I have lived with social anxiety and bipolar disorder my whole life. Keeping in control of my anxiety and mental health in general has been pretty difficult for me, especially in the age of Zoom. Feeling like nothing is certain amplifies my anxiety. How many COVID-19 cases are in Tompkins County? How will I meet up safely with that cute guy I asked out on Discord with the pandemic going on? How does one feel in control when the world around me is so confusing?
Having a therapist helps a lot when it comes to dealing with my mental health issues amid a pandemic. She helps me unpack a lot of these uncomfortable feelings that I have been bottling up for a long time. Because of COVID-19, being able to meet people in person isn’t a possibility. I find it pretty difficult to connect with people through the Zoom calls, but it’s a start. I met most of my friends on the internet, but what sucks the most is that I can’t meet up with them.
The stigma of mental health in the United States is still a pretty big issue, and mental health awareness is very important. I have parents who are both immigrants from Tunisia. Opening up about my mental health wasn’t the easiest thing to do. In most Arab countries, talking about mental health isn’t even a thing. The usual view of mental health in my parents’ home country is, “Pray it away. It will probably go away.”
With everything virtual, although the physical aspect of social interactions is gone, I still feel anxiety when I’m on a Zoom call. I still feel that painful feeling in my heart when I’m called on in class randomly. I still have to show my face in all my classes, and talk to people when I have no idea how they will react to my existence. I know this sounds a bit dramatic to some, but this is how it feels. My palms still sweat, I still feel light headed when I’m in a bigger lecture. These are all downsides to having anxiety. These things used to affect me even when COVID-19 did not exist, but now it’s amplified. I think more about myself than the actual classes that I’m in.
Zoom fatigue is also too real for me. I feel like I’m staring at a screen all day and don’t get actual work done, considering everything’s online. I take my medications, which subdue my symptoms, and have regular therapy sessions, but this anxiety still is an overwhelming issue for me. With social anxiety and bipolar disorder, it’s hard to tell when I’m going to feel amazing and when I might feel like the whole world is against me. I have many friends who are supportive of me and my mental health, which helps significantly.
I sometimes feel like an alien with all my issues. But hey, I’m human. I breathe the same air as you, and I am equal to you, no matter how many mental health struggles I have to deal with. Dealing with mental health on Zoom is a pretty weird thing to get used to when you’re so used to talking to people face to face, without their masks on. Everything almost feels unnatural when dealing with my mental health online, because this is the first time I’m dealing with everything like this. I am learning to adjust, but most importantly, others need to be more aware of these issues.