Just Checking In and Some Apps for Mental Health Awareness Month

I’ve been speaking with a lot of people these past few weeks, mostly via DM or text, and it appears that everyone, everywhere, is basically losing it.

Look, I get it, this is no walk in the park.

No really, have you been to the park lately for a walk? It’s insane, it’s like people don’t even know there’s a pandemic.

But I digress. Back to the bigger issue: lots of people losing their shit and their patience. No surprise there. We’ve been in quarantine and under house arrest (sorry, “shelter in place”) for eleventy thousand days now. Is that the right number? Cool.

The thing I find most interesting about this? I’m not one of the folks losing their shit. Well, not completely anyway.

Believe me, no one is more shocked about this than me. I have “losing my shit” written all over me on most days. So…why am I surprisingly calm??

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t ENJOY living in quarantine. I miss my friends, I miss going to restaurants and bars, I miss my clients (which also happen to be restaurants and bars), and I miss just…living life outside of a 10-block radius. I get it. This isn’t easy, but it’s also not the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

For me, this sucks, but it’s nothing compared to getting hit by a car and having your shin bone break through your skin. Then living in a hospital for 30 days, unable to get out of bed, even to use the bathroom. Or…falling down a flight of stairs and breaking your jaw, then being a Bridesmaid a week later where you can’t even eat the cocktail shrimp!! Or…forget it, I could go on but I think those two are great initial starting points.

Yikes. This was 2014.

I know this isn’t a contest, but I’ve been through some shit in my day, and this quarantine life just doesn’t get to me as much. I am WAY more concerned for the economy and for the people who are putting their lives on the line than I am for myself. I know I’ll bounce back eventually, and I know I can get through this, because I’ve been through worse (at least on a personal/mental level), and I always bounce back. We’re more resilient than we think.

That said, I am definitely concerned for my business, which in turn affects my mental health. I’m not completely holding it together on that front, and I cried a lot when this first initially hit. I lost nearly all of my clients in the span of 4 days, right as I moved back to my apartment in Brooklyn, and it was really hard to accept that this is my new reality, after working so hard to build it for so many years.

In case you need more info, I do social media management and consulting for restaurants, one of the hardest hit industries out there right now. Am I stressed the fuck out over it? Of course I am, but I’m doing whatever I can to help (the industry and myself) while not panicking. There’s no use in giving myself a stroke too, and if I’ve learned anything over my past experiences with adversity, it’s that I can’t control this and no one did anything to deserve it. It just happened and we gotta power through.

Remind yourself of that. Daily. Just say this out loud:

I didn’t deserve this. No one deserved this. But it will be ok.

Another thing to remember? We’re all in this together. I have good days and I have bad days, just like everyone else. You’re not alone.

Now, let me paint you a picture of what I once dealt with, aka the driving force behind this post:

You’re 17 years old, you’re a dancer, you’re in your senior year of high school, and you’re about to audition for a dance college like Juilliard. You have a lot of friends, you go out every night and dance until 2 am, you have a fun part time job, and you’re just loving life right now. The fresh experiences are like heroin.

Then, you get hit by a car and end up in the hospital with a leg that’s barely hanging on. It’s actually hanging on by one little bone and if that one breaks, say bye bye to your leg.

Within a matter of minutes, your life completely changes. Your world gets turned upside down, yet everyone else’s world remains the same. Ok, maybe your mom and a few select friends are very upset by this, but no one feels this the way you do. Physically and mentally, you are alone in this. You have to figure out how to pick yourself back up and collect the pieces of you that are left, literally, and you don’t know how long that’s going to take.

I think my face says it all. #RBF

Just take a moment and really imagine what that must feel like, at that age (or at any age). Put yourself in my old shoes for a hot second again:

You’re going about your routine, you’re at work, and the next thing you know, you end up in the hospital. And you end up staying there for a month. You don’t know what the next day, let alone the next week will look like, and you have NO clue what your future career will be. The doctors said you will never walk again, they said you will certainly never dance again, and now you have to start your life over.

I bring this up because there are parallels to what’s going on right now. The fear, the uncertainty, the starting over. I get it, and now you know why. Oh and guess what? I did walk again, and I did dance again. Maybe that gives you some hope.

A few years later. Back at dance!

Some of you are probably like “but HOW?” And I can safely say that a lot of it is mental. You have to WANT to get better, and you have to WORK at it. At first, I was incredibly miserable and depressed. I think that’s completely normal, given the situation. But after I spent some time wallowing in “why me”, I pulled myself out of that and started thinking “well, what now?”

I knew I didn’t want to be depressed and miserable forever, and I knew I had to take action to better my situation. Did I know ANYTHING about my future? No. Did I know HOW I was going to get better? Sort of. I knew I had to go to physical therapy, and I know I had to go to regular therapy as well.

You’d need therapy too if your leg looked like that

If you don’t have the money for therapy right now, there are other ways to work on your mental state. There are a ton of free apps (or cheap apps) like What’s Up, Mind Shift (anxiety), eMoods (bipolar disorder), Happify, PTSD Coach, and more. I found this article online that lists out a bunch of them, with the costs associated. Headspace is offering a free month of Headspace Plus for the unemployed for free for one year as well! Click here for more.

I have started playing around with Bloom, which is a subscription-based app, so it does cost money, but so far I’ve been finding it very helpful. The focus is CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and online journaling with breathing exercises/meditation, and you can keep track of your moods and daily progress. Plus, there’s this relaxing spa-like music on in the background right when you open the app, so it feels like an instant hit of “calm”. Full disclosure, I am working with them to create content, so they gave me my membership for free, but I would definitely pay for it and have paid for other similar apps in the past. Not to mention I had a therapist for many years, which is at least 10x the cost of a monthly Bloom subscription ($10). AND Bloom is offering a free month right now due to the mental impact of COVID-19.

Apps are a great way to intro yourself to therapy, and they provide anonymity, which I think is a big factor in taking the first step. Most people are afraid of therapy, or don’t want to admit that they need extra help. I was definitely one of those people, and I can tell you that therapy 100% changed my life and my outlook. It wasn’t easy at first, but once I really got into it, I loved it. I cannot stress this enough: you will benefit from therapy, especially in a time like this.

Back then, I suffered from anxiety, depression, and PTSD after the car accident, and therapy helped me get through it. I didn’t want to go the route of meds (and in hindsight, probably should have), so I just worked it all out in therapy. I support the use of medication, and I take anti-anxiety meds sometimes now to help me sleep, but I think at the time I was just so young, I didn’t want to think of myself as someone who “needed” medication. I definitely did though, and I think of the people I hurt in the process of mental rehabilitation, and I feel very bad about it. I had a very bad temper, scary PTSD episodes, panic attacks, and just overall unpredictable moods. In layman’s terms: I was an intolerable bitch 50% of the time. If I had combined meds with therapy, I probably would have healed a lot faster. Don’t be afraid of meds if you need them and can afford them, some people need them.

Bottom line, don’t let words get in your way, because that’s all they are. Words. And external circumstances? You can’t control them. You can overcome this, and you will. Yes, “the economy” is a collection of words I’d like to hear followed by a positive statement one of these days, but I have a feeling we’re a ways away from that. Those words may have an impact on your mental health, but they don’t have to control it. It’s up to you to control that outcome.

It’s going to take time to rebuild, and we’re going to have to make changes. We have to adapt, and we have to do it quickly. Overall, we have to accept this “new normal”. But the one thing I am grateful for? Knowing that I’m not alone like I was the last time I went through a very big life-changing event, and I truly do believe we’ll come out of it better than we were before. Hopefully there will be less carelessness, less selfishness, and more generosity.

I don’t expect miracles though; I know we still live on planet Earth which occasionally resembles a dumpster fire. For example, it was snowing a week ago. May 10th. Snow.

So, what I’m saying is keep your chin up, because it WILL get better, it’s just going to take some time and a bit of effort. And if you find yourself having a SHIT day (I have those a lot lately), just remind yourself that you’re allowed to have those days. Acknowledge it, accept it, and then write out a few things that you’re grateful for. On paper. Go old school. Even if they’re little things like “I’m grateful for my cat not puking on my new floors today”. That usually helps me feel a little brighter and a little lighter.

Next up: coping with aggressive change. Stay tuned.

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