Anxiety. For some of us, it is something that may happen in the most extreme circumstances under severe stress and pressure. For others, it is a way of life. Living with severe anxiety is not something that you would see someone bragging about, yet there is a large portion of individuals who have experienced severe anxiety within the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many people through many ways. Some people have lost loved ones, others have lost jobs that they relied on to make a living. Some people have had physical battles fighting the virus and other conditions throughout the pandemic, others have fought inner battles with themselves and the voices in their head that say this is too much to handle and that you are not built for this. All battles are valid, and all struggles are unique to each person it affects.
For me, the struggle with severe anxiety was already an uphill battle to begin with. I would have issues doing just ordinary daily tasks that would not even phase another person. Going into the grocery store and shopping was sometimes a battle that required too much energy and effort for me. There was always some random anxiety about something that should not affect me whatsoever. Whether it was dealing with frustrated customers at my job or worrying that the assignment I just submitted might tank my grade and force me to take another semester before I get my degrees. This was already enough to deal with daily. Then COVID-19 arrived in the United States.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was at home and I had received a news notification on my iPhone about a live feed of former President Donald Trump’s Oval Office Address regarding the growing concern for the COVID-19 virus. He discussed the “unprecedented” response to the COVID-19 virus and talked about his plan of action to rid the nation of the virus, which he referred to as very incorrectly, the “China Virus.” This was enough to cause anxiety in me that would rise to new levels in the coming months. From this address, I could tell that the former president was not only ready to alienate an entire nation of people and put blame on them for the spread of the virus, but he was ready to completely alienate and condone hatred on Asian Americans here in the United States, as many white supremacists and Trump supporters would begin to believe that it was China’s fault.
As the months progressed, my mental health deteriorated. I worried about my parents’ health, my friends and my family. I worried for those who were vulnerable in a time when going out to perform daily tasks and activities was like participating in a game of Russian Roulette. All this to say, I was worrying about things that were utterly and completely out of my control. I saw that the virus was destroying vulnerable people and communities who were at unprecedented risk
due to inequality which was none of their fault. I watched as evictions began to take place across the country toward those who needed help now more than ever. Articles like the one published by Emily Benfer and her colleagues highlighted the rise in mental illness and anxiety due to evictions. Other articles by Peter Grant and Heather Smith highlighted the significant ability that humans must mimic the emotions of others. This alone is an issue that could be discussed at length, but in short, if anxiety rules in a household, other emotions will make themselves more than present. These emotions can lead to uncertainty, anger, frustration, violence, and more.
In comparison, those who were and still are severely anxious during these unprecedented times are told day in and day out, whether it be on the radio, social media, television, or streaming services, that “We are all in this together.” This is enough to cause frustration and even more anxiety within someone, especially myself. If we truly are all in this together, then I would hate to see it when we are not. If this is what it looks like when a whole nation is “all in this together,” then I would not enjoy seeing what it looks like when we are not supporting each other. This year and the previous year have been none other than prime examples of a nation that is not “all in this together.” In fact, it seems as if throughout most of the year, half of the nation was at the throats of the other half of the nation. Of course, articles like the one published by Francesca Sobande discuss how this idea of being “all in this together” was a way for companies to shield themselves from backlash for poor treatment of their employees during such a difficult time, by instead setting up a narrative of a combined force of people working together for the common good. It was more than obvious that most companies during these difficult times had taken advantage of their employees through underpaying and overworking them, when just the simple act of leaving your house could get you killed.
All of this and more caused the anxiety within my mind to grow and grow and grow. It was much like adding gasoline to an already raging fire, and then trying to douse it with a cup of water. Not very effective. I realize that there were many people who experienced a drastic rise in anxiety throughout the year 2020 and the beginning of this year as well. I cannot say that this was the most difficult issue that anyone had faced during this time, because it is not. However, I think that there needs to be more understanding about mental health, especially now. The world is a volatile and uncertain place, and mental health needs to be taken seriously. Most of the time, people take for granted their access to therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. They take for granted the medicine they take daily for their anxiety or mental health needs. In my experience, when I have gone to others for help with my mental health and severe anxiety disorder, I am shrugged off or simply told that I should get a therapist. If I should respond that I am not able to get a therapist, then I am told that I am not even trying. Responses like this do not heal but hurt. We need to stop telling people that the only solution is therapy or medicine, because some people do not have immediate access to such medical luxuries, and to assume so is only a sign of indifference towards the individual’s issues, and not an attempt to help whatsoever.
Benfer, E.A., Vlahov, D., Long, M.Y. et al. Eviction, Health Inequity, and the Spread of COVID-19: Housing Policy as a Primary Pandemic Mitigation Strategy. J Urban Health 98, 1–12 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-020-00502-1
Grant PR, Smith HJ. Activism in the time of COVID-19. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 2021;24(2):297-305. doi:10.1177/1368430220985208
Sobande F. ‘We’re all in this together’: Commodified notions of connection, care and community in brand responses to COVID-19. European Journal of Cultural Studies. 2020;23(6):1033-1037. doi:10.1177/1367549420932294