Mental health in 2021

Unfortunately I couldn’t get Kaylirr’s Yin and Yang to a place where I was happy enough with it to post it. Instead have this post about why my mental health is spaghetti.

I don’t know about you guys, but I had almost convinced myself that 2021 was going to be a better year than 2020 was. And of course, the potential is still there. Yet as someone who likes to from time to time pretend that the house isn’t on fire I do think it’s time to acknowledge that the year 2020 wasn’t at the heart of the problem. I saw a meme a while ago that said the Mayans might have been dyslectic when they said the world was going to end in 2012, and the last two numbers should be reversed. It seems fitting to think of our current situation as the end of the world, and I think it’s strangely comforting to consider it something unavoidable. The planet is warming up, democracy is slowly wavering, there is a deadly disease in the air and half the population is more worried about minor inconveniences than any of these. We’re slowly learning that capitalism isn’t actually made for the people, the free market is a lie and everything is, in fact, fire.

In a world like this, how do you keep your mental health from turning into spaghetti?
Well the short answer is: you don’t. At least I can’t manage it. I’ve been feeling sad and dejected a lot more in recent memory, even though near the end of December, and even in early January, I was feeling a lot better. I’m getting weekly guidance with planning and I’ve been working hard on slowly getting my life back together. I’ve talked about my mental health on this website before, and as those of you who have read some of those posts might know, it’s not in a fantastic state. On a personal level I’m doing a lot better than, say, five years ago, when I was still in the middle of working through therapy and learning to live with my autism. On a more global scale though, so to speak, it’s a mess. I haven’t seen some of my friends in over a year, going to the supermarket is more like an expedition and less like a stroll. I had started going on vacation again for the first time in years, and even that is cancelled until further notice. (I’m still mad that my flight vouchers are about to run out and they aren’t refundable. What do you mean I should have just predicted the worst health crisis from our generation to last this long?)

Adding to the bizarre times in which we live, seasonal depression is hitting like a truck right around now. I’m normally someone who quite likes the winter. Rain and wind are very atmospheric. But one of the requirements for winter to be so enjoyable, is the knowledge that spring and summer are right around the corner and soon we can go outside again. Of course we can still leave the house, but if the current vaccination chaos is anything to go by, it is unlikely that this crisis is resolved by summer. This means we still need to wear masks in 30+ degrees heat, keep our distance from each other, and will be unable to visit our friends. So that prospect is slowly slipping away and for me, that makes it a lot harder to appreciate the colder, darker days of the year. As I’m writing this at 7 AM, I can look out the train window and all I see is darkness with the occasional street lamp. I’m both lucky and unlucky when it comes to the current lockdown. I can still go out and do my job, because the kids I teach are among a small group of exceptions that still get in-person classes. The downside to that, and this is a big one, is that we are all risking our health while doing so. It’s not particularly busy at our school, but the train is a stressful experience with the amount of people refusing to properly keep to the rules. The amount of people that pull their mask down to sneeze, talk, breathe, eat or just because it’s more comfortable is still staggering, and I worry about getting sick. I’m a fairly healthy person in my late 20s, I will be fine if I do get sick. My parents are a lot older, and I don’t want to accidentally make them seriously ill just because some dickhead doesn’t understand (or care) about social distancing.

All in all, I can’t say I really have a proper solution to this awful time period we live in. Figuring out mental health is something I have a lot of experience with, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m good at it, it just means that my mental health needs figuring out a lot.
As for solutions in these times, I think it’s best to go back to the basics. Reflect on the positives in life and take the time to acknowledge that not everything is bad. Find the things in life that still give you joy and hold on to them. For me those are things like reading, writing and talking to friends online. That and watching an unhealthy amount of anime. I’m also doing more basic things like trying to keep my diet healthy through eating more fruit and vegetables, and I hope to start working out again in the near future. My ringfit adventures game is collecting dust right now, and I should pick it up again. The final bit of advice I want to give is to talk about it. When someone asks you how you’ve been, it’s okay to tell them that it’s been rough. They can probably relate. Talk about it. Tell them what you struggle with, and then they will maybe tell you what they struggle with. At least we can all be miserable together and take solace in that. At the end of the day, as grim as the situation has been for a lot of us lately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if we can’t quite see it because there’s still a few corners ahead of us. 

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