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Q: It’s been one year since the pandemic hit and I still feel so overwhelmed. So many things have been such a struggle lately for me. I’m having a hard time focusing at work, and while I feel lucky to have a job, I had to take a leave of absence in grad school because I couldn’t keep up with school work anymore. I’ve never had to do anything like that before. This is awful. I feel so weak and I just moved to LA from the east coast and I don’t feel like I’ve had the chance to really settle in and get to know people. I miss my parents, my friends, and doing normal things without wearing a mask. I’ve been crying a lot lately, which is embarrassing. I’m usually a pretty optimistic person, but I just don’t feel like myself. I’m starting to wonder if I’m depressed. How do I know if I’m depressed, or if I should take anti-depressants?
It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since the pandemic began. It makes sense that you’re feeling overwhelmed right now — I can tell you have a lot on your mind. From all of the drastic changes with your work and school, to missing your family and friends, that’s a lot of change at once. It sounds to me, Liam, like you’re feeling grief. And in a time like this, it’s so normal to grieve the loss of your normal life before COVID.
There’s a number of stages of grief; and it’s not a linear process. It’s normal to cycle through feelings over a week, within a day, or within an hour. One minute you can be feeling angry that you can’t even safely step outside your door in LA without a mask anymore, and then the next minute you take a deep breath, and accept that reality, grab your mask, and head out for a walk.
On top of that it’s a huge adjustment to move. It can be tough to ‘start over’, trying to get your footing in a new neighborhood. I suspect you’re grieving, because grief comes with any major adjustment in life. We break away and ‘lose’ our daily routines, our touchpoints, or proximity to friends and comforts. Even if a move is planned as an exciting new chapter, it takes an emotional toll. Of course you might have struggled a bit, though adjusting over the course of a few months—but who could have predicted a pandemic? With so many restrictions, lack of socialization, lack of ability to cope in typical ways, this year took the emotional turmoil of a new move and turned up the volume exponentially.
Something I want you to keep in mind: our emotions and our rational mind aren’t always in sync. Things can start to appear better — restrictions lessen, new socialization opportunities come up, you’re connecting with old friends — but it doesn’t automatically mean you’ll feel better. The emotional impact may take some time to catch up to your circumstances. Human emotions don’t turn on and off like a switch. It may take some time.
You asked about depression, which is another one of these stages of grief. It’s so normal to feel really sad for a while when coping with any type of loss. But to the extent you mentioned crying a lot, and not feeling like yourself lately, I’d want to know a bit more about how long this has been going on, and how it’s impacting your day-to-day life. One way to tell if you’re struggling with depression is to speak with a therapist, who can help you answer those questions, and discuss possible solutions. Antidepressants can be a possible part of this solution, and you would want to speak with a psychiatrist about anything mediation-related.
Talking to some trusted friends and family might feel helpful, as well as getting in some daily movement and making time for hobbies you enjoy. I want to let you know that you’re not alone here, Liam. These are incredibly difficult times for everyone, and people all around the world are feeling exactly how you’re feeling. You won’t feel this way forever. Reach out and talk about it, hold on to hope and hang in there.
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