Depression is different for every person who experiences it. Everyone deals with it differently. There is no one or right way to deal with it. When I was 12 years old I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. I am now 20 years old and still struggle with depression. Some days are harder than others and that’s okay. I’m human that’s how life is. Just how depression is different for everyone beating depression is also different. I have had many friends who have struggled with depression and confided in me and each of their stories are unique. The way they have overcome their struggles are all different. After 8 years of dealing with depression I wish I could say my battle is over and won. But in reality that’s not how it works. My reality is some days I wake up and I don’t want to get out of bed. My battle is won when I get myself out of bed to go along with daily life. My battle is looking in a mirror and seeing every single flaw and calling myself ugly. My battle is won when I stop and breathe and say I was born for a reason and I am beautiful. My battle is not wanting to eat because I think I’m fat. My battle is won when I make good choices and eat right because food is fuel that your body needs to survive. On my lowest days depression made me want to die. For years I was suicidal and contemplated suicide. My battle was won when I was able to stand and say I deserved the life I was given. Depression made me stronger. It showed me how low I could fall but how high I could soar. How strong I truly am. Everyday I wake up I am beating my depression. Everyday I stand tall I am beating my depression. Every time I smile I am beating my depression. Even if I still struggle I have won my battle because I know that I have a purpose in life and I can achieve whatever I put my mind to.
1. What are your current thoughts about what's going on right now regarding COVID-19?
I’m glad that people are beginning to take it seriously. However, I do think that people are panicking unnecessarily and making decisions because of this fear. An example is the panic buying going on in grocery stores. Buying and hoarding supplies prevents other families in affected communities from gaining access to essential items. Rather than panicking and making fear-based decisions, I think that people should be following the social distancing rules and should limit their exposure to individuals outside of their homes. Because people can test positive for the virus but exhibit no symptoms, it is difficult to accurately self-diagnose. Therefore, we can unwittingly facilitate the spread of the virus by interacting with people in our work, living, and social communities.
2. How has it impacted your mental health?
COVID-19 has made it more challenging for me to manage my anxiety. I find myself getting worried and have a harder time rationally thinking through my panic because of all the unknown aspects of the virus. I’ve found myself going down tangential thoughts regarding my own livelihood, my family members, and my community. I catch myself becoming scared for my elderly grandparents, my family friends, my friends’ families, and the communities of the families I’ve worked with. I also have been reflecting on my privilege, having health insurance and access to essential supplies. This in turn makes me feel guilty and anxious for those less fortunate than I am. It’s a vicious cycle I’m trying to break out of.
3. How has it impacted your work?
COVID-19 has made every BT and caregiver extremely cautious about working. The BACB has offered ethics guidance regarding continuing services, reminding us that our first priority is the wellbeing of our clients. Section 2.0, Behavior Analysts’ Responsibility to Clients, states “Behavior analysts have a responsibility to operate in the best interest of clients.” Section 2.04(d) states: “Behavior analysts put the client’s care above all others …” For some clients and families, this means the discontinuing of services until BTs and caregivers are able to resume services without danger to the clients. However, the decision to conduct services has been left to the care teams, unless the families have cancelled sessions. Many caregivers are still implementing behavioral interventions, and those who are not have made arrangements with the families to avoid client regression.
4. How do you manage your mental health?
I try to make time each day to do at least one thing that I love. I switch it up so that I don’t get stuck in a routine, and so I don’t feel like I’m scheduling happiness. But that’s exactly what it is. I take time out of each day to draw, dance around my room, read a book, or do some yoga. I find that if I keep myself busy, I have less time to get lost in my thoughts and stress out about circumstances beyond my control. I also make sure to fact check updates regarding COVID-19, because inaccurate information tends to foster more fear.
5. Any recommendations or tips for fellow individuals who are experiencing the same thing as you are?
Given that this is a stressful time filled with uncertainty and risk, I think it’s important to take a step back and remember that there are preventative measures each individual can take to actively stop the spread of the virus. Stay informed, and only trust news from reputable sources to avoid becoming unnecessarily worried about in accurate information. While we practice social distancing, we have less access to our friends and family outside of our living spaces. Take this time to remotely stay in touch with your support systems while simultaneously minimizing the risk to your communities. Check in on your friends, and recognize that everyone copes differently so try not to pass judgment. Lastly, I would recommend setting aside time each day to do something fun or relaxing, because your mental and physical health remain important during these trying times. Stay safe out there everyone!