The night of the 2020 election, I was alone. It was the first election in 7 years that I had spent alone, on my couch, watching the returns. None of it felt real — the lack of pomp and circumstance, the way the CNN reporters talked about the election, or me, wearing a Kamala sweatshirt and sandwiched between dogs in East Tennessee. When the results finally came in several days later, that didn’t feel real either.
The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event.” While most definitions reference specific events (natural disaster, car accident…
I don’t smoke. But I come from a family of smokers. In my Chinese-American family, I am almost exclusively the only male member who has not, at some point, smoked cigarettes regularly. If I run down the list, it includes my grandfather, all my uncles, my father, and my brother. And the only reason some older men, like my grandfather, don’t smoke is because they had throat surgery or other compromising health complications.
When I was younger, I wished my dad would stop smoking. It carried a lot of personal weight for me, so I vowed I would never smoke…
I can still remember the incredulous expression on my mother’s face as I tried to walk her through all the different precautions I knew she would have to take to protect herself from the coronavirus.
“Don’t go anywhere you don’t need to go,” I told her. “And when you do go out, bring a box of latex gloves with you everywhere. Wear them when you open doors, take money out of ATM machines, and pick up your prescriptions. When you’re done, throw them away in a trash can and use hand sanitizer on your hands before you touch anything else.”
I have struggled with an eating disorder for around a decade. That feels terrifying to say, or rather, to write. It has morphed with my life, a constant companion I would rather leave. As my life has ebbed and flowed, it has been the only thing that has stayed; that is the crux of the problem. My eating disorder has lived off my perceived lack of control.
Finding that I could no longer control my external circumstances, I turned that feeling inwards. After experiencing a traumatic sexual assault, I found myself pushing it all to the back of my head.
I was recently invited on National TV to talk about the widespread mental health impact of the lockdowns.
According to data published by Global News:
“22 percent of Canadians are experiencing high anxiety levels amid the pandemic, and 13 percent say their depression level is high.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, research published by The Washington Post shows that a third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression. With the death count rapidly rising and various stressful situations happening at once, it’s hard for many people to see the light at the end of the tunnel. …
Almost a full year ago, I was on the frontlines of the COVID-19 disaster relief, managing terrified patients in a drive-thru clinic. In full gear, I feared I would be the next victim.
But I dodged it.
Eventually, my work specialty went back to a modified, sad version of what it was before. With a mask on, I rode the waves of controversial responses, and never claimed to have the right answer.
I parented in the pandemic, juggling my young preschool-aged sons and my stepson. We cruised, watching this horror film unfold.
Then we lost a family member and a…
Content warning: this article includes mentions of suicide. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 800–273–8255. Counselors are available 24 hours, 7 days a week, and it’s confidential and free.
I’m scrolling through my Instagram feed. I stare at a post that makes my throat tighten like I’m in anaphylactic shock:
“This week we lost someone special from our community because of her struggle with her own Covid-induced loneliness. Social distancing is taking its toll. …
I started writing this story more than a year ago. It sat in my drafts for a while, taunting me, as so many stories do. And then it got lost in the shuffle of COVID life.
I recently found it and was struck by the comparison between how my eating disorder manifested in 2019 and how it manifests today.
I gave myself a pass in 2020, ignoring my recovery. And now I’m paying the price.
I just broke down in the gym locker room shower.
What extreme trauma has befallen me to elicit this reaction? I know you’re wondering.
As a psychiatrist who studies the effects of social change on mental health, I was very interested to know how the COVID pandemic would affect our emotional well-being. The question here is not about being infected with COVID. Rather, it encompasses all of the effects on people’s lives as a result of the pandemic. I was among many experts who predicted significant increases in the entire spectrum of mental disorders as a result of COVID in affected communities. My own predictions included a further layer of negative consequences than those forecasted by my colleagues.
I will make a confession: I have never used distance therapy, except for when I couldn’t drive to my therapist’s office, my husband wasn’t available to drive me there, or when I had the last-minute I-just-can’t-go-today feelings or I’m having-a-crisis feelings. This was in the days before teleconferencing, texting, and other long-distance forms of therapy, so occasionally my therapist would agree to do a telephone session, which I appreciated greatly. In general, they didn’t last as long as the standard psychotherapy 50-minute hour, but at times they were lifesavers.
Now, when everything seems to be online, and especially during pandemic…
We don't talk enough about mental health.