I Asked People How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Mental Health, And This Is How They Responded.

By: Trisha McCullough

It’s been one year since the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency and it’s no secret that 2020 was known as a dumpster fire. The pandemic has impacted mental health in unprecedented ways with many people suffering from isolation, anxiety, and depression. Here’s how people are doing after the one-year anniversary of a global pandemic.

Trisha McCullough – Quad Cities WIU

“The pandemic has changed my life in all the obvious ways. Limiting social interaction. Putting a strain on local businesses that I support. Most importantly, drastically changing the amount of time I spend with family. Everything has changed. I think a lot of people are settling into this new normal and forgetting how different things were in 2019 and prior. I am fortunate enough that I am still able to work and make a full wage during the pandemic. I’m sure the pandemic has added stress to my life, but not nearly as much as those who have the financial aspect to struggle with, as well. My thoughts haven’t really changed about the pandemic. I just want things to get back to normal. I’m starting to see a little optimism in the news about things progressing. Though I think it’s going to be a few years of transition before we’re truly back to normal. I think the proof-of-vaccination “card” is going to be our ticket to bringing the world back to normal. Having to display it is less intrusive than having to stay home all the time and wear a mask everywhere when we do go out. I’m not anti-mask in regards to acknowledging their effectiveness. I just think we all are probably looking forward to not having to wear them.”

30, Police Officer

“I had my first child in December 2019, just before the pandemic started. She was only a few months old when that first quarantine/lockdown began. I stopped working three weeks before she was born and did not go back to work until this month, January 2021. So the pandemic came at a time where my everyday life had already just gone through a drastic change. At first, the first lockdown/quarantine wasn’t as big of a deal to me because I was already planning to be at home with my daughter for a few months. As the pandemic went on, I started feeling like I was ready to go back to work or at least go out into the world and do things, but obviously I couldn’t, and things started to get really difficult for me. Not being able to go back to work for so long, not being able to go out socialize in the way I need to in order to feel happy and fulfilled in my relationships, having to deal with the pandemic while becoming a mom for the first time and then being a stay at home mom for over a year, working on my relationship, AND going to therapy to conquer depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues, all have been incredibly draining difficult. There have been MANY times when I feel like the pandemic and everything going on in the world has just mentally and emotionally beat me into the ground. I have a long history of severe depression and anxiety, and I’m a very social outgoing person, so the pandemic has been brutal and has had a huge negative impact on my mental health. However, I can’t help but also feel grateful at times, because I have grown so much because of it. I have developed a healthier, more mature, positive, and resilient mindset than I ever have before – and I was already a pretty strong and resilient person before all this. I’ve been working on being physically healthier: eating better, exercising, limiting alcohol. I am incredibly proud of myself. I guess this answers the question about if I am hopeful for the future. That kind of depends on the day, though. I will add that the pandemic has also had a serious negative impact on me financially, which of course adds to the negative mental health impact. As far as my thoughts go on the pandemic, they haven’t changed much. It’s hard to know what to think or believe sometimes. But I’ve always felt the pandemic is something to take seriously. I just try to use my best judgement and do what I think is right and will help others. I try to be kind and patient and understanding with others. I wear my mask, social distance, see some people occasionally, wash my hands, sanitize. I feel confident that I’m smart and responsible about things and doing my part as a member of society. Even if our leaders are lying to us, or they’re just trying to control us, or whatever some people think, I’d rather do what I can to help protect others and be wrong than not follow any guidelines with the risk of that harming other people. I’m sure I will most likely get the vaccine. Unless something crazy happens like a bunch of people start having major bad side effects or something. I’ve been kind of waiting it out to see how it goes as it starts happening, and then learn about it more in depth and decide what I think. As long as there are no cons that outweigh the pros, I’ll get the vaccine if I can.”

Amity, SE Portland, 23, Mortgage Loan Officer Assistant

“It has made it to where I’m forced to work from home since February of last year. I have also had to adapt to doing my groceries earlier in the morning as opposed to late at night due to the new restricted hours of operation imposed upon every grocery store. It has also limited my social life since I can’t go out as much or be around people as much, especially if they are more susceptible to the virus. The pandemic has also limited my coping mechanism for my stress and anxiety, by restricting me from going out, or going to the gym, going swimming, going shopping, going out to eat or going to the movies. I feel like a caged animal at times due to being confined at home, and unable to go to the bowling alley and the pool bars; this depresses me. I am hopeful, like most other pandemics prior, that this one will follow trend and pan out within 3-5 years. At this time I would not get the current Covid19 vaccine until a different type of covid vaccine is made. The current Covid19 vaccine is an mRNA type vaccine which requires ultra-cold storage before distribution. If it not stored properly, it renders the vaccine obsolete, and people with preexisting auto immunodeficiencies are more prone to adverse reactions to it while, in people who have normal auto immune systems, may illicit an unintended immune reaction to it. Prior to 2020 no mRNA type drug or vaccine had been authorized for human use. If it was an inactivated, attenuated or even a subunit type of vaccine I would gladly take it. However, given the little time it was developed under I don’t feel as though a year was enough time to conduct thorough trials on human subjects and it seemed rather rushed and things that are rushed are not always well done. I prefer to not take the current vaccine at this time”

Carlos, Quad Cities, 27, Corporate Telecommunications Specialist

“I was laid off early March. Went from working from home to not at all. Thankfully the social programs allowed me to keep my house and feed my family. By June, I had another job and I had to totally re-evaluate everything, restructure my entire system and way of living. New considerations like, do I/ should I wear a mask? Should I see so and so? How much should I stock up in groceries? Will I be able to pay my bills? Throw in the added stress of being a part of a hugely racist and bigoted trump supporting family. It changed my whole mindset. I realized that they weren’t taking it seriously and made me feel stupid because I was. It made me think why? If I’m wrong, we had to wear masks. NBD. If they were wrong people died. And I didn’t understand why they and so many other people didn’t see that. I have never felt so much depression, anxiety, stress and hopelessness. My marriage struggled, my bank account glared at me every day, rage consumed me when I saw people being so ignorant. I had to start seeing a therapist because I just couldn’t understand what I was feeling and how to deal with it. I cried so much last year. Week to week I worried about making enough to cover bills. My husband stays home with our daughter so I could work and his depression clashed with mine hardcore making everything harder and worse. But what choice did we have? We couldn’t send her to daycare because it wasn’t safe. He couldn’t work because manufacturing is all he is qualified for and that is most dangerous place he could be. It was up to me and I felt the weight. And it was a lot. I found a new job that is fully remote so I can be safe. We adapted and we overcome. I am feeling hopeful. There is nowhere to go but up at this point, and I feel like with Trump gone, a lot of eyes have opened and hopefully we can move forward. We plan on getting vaccinated as soon as we can. The possible side effects are far less worrisome than the effects of covid, should you get it. If people put as much thought and energy into doing their research as they do judge others the world would be a much better place.”

Jami, Quad Cities, 27, Supply Management Planner

“I’ve worked throughout the entire pandemic, so day to day routine hasn’t changed much. Mostly procedures at work and spending a lot less time with my support system/friends/family. Being inside at home right after being inside all day at work without having much to do made me very depressed and killed my motivation to be productive, which I am in high need of for my psychological health. My anxiety has increased due to constantly worrying I’ll be exposed and get sick, and, in turn, getting others sick. I’m fairly certain I’ve developed agoraphobia. I don’t even go grocery shopping anymore. I use online delivery for that and takeout food. I went from feeling excited for my career and motivated to studying and apply for law school to wondering what the point of it all is with how schooling is taking place now. I learn much better in person. I feel like I’ve gotten nowhere I’ve wanted to because my anxiety and depression have made it extremely difficult for me to do any more than the minimum. Now that the vaccine is rolling out, I feel that there is some hope that the world can get back to normal. Before that, because people are selfish and don’t wear masks or practice proper social distancing/sanitization, I thought I was never going to end completely. Yes (to getting the vaccine), 100% I’ve never had any abnormal reactions to any other vaccinations I’ve received in my life, so I’m not worried and I want to do my part for those that rely on herd immunity.”

27, Paralegal

“I am currently deployed to the middle east. My opinion on the virus is that it is a crock of s**t. While I recognize all of the deaths are real, I still believe it is over dramatized. When I was in premobilization training in Texas there were some pretty serious restrictions. But now that I am in some far away land, it’s a big joke. I literally had to quarantine just to be sure I was healthy enough to fight a war. They just offered us the vaccine and 99% of my unit declined it. I won’t be surprised when it is mandatory because they shoot so much stuff into our bodies. It is sad that people have died from this. But the way we have handled it is a joke. We shut down small business, but Walmart has been packed shoulder to shoulder every day this past year. The army makes us wear a mask while inside buildings and limits our usage of the gym, but this whole camp eats at the single chow hall. My kid has been doing distant learning because of this virus so not only does she have to skype her daddy, but that is her social life for school as well. The news blew this whole thing out of proportion. Warning us to stay at home. Before leaving for deployment I went on 3 different vacations to very popular destinations and they were all packed with people that aren’t brain washed into this fear mongering bullshit. How has this effected my mental health? The stupidity of our neighbors really concern me. Our new president pulled his facemask off to cough on national news during a conference and our society is literally held together by memes that poke fun at our comical existence in today’s world. Our children are growing up in a world that is beyond f****d that nothing will surprise them. The movie “the terminator” could happen in real life and we would joke about it like “its 2021, what’s next?”

28, Military

“As far as the pandemic, it didn’t really affect my everyday life too much outside of work. While at work it was definitely more stressful for me as a CNA as I had to do more for my residents (i.e. do full sets of vitals 2-3x a shift, push more fluids, do more 1 on 1 care with covid positive residents), the PPE we had to use would have us overheated halfway through out shifts and we would have to take more breaks just to cool down. I haven’t noticed too much of a change in daily life short of wearing masks everywhere which, in my opinion, should’ve been done to slow down the spread of the cold/flu viruses. I personally love the curbside pickup options for businesses now as that helps my social anxiety TREMENDOUSLY. Overall the social distancing and such has helped me day-to-day. At the start of it I was more overwhelmed because I had to pull more hours working, due to sick coworkers, which inadvertently led to a slight drug addiction that caused me to go manic until I snapped back and got a better flow for the adjustments. Over the last year my thoughts on the pandemic are really more concerning since we don’t have a good system with how to handle it for the overall population and people are just plain ignorant. I am definitely hopeful for the future that everything will go back to normal since the vaccine has been released. I honestly feel like after a majority has received the vaccine they’ll open things up entirely. I’m entirely for curbside services to continue so I don’t have to go inside any of the stores if I don’t want to. As far as receiving the vaccine myself, I have been offered it through work but I refused it as well as the flu vaccine. I’ve had a couple bad reactions to the flu shot over the years and I don’t do well with vaccines anyway personally. I simply do the minor things I can do to protect myself (i.e. wash my hands with a good soap REGULARLY, take vitamins like C and zinc and a multi, try to eat more foods with antioxidants). I don’t foresee myself getting the vaccine.”

Landon, Quad Cities, 28, CNA

“This time has affected me in very hard way. The time spent staying home, triggered past trauma and loneliness that just snowballed, undoing a lot of my recovery from past years. I lost my job, lost social contacts, and a little bit of my spirit or shine I use to have. It has affected my mental health terribly. Depression, eating disorder trigger, self-harm, anxiety, and the feeling it won’t ever be the same life again. My thoughts have changed on people. With the riots and shooting and political lies and so on…I feel the world is filled with more evil than I ever even imagined. I am a fighter so I would say I do hold some hope to try and get a new normal but it is definitely been a challenge to find that hope. I have no trust in the vaccine and do not plan on getting it. I get sick from flu vaccine and would fear I would get sick from covid vaccine. The worst thing is everyone in my life is seriously on survival mode and though people are there, they have no idea how bad this year has been, especially for people who suffer any kind of mental illness. The lack of understanding from my point of view and emotions have only lead to more feelings of isolation and scared feelings for me. If I could maybe express one thing it would be that some people don’t adjust, adapt or do well with changes. They struggle with feelings it brings on and that depression from it isn’t something they can just get over with simple, “it’s going to be okay.””

Tanya, Raleigh, 46, Previously a Preschool Teacher before the Pandemic.

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