long living in a weird, numb and empty nightmare world. It seemed inescapable.
Then quarantine hit, and I had time to sit with myself. I had the time and means to make my everyday life enjoyable for me, and it was hard; unbelievably difficult, in fact, to learn how to care for myself in such a way that I was able to find beauty in life.
It did not happen instantly, but the coronavirus showed me that I could survive. And for the first time in my life, I was able to not only accept what had happened to me, but use it to catalyze any experience that brought me peace, warmth, happiness, a feeling of love, and home.
The pandemic allowed me to truly recover; I no longer had to deal with mind-altering grief alongside guilt. Rather suddenly, mental health was now equally as important as production.
And that’s when I realized the Coronavirus, the three months off, would have saved Bobby.
Another pandemic lurks in the shadows of our lives: depression, anxiety, ADHD, ADD, addiction, PTSD, among other things.
Even if you have not personally met these illnesses, almost definitely, someone around you, someone you care about, has. Mental illnesses kill millions in the forms of suicides, overdoses, drunk driving accidents and even through the simple unhealthy habits it enacts on its victims.
For some, the isolation only heightened their symptoms.
To me, this screams that our basic knowledge of mental health is essentially non-existent. There is no legitimate option to get urgent assistance, and there is no curriculum in school that begins to even touch on how to cope with the inconsistencies of life, others and ourselves. Quarantine helped me, but I had been going to therapy and going through time periods of medication for all of high school. I had learned the necessary tools, but I needed time to make changing my mindset my only goal. I was lucky, I worked very hard, and I had great support.
An unbelievable number of people are not necessarily blessed with any of these things, much less all of them. We have a health class, we have a gym class… why not a mental health class? Somehow our apparent need to work five days a week, every day, for all of our lives, will always take precedence over individual needs. There is a path that is laid out for us at birth. There are options within that path, but so many of us are not given the tools we need to have a chance at the pursuit of happiness. Joy is not “profitable,” but that does not mean it isn’t worth it.