My Mental Health Journey Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 11, 2021
Emma Dorfman

Merrick, New York, United States

Class of 2022

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Welcome to a mental health check in! How are you feeling today? Have you eaten today? Did you drink water? It’s important to check in with yourself and your mental health, especially during these unprecedented times. For me, and millions of other people, the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on our mental health. Every person’s story is different, but here’s a piece of mine.

On March 10, 2020, my dad texted me, Bring home what you need from school in case it’s closed for a few days. I laughed at this text and thought nothing of it.

On March 14, 2020, my school sent out an email that we were closing for two weeks. I cheered about how ecstatic I was for “Corona-cation” and planned so many things to do over this “break.” Every day after that, things only got worse. From my school closing for the rest of the year to cancelled summer plans, my world started to fall apart. Being locked away in my house while my life stopped, but time went on was such an awful feeling. I felt trapped and scared, and these feelings became something bigger.

Fast forward to September 25, 2020. my school started to be in person, every student, every day. Masked, socially distant, and behind clear plastic barriers, I finally got to experience the socialization I desperately missed. As boring as school itself was, I loved going. It was an opportunity for me to see people face to face, and spend time with my friends in the midst of all this craziness. This impacted my mental health in every positive way, and things started to get better for me. I was happy, hopeful, and optimistic for the future.

Let’s go forward in time even more to January 9, 2021. Mentally, I was in a good place. I had just had an incredible winter break, hanging out socially distanced with friends, going to target, and seeing family. I had been in school for a few days, and was happy to reconnect in person with my friends who I hadn’t seen over winter break. I was happy, and making the most out of this strange situation that we were in. That was until 1:00 PM that day, when I received a call from the principal of my high school, that I was exposed to a classmate who tested positive for COVID, and that I had to quarantine for 10 days.

Like many other people would do in a situation like that, I absolutely panicked. I was scared that I could possibly have the virus, and I was nervous as to what my next week and a half would look like. This took a major toll to my mental health, which had finally been in a good place.

Quarantine looks different for everyone. For some it’s wearing a mask around the house, or just staying away from relatives, but for me it was different. I was locked in my bedroom for almost the entire day. My parents would bring meals, drinks, and snacks to my door, and I would eat by myself at my desk. Occasionally, I would facetime into my family’s gathering at the dining room table, or call some friends, but I was almost always on my own. When I needed to take a shower or go to the restroom, I wore a mask walking through the halls of my home, and went into the bathroom that nobody else was allowed to use for that period of time. As I was walking out, I sprayed the room with lysol, because I was nothing but anxious about possibly having Corona.

Being so isolated from real life, and experiencing the FOMO from seeing my friends hanging out together, or even in school together; I felt alone. It’s extremely mentally deteriorating to be locked away by yourself, while life goes on without you. I understood that I needed to push my slowly declining mental health to side temporarily, to keep myself and my family safe, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t suffer. Binge watching Netflix and facetiming friends can only do so much for you, when the rest of your time is spent eating meals alone, and staring at the ceiling letting your negative thoughts rip you apart.

10 days later, I was free from quarantine. I was eager to get back into the swing of things. I went back to school, excited to finally see people again. Unfortunately however, this didn’t last long; quite literally: it didn't even last a week.

On January 26th, 2020, I received the same, dreaded call from my principal, that I was exposed yet again to COVID. Just as I was finally able to experience life again, it was immediately shut down. Facing more isolation, and losing more time, my mental health continued on its downward spiral yet again. I was extremely stressed, and found myself completely unmotivated throughout this entire quarantine period. I didn’t feel like myself anymore and I counted down the days until I would finally go back to the outside world.

Through my rollercoaster of emotions throughout all of this craziness, I learned many strategies and ways to cope with my different mental health situations. Although I was skeptical at first, there was a bright light at the end of this dark tunnel that I thought I was trapped in. Remember, it’s okay to not be okay, and that there are so many people and resources to help you through any mental health crisis. Please take the time to check in on yourself every now and then, and I promise it will benefit you greatly!

Emma Dorfman is a BBG from Nassau Suffolk Region and loves to travel.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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