In the worst of my major depressive episodes, I experienced severe anhedonia, the reduced motivation and ability to experience pleasure. Nothing felt good, or sounded good, or looked good, or tasted good, and so nothing seemed worth pursuing. Getting through my days of travel and work and social obligations – even just brushing my teeth – was a sheer effort of will.
I’ve been on a medication protocol for the last year or so that has led to substantial improvements, and the last tweak came in late January. By mid-February I was feeling more stabilized and “normal” – running felt good, coffee tasted good, my husband’s laughter sounded good.
Then Covid-19 happened.
Quarantine of course magnifies mental health struggles, and I know that as the lockdowns continue, mental health issues across the board are becoming a larger part of the conversation. I’m glad that this topic has entered the broader public discourse, and in that I’m finding a small silver lining.
People who had never experienced the kind of anxiety and depression that have accompanied our isolation all of a sudden find themselves understanding, from a deeply personal perspective, what it must be like to live with those conditions year-in, year-out as many of us have. The more people personally experience mental health issues, a more profound understanding, from a societal perspective, is possible.
I bring this ups because in the last few weeks I’ve felt the anhedonia return, like a familiar fog. And in the past I would be resigned to the discomfort of that feeling, and do whatever I could to keep present and engaged despite it. These days, however, when I describe it to my friends who haven’t experienced mental health issues the past, they now respond with their own feelings of listlessness and the diminishment of joy.
They are now coming from a place of experience and understanding, because they have lived these feelings. And so I feel heard and understood in a way that previously didn’t feel possible; my friends find in me a lifetime of experience and the assurance that there is a way to work through it, to come out the other side intact.
I’ll take any bit of positivity these days, and the thought that we can come out of this mess with increased compassion for each other is sustaining me.
Have you found yourself looking at mental illness in a different light since quarantine began?
My task today: to start my blog post before 6 pm. Didn’t quite make it, so I’m going to make it my task tomorrow as well (not done!)