I’m going to be honest with you guys: writing this week’s diary entry was a scary thought, and I put it off as long as possible. I felt like I would just be repeating myself and struggling to find some sort of uplifting lesson to share with everyone. Mostly, I’ve just spent the last week hanging on to all of the things I have shared in my last three diaries: self-care is important, productivity isn’t everything, go easy on yourself, and it’s okay to be sad and scared and have a melt-down once in a while. These are important, and I remind myself of them daily.
One of the things that made me feel the worst is that COVID-19 isn’t even the thing that’s been weighing on me the most, though some of my anxiety-inducers are by-products of the pandemic. Like I mentioned last week, it’s hard to not feel guilty when something this big is happening and upsetting so many people’s lives and you’re doing okay. And I am doing okay.
That’s the thing about depression: it doesn’t care that you’re doing okay. It sticks around anyway.
I’m an empath, part of which means I absorb and internalize a lot of the emotions of the people around me. The more COVID-19 is affecting the people around me and causing them depression and anxiety, the more I’m absorbing what they are feeling. On days that the other people in my household are low, I’m low too, even if I woke up ready to have a good and productive day. It just zaps out all my energy and things get bleak.
The gloomy weather certainly isn’t helping. As much as sunny days make it so tempting to be out-and-about, they are much preferable to the dreary, rainy (and snowy – ugh!) days we’ve had this past week. At least then the world looks a little brighter (in all ways), and I can really enjoy sitting out on my balcony and opening the windows to soak up the fresh air and vitamin D.
Another big thing weighing on me right now is the fact that I’m moving at the end of the month. Suddenly all I can think of is everything that needs to be done, and how much COVID-19 is changing the way we had originally thought the move would go. My mom decided to pay for us to hire movers (thank you, mom!) since family and friends can’t help, and while this cuts down on the stress of having to figure out how to move everything, it does add the extra stress of more people we are being exposed to. Plus, my mom is stressing over it I think even more than we are, and every time I hear her distress on the phone I gain some of that distress as well.
Another part of being an empath, it also creates more anxiety for me because I don’t actually know the cause (no matter how many times I may be reassured that COVID-19 is the culprit) and it gets my anxiety up until my brain is telling me that I’m the cause for the upset, that I’ve done something wrong, that they are unhappy with me. That doesn’t only cause me stress but also affects how I am around my loved ones. I ended up having a panic attack one night and my partner found me in fetal position on the floor in the dark living room in the middle of the night, after which I finally let it all out and turned into a sobbing mess (remember: it’s okay to break down sometimes! I feel quite a bit better after crying). It’s a really negative cycle but a hard one to break. I’m working on it, and I’m still getting weekly counselling where we are talking about how to manage myself when I am internalizing the emotions of people around me.
During times like these we don’t only have to be forgiving with ourselves, we also must be forgiving with the people around us. We all react to difficult situations differently, and while one person may be sad and fatigued, another could be throwing themselves into busy tasks and keeping up a positive front (fake it ‘til you make it, right?), and a third might be more irritable or sensitive than usual. While some people might withdraw, others may need more affection and communication than normal, so it’s important to figure out your dynamic with the people around you so that you can respect and understand your different needs at this time. It can create a lot of conflict when one person is crying and another person is yelling but neither of them have done anything wrong, just been going through a hard time.
Be calm. Be patient. Communicate as frequently and openly as possible. Check in with yourself, your friends, your family, and anyone else around you. Be forgiving if someone’s anxiety manifests in a way contradictory to your own. We need to be banding together right now, not moving farther apart.
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