Mental Health: The Danger of Comparative Suffering

one time someone at my college did this on the stairs as an art installation
photo by DANNY G

First off, I’ve made it to Texas and have been okay so far. I’ve been diligent about working out, something that’s turned out to be key at keeping my depression at bay, and doing my best to keep “normal” sleeping hours. If I do anything each day, these two things are what I prioritize. I’m proud of myself, as I’ve had to be very intentional about each of my actions in order to care for myself, mental health, and ultimately my relationship with others. Don’t need a 2019 repeat.

This leads to something I’ve been thinking a lot about this summer (which is, weirdly, almost over): comparative suffering. I’m so tired of talking about the pandemic but, like it or not, it continues to inform every aspect our lives. The race rioting turning up to 10 in June has not helped the chaos and general scope of suffering. The media is colossally divisive, unifying language eludes our goober president, and we’ve largely left teachers and parents, the real pandemic MVPs, out to dry.

Progressives, the historical champion of the underdog and the political group in which I closest identify, want to keep everything locked down to maximize health safety. Conservatives want to expedite the re-opening process, possibly at the expense of innumerable lives, at the benefit of hard won business vitality and scholastic normalcy. Meanwhile, we’ve got poor parents stuck in between the two sides of a conundrum while everyone argues. It’s an argument worth having, of course, but how is a single parent with an active service industry job, two children, one old iPad, a shoddy internet connection, and no childcare managing paying bills and keeping their children on track with school? How about teachers, responsible for several classes, with school-age children of their own? We’ve kind of let the buck stop at our generally underserved population, parents, and it seems the new educational ideal only suits those who can afford having a stay-at-home parent. Further compounding the severity is the fact that educational disparity is the root of so many issues our country faces. I’m stressed. Are you stressed? I’m stressed.

Because I am a white lady who does not yet have children, I’ve been repeatedly heavy in praise and awe toward parents and BIPOC and, my god, people who identify as both of those things. I was invited to join a DIY anti-racist think tank made up of a small, primarily white cohort and surrounding Ibram X. Kendi’s renegade book How to be an Antiracist. I was a little late to the party and not completely caught up on reading, but in my first meeting I found like-minded, proactive white friends and one Indian friend committed to working together to undo our lifetimes of buried racist programming. While I was hopeful after meeting with these people and moved by Kendi’s words and calls to action, I fell off my standard cliff of depression I can typically be found teetering on and into a deeper, darker, and therefore more dangerous hole. My sadness crushed me into my recurring lived nightmare of self-hatred and ideas of self-harm. General inaction, with the notable inclusion of steps to undo a life of veiled racism, was a byproduct.

Next up is a white person classic: guilt. Oh, white guilt. Nobody wants to hear about it, and there I was stewing in it, hating myself for not being better. I called my [white] friend, the one who’d so generously invited me into the sacred, safe space, antiracist group to admit my feelings. I didn’t have it in me and needed to drop out. As a person living with mental illness and doing my best to survive (AKA stave off self harm, let alone COVID), I didn’t have any more emotional bandwidth. I felt I was failing my black brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings, and I was crushed by my own ineptitude. I was bracing myself for my friend, married to an African American person, to take me by the proverbial shoulders and shake me, demanding I get it together, reinforcing what I knew to be true: BIPOC in America don’t have the luxury to woot around with psychiatry, Prozac, Lamictal, and Wellbutrin. In addition to the very equal-opportunity-affliction of mental illness, BIPOC are also living through a pandemic, perhaps also unable to secure a job like me, etc… all in addition to living through the every day trauma of moving through America as BIPOC. In regards to my feelings, in the canonical words of Sweet Brown, “ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Instead, I was surprised to be met with something I so fiercely value, something I do my best to always grant to others, and something that for some reason I fail to give myself. Grace. My friend reminded me to be gentle in my self-criticism and that while weighing our problems against each others’ is important for orientation and perspective, absolutely, me having Major Depressive and Anxiety Disorders was both less and more severe than current experiences of any other person on the street. She spoke on the dangers of comparative suffering, that taking on more than I could handle, something that leads me to an unhealthy, at-risk state, wasn’t actually going to help anyone. It reminded me of my psychiatrist’s standby of needing to put my own oxygen mask on first before being able to help others. The alternative is that, if I don’t, we could all be toast, which of course is also unhelpful and, well, ain’t nobody got time for.

The concept of comparative suffering is not meant to be explain away basic laziness or ignorance. Beware. It’s not a shield to hide behind so you may rest on your laurels in peace or an alleviation of responsibility. Instead it is meant to give grace to the overwhelmed who are doing their very best to be better.

Warmest,
Bailey


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: Drowning
Mental Health: Disjointed, Distracted, Discombobulated


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


I’ve been enjoying my new addition of the nice-dog-photo postscript. This past week we lost our precious family golden retriever, Achilles, so I find it only appropriate to share a photo of our wonderful boy. His mild temperament, humorous antics, and precious face brought immeasurable peace and joy to all.

May you all have an Achilles in your life.

Sustainable Sunday: Plants

peace lily
Photo by Mitchel Lensink on Unsplash

We don’t need a few people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need millions doing it imperfectly.

Lauren Singer*

Plants are one of my favorite gifts to receive and high on the “treatchaself” list. They give you oxygen, are something to care for and watch grow, expedite healing, balance out the invisible chaos of electronics that might be wiggin’ you out, create a calming atmosphere, and look nice.

Swap: Instead of something toxic or environmentally-unfriendly, give or buy a potted plant.

Cut flowers usually wilt and stink within a week or so, so people toss them into the compost or, more likely, the trash. (The issue with the latter is that organic compost creates methane gas, which is bad for our environment.) While flower bouquets are a beautiful art form to look at and make recipients feel special, actively growing plants continue to flower- the gift that keeps on giving. Cut flowers are also 1) typically wrapped in plastic and 2) super expensive. For the same investment you can get a plant that keeps on keepin’ on long after the celebratory event has passed. For Valentine’s Day this year, Rick got me a big, bouncy peace lily, and this week it gave us a fresh white bloom. I say “us,” but I’d bet Rick hasn’t noticed it, so… this week it gave me a fresh white bloom!

peace lily
Photo by Maria Eliz on Unsplash

Plants purify indoor air.

I always wonder about quality of air and the fact that so many humans spend so much time indoors. (Me! I’m one of those people.) I wonder how our lungs are effected by all those dust motes floating around, undetected mold, gas/carbon monoxide, and things like candle smoke (another example of something toxic or environmentally-unfriendly we often give/buy). Plants clean the air in the home, give us fresh oxygen, and flourish with the carbon dioxide we emit. Mutually beneficial, we pair well together.

Plants give you something to nurture and care for.

I have another peace lily, my first, obtained along with a white bird of paradise from a nursery in D.C. when Rick and I lived there. The same day Rick got a tiny cactus he named Spike. He’s very proud of Spike when he remembers he has Spike.

This may sound really sad, and usually when things are really sad they end up being funny to me, and I find this funny, but when I was in D.C. I missed the family golden retrievers (in NYC) so much that taking care of plants was a weak but important consolation. I’d tug the massive bird of paradise outside to get some big sunlight just like you’d take a dog out. I remember one time Rick came home and I grinned and fanned my arm out to present the plant on our little patio. “Look who’s having a nice time outside!” (Somebody get this girl a dog…) HA! Rick appeased me with a “Wow! I can tell it’s having a great time out there.”

I also grew mint, basil, rosemary, and cilantro and what I learned was that there’s never enough cilantro, because I eat it too fast, and that mint does not know how to share and is always inviting itself over to other plants’ houses. If you plant mint with another herb, the mint will put its roommate in a choke hold and commit MURDER. The pot will be a mint-only pot soon. And then, my mint plant had the audacity to grow down to the ground, pretending to be minding its own business, and then pop up on the side of the other herbs’ pot! Anyway, mint needs to be in the plant equivalent of the isolation cabin from The Parent Trap (1998).

bird of paradise
Photo by Luca Deasti on Unsplash

Plants nurture you back.

Being able to eat what you grow is immensely satisfying. When I have a yard of my own, I plan to grow lots of food, or at least attempt to. It feeds me physically but also my soul to care for something and watch it flourish. In the meantime, though, I can only grow things indoors and with limited northern exposure. Sadly, my herbs did not make the move back to NYC. But my original peace lily and bird of paradise and Rick’s cactus he forgets about have lived three places and have continued to grow. Well, I have no idea if Spike is growing or even okay. I think he’s okay. I also got an aloe plant at a street fair for $5 and have used it on inflamed skin and sunburns.

Okay, now for something potentially psychosomatic that I believe in: plants countering the invisible chaos of wifi, cellular waves, and electronics in general. Apparently, plants cancel the positive ions that come from electronics, something that apparently makes people wiggy, charged up, and anxious. I’ve heard of a parent requesting a preschool remove the wifi connection due to it causing their child anxiety, and while I’m not ready to go that far, I believe that level of sensitivity to be true for some. For instance, fluorescent lights give me anxiety. The fact the light always moves drives me crazy and makes me feel like I’m about to have a seizure at any moment. (I’m sooo fun at parties.) When fluorescent lights are reflecting off a linoleum floor it’s even worse. My disturbing high school chemistry lab comes to mind. With cell service and wifi there is so much moving through the air, it kinda makes sense to me that something organic would balance it, even if just in the vein of feng shui. Apparently plants, especially their roots and soil, absorb that chaotic energy.

Plants are inherently healing.

I’ve always had a feeling about physical spaces that inform my inner peace, and plants help calm a room… and me. I found a study on the National Library of Medicine website that finds plants enhance healing:

Findings of this study confirmed the therapeutic value of plants in the hospital environment as a noninvasive, inexpensive, and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients. Health care professionals and hospital administrators need to consider the use of plants and flowers to enhance healing environments for patients.

[Ornamental indoor plants in hospital rooms enhanced health outcomes of patients recovering from surgery]

It’s such a bummer to enter someone’s space with nary a plant in sight. Make a small plant your next housewarming or host gift! Here’s a place to start:

30+ Gorgeous Indoor Plants That Are Almost Impossible to Kill

Next on my list are a couple of snake plants. My birthday’s on Saturday- maybe Rick’s reading this. Rick, are you there? Anywho.

Photo by Kara Eads on Unsplash

One small consumption change for you, one small improvement for our environment. What kind of nontoxic, environmentally-friendly treats do you like to give or buy?

Warmest,
Bailey

*Lauren Singer is an environmentalist who does not generate any waste(!). You can shop her store, Package Free, online or at the brick and mortar store in Brooklyn post-pandemic. Read more about Lauren here, and watch her Ted Talk here– she’s inspiring.


Once a month I share a sustainability tip or an easy swap in consumption routine to better care for the planet. Environmentally conscious change doesn’t always have to be expensive, laborious, or extremely time-consuming.

If you like a photo used, please click through the link in the caption to support the artist.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Sustainable Sunday: Detergent
Sustainable Sunday: Carrots
Sustainable Sunday: Ziplock Bags


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


Last, I leave you with this nice picture of a golden retriever I found.

Photo by Laula Co on Unsplash

Mental Health: Disjointed, Distracted, Discombobulated

I didn’t mean to disappear into the ether, I’ve just been wiggy about my precious, dying family golden retriever and trying to plan a trip back to Texas with an urgency fueled by ailing grandparents. The last time I went home to Texas I had a mental breakdown that emanated for months after like an emotional aftershock with an expensive psychiatry bill. It sucked, and I haven’t been on a plane since. I was supposed to go home in February for a dear friend’s wedding, but panicked and fell into a deep depression the day before I was meant to leave. Actively trying to stave off any kind of fresh meltdown, my head’s been elsewhere.

These are the facts.

  • Last time I was in Texas I had a full on meltdown and either needed to check into a facility or take an emergency flight back up to NYC where my psych is. I chose the latter.
  • Rick isn’t coming with me for work reasons, and a lot of times when I’m in my parents’ house thinking about past family trauma I become unmoored, which contributes to a sense of despair and helplessness. Rick’s presence helps me remember things aren’t the way they used to be- I live in New York, I’m married, I have agency, I’m no longer 19.
  • My birthday falls during this trip, and I will not get to spend it with my spouse. I will be spending it with the rest of my family, though, which is a huge W. It’s just a consideration.
  • When I return to NYC I must quarantine in my apartment for 14 days alone, getting food delivered to my door. In order to justify such a long ‘tine, I will be in Texas for 12 days. This means I will not see Rick for 26 days, the longest we’ve ever been apart.
  • No golden retrievers to be comforted by, and a beloved one will have just kicked the bucket here in New York right before I leave.

You may be wondering why the hell I’m doing this to myself aside from not having seen my family in over a year now, except my parents who visited for a few days in January, and never having even met my newest nephew. My grandparents, in their 90s, are having some issues. They’re historically quite healthy and independent, eating well, having daily Scrabble showdowns, and sexy Saturday night dinner dates (goals). I feel I’ve gotten not one but two chances to get it together and get down to Texas to see everyone when, first, my grandfather went to the ER and then my grandmother just days after. Fortunately neither were COVID related and they’re both okay, but I felt it was a not-so-subtle hint from the ol’ universe to get the hell down to Tejas. Hence, the urgency.

Fortunately this time my family is on the look out for any mental decline and I’ve been working out nearly every day to keep sadness at bay. I am not making any plans in Texas to avoid becoming overwhelmed, and will do my best to go to bed when everyone else does. I’ve got priors on staying up long after I should, sometimes with a cocktail, sometimes not, watching TV and sinking into a pit that the lonely sounds of a settling house and cycling AC don’t help. It’s kinda askin’ for a shadowy nightmare and I need to go park it in bed with a book and stay put til light. Oh, and not sleep in Alex’s old room like a creep. And read his old letters and files like an even bigger creep. I already wear all black, I mean, dang! Why do I have to also engage in creepy behavior? #creep

Like many people during the last five months I’ve been waffling between despair and inspiration. I’m mourning the old way of life and all the places and ways we used to connect with loved ones, but am also trying to reframe circumstance as opportunity. COVID has been a prime example of life coming at you fast Ferris Bueller style, and all you can do is recalibrate with new information and move forward the best you can. Something I’ve been thinking a lot about is repurposing newfound time or just general life set-up. I’m searching for the opportunity in the uncertain because I’m not just distancing physically. I’m also distancing creatively, emotionally, etc. What can I take from this? What can I make of this? I’m hoping that, during my 14 day ‘tine back here in NY, I will be able to maintain purpose and kick sadness to the curb. But, anyone with mental illness knows that sometimes we fall victim to our brains no matter how we prepare. The best laid plans…

I’m gonna stay alert and do the best I can. That’s all I can do, and it’s all you can do. Remember that. Beware of words, actions, and feelings and just do your best. Sometimes it looks like you making your bed and brushing your teeth. Sometimes it’s hyper-productivity. You need rest days to have performative days, after all.

Last, if you have a dog or beloved pet, hug and spoil them. So much time passes between pet deaths that you almost forget how horrific the pain is when you’re going through it. Almost. Isn’t that what mothers jokingly say about giving birth? Ha. Life and death, what a doozy.

Warmest,
Bailey

p.s. Check out my travel album.

look at me go
Photo by Gary Lopater on Unsplash
I wish this were me
Photo by Shifaaz shamoon on Unsplash
here’s another shot of me
Photo by Gary Lopater on Unsplash

Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Mental Health: What About People with Depression?
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: The Best Cure for Anxiety


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Drowning

On Sunday some friends so graciously took me and Rick out on their boat. It was the most sun and fresh air I’ve gotten in more four months, since before the pandemic it was still winter time in New York. It seems I forgot how to behave in the sun… and got a pretty big burn to show for it.

(Fortunately I keep an aloe plant in my apartment. But, this post isn’t about burns and aloe (although there’s a mental health analogy in there somewhere…) No. I’m gonna make another corny analogy that came to me, because it was such a good parallel to my mental illness.)

In order to get away from the hoards of people in their individual boats and get some more space for swimming and fishing, we left the channel and went out into the ocean. The front of the boat slammed down with each wave, the significantly more violent movement signaling our entrance into the Atlantic. The channel was mild by comparison, a completely different ballgame. The only waves we seemed to encounter were from the wakes of other boats. The boat was rocking big time now, but we got what we were looking for. Solitude.

Rick jumped off the side and we all gave him a hard time because he asked for a rope to hang onto while in the water. We giggled watching him bump up against the side of the boat that had become at the mercy of the ocean’s movement and, after a very brief swim, he climbed back aboard.

“Okay, that’s good for me,” he said, laughing.

It was my turn to jump in, now. Seeing nothing around me but water kinda creeped me out, but I had gotten queasy on the ocean so I needed a dunk in the water to cut the nausea, anyway. I tugged at my bathing suit and stared down at the hazel water lapping against the boat and accepted my fate. While everyone was distracted, and someone was mid-sentence, I jumped starboard. No countdown, no witness, no pressure. Doing things on my time, just how I like it.

It felt good. Cold. I quickly swept past the boat’s side, enjoying the relief of both the nice temperature and having just gotten the shock of that first immersion over with. The boat bobbed passed me as I treaded water, looking on. Okay, that’s enough, I thought. I swam toward the ladder and looked up to find I was no closer than where I’d started. In fact, the boat was a little further away. I tried again. Nothing. I laughed and looked at everyone on the boat, now watching me.

“I don’t think I can do it!” I said. I tried again.

“You gotta swim, babe,” Rick called. “You’re not swimming.”

Our friend dog paddled the air with a smile on his face. “Do you know how to swim?”

“Guys, of course I know how to swim.” My disembodied head scowled from the water. Normally I was a dry-from-the-neck-up, breaststroke type swimmer, but in this circumstance I needed to swim properly. I gave it a shot. Nothing.

“I seriously don’t think I can do it.”

“Seriously?” Our friend asked, no longer joking. He was our captain and handled his role with care. Also, his friend’s wife like, couldn’t swim.

“For real.” I laughed nervously. I was stuck, nothin’ but water around me and below me, and I was floating further away by the second. The waves picked up.

I knew they wouldn’t leave me, or something, so I didn’t panic, although I easily could’ve being so out of control in the middle of the ocean. I embraced the fact I was out of control and relaxed my body, even turning around to observe the big waves coming my way. Nothin’ but water and lack of control. Nothin’ to do but wait and survive.

I heard the boat rumble to life and turned to see our friend inching toward me in reverse. He closed the gap and cut the engine, and I swam the last couple of feet with great effort against the current to reach the ladder. Rick was waiting at the back of the boat in his royal blue swimsuit with his hand out to help me.

“Are you okay?” He asked, supporting the weight I was putting on him as I stepped back aboard. Gripping the crap out of my husband’s hand. Relief.

case study of me being a solid hand gripper

“Yeah… but I was a goner!” I laughed.

“You were not getting any closer to us,” our friend said, partially stated as fact, partially in disbelief.

“Yeah, I was def a goner. Thanks for coming to get me, because I think that was almost it for me.” I turned to Rick. “I think I need proper swim lessons for real because that was scary.”

“We would’ve saved you! Don’t worry. Remember, I’m a floater, babe.” Rick thinks it’s funny to make toilet jokes about how his body behaves in bodies of water.

“Yeah, I know. It’s so comforting that you’re a floater, the ultimately water survivor.”

“Girl, I got you!” My friend said, sunning on the boat’s edge in a gorgeous designer swimsuit and shades. “I for real could’ve saved you.” I think she used to be a lifeguard. Either way, I believed her. My friends and family got me.

I smiled with incredulous relief and wrapped my arms around Rick’s warm body, so grateful to mash my head against the chest of the #1 floater of my heart.

Then, I felt like I was gonna ralph again. Then, everyone felt like they were gonna ralph. So, we retreated back to the placid channel, a magical place where no one feels like they’re gonna ralph.

I guess my brain couldn’t help but Carrie Bradshaw an analogy, here, because something bobbed into the waves of my thoughts. <- LOL I COULDN’T HELP IT.

When I see a big, dark wave of depression coming on, or get pulled into one unexpectedly, I can fight it, or I can panic. Or, I can just relax my body into it, wait it out, and communicate to those around me what’s happening and what they can do to help, if anything. In a weird way, I’m really proud of myself for turning around and looking out into the ocean that day, looking at the waves head on. Waves keep coming. Like it’s the nature of the ocean, it’s the nature of mental illness, too. If you accept what’s happening and remember all waves that come up must come down, and that depression lies, it will end. You will feel better.

If it’s never better, and you’re just getting slammed with life’s waves with no relief or sustainable way to cope, please, please see a psychologist to have talk therapy. If applicable, they can refer you to and work with a psychiatrist for meds. A lot of times, people just need to spit out what’s happening in their minds, even if, no, especially if it doesn’t even make sense. When you think out loud with the help of a good therapist, a lot of times you organize your thoughts and feelings in the process. Then, you can put a lot of the trauma you’ve been consciously or subconsciously grappling with behind you.* Don’t drown. You don’t have to drown. There are life preservers, friends, family, and your own steely resolve nearby.

Warmest,
Bailey

*Concept from studies referenced by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score (2014). Important, highly recommended read.


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Mental Health: What About People with Depression?
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: The Best Cure for Anxiety


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


Mental Health: What About People with Depression?

Preface: I acknowledge and respect that many populations feel underrepresented and scared right now, but I’m just speaking to what I know, which is living with mental illness. I am the type of person who values respect and word impeccability, and typically speak and most certainly write with careful intention and inclusion of populations that are not my own. This post is “not like me.” But, after 4+ months of isolating, I’m considering my own health for a brief moment. I wrote “For once, I’m gonna be a self-concerned butthead,” thinking I’d be apologetic for being self-centered, and then deleted it. I hope to receive the same respect and consideration I so readily give to people with other health issues. Just because mine are invisible doesn’t make them any less serious. Or lethal. I owe this to myself and people like me.

We’re on the look out for people with physical ailments and the for the immunosuppressed. We’re on the look out for seniors and other physically at-risk populations.

Is anyone on the look out for people with depression?

Most people don’t like being shut in their home indefinitely, and that even includes me, the queen of needing to be alone in my own space to recharge. I’m not going to pretend I know anything about doing the unpaid full time job of parenting and the stress of chasing babies and children around during a pandemic while also maintaining your own sanity. I’m also not going to pretend I know anything about working a full time job from home without childcare. I’m also not going to pretend I know anything about working a full time job. (Ha ha just kidding. Sort of. I’m the professional world’s #1 bachelorette.) Something I do know about, though, is chronically sad people. Those are my people.

I’m struggling to find work because the job market has largely frozen. Even if just temporary, money has dried up. Rent is still due and the buck is stopping at individuals like me, a typical American with a touch of credit card debt and a looming date, August 19th, when Rick and I lose the health insurance we bought through my grad school. Of course, the plan was for me to get a job after graduating in May and, with the cushion of insurance through the summer, we’d be covered through (or at least mostly through) the standard trial period at a new job before being granted benefits.

I’ve mentioned this a handful of times, but my psychiatrist is $400/visit, which is basically the New York City standard. A friend told me about a hospital with excellent psych care that’s covered by insurance(! a true unicorn), and I was thrilled to look into them and switch over to save on a colossal monthly expense for me and Rick. Then, COVID happened. I’ve done the legwork, and an uncertain time is not the time to play roulette with your mental healthcare provider, so any kind of switch got put on ice. Now, my insurance is up in a month, rendering any kind of insurance-based switch financially meaningless, as it’ll be out of pocket anywhere I go August 20th on if the job market stays on course. If that happens, hopefully I will find a psych who uses a sliding scale.

All of this is to say: quality psychiatry is essential healthcare for me. If my mental illness is not monitored, I can die.

I’m frazzled. Rick says he’s relaxed but he’s been driving weird, which makes me even more frazzled. (Rick turns into a weird driver when he’s stressed out, a public health risk in and of itself.) Nobody tell Rick about this paragraph.

I’m trying to figure it out, keeping a detailed Excel spreadsheet of jobs applied to, reaching out to mutual friends of people working somewhere I’d like to, perfecting cover letters, combing the ‘net, seeking advice from anyone potentially helpful, keeping a positive attitude, and trying to figure out the color of m’dang parachute. Because things have gotten more desperate by the day, the end game is now money and health insurance. Good old fashioned purpose and fulfillment would be some kind of rainbow icing on top. Community would be good, too, but I know, I know- I’m getting a lil crazy with all these hopes and dreams. I just want to contribute to the world! I want to make things that help people! I have a lot to give! I work very hard and with integrity, something that’s unfortunately rare! But, I also have mental illness that’s challenging to maintain in the throes of a global pandemic! One where there seems to be no sure light at the end of the tunnel! Only a flickering, creepy, lightbulb-in-a-haunted-house light! I like haunted stuff, but not this!

I feel like I need to course correct what’s become a wiggy digression: with illness, isolation, economic downturn, and job uncertainty, a person with typical mental health could struggle, let alone people with diagnosed mental illnesses. The suicide rate in America increased 35% from 1999 to 2018. The second leading cause of death in people ages 10-35 is suicide, and that’s without factoring in a global pandemic.

You may be thinking, well, what about the ER? What about suicide hotlines?

Do you know what happens if you go to the ER (by either self arrival or ambulance)? You’re humiliated by people blabbing about your ideation as if it’s not extremely sensitive (“Dennis, she said she wants to kill herself. Oh, you can’t hear me? I SAID SHE SAID SHE WANTS TO KILL HERSELF! Yeah. Kill herself.”). They monitor you for a bit, sometimes overnight, and then let you go to free up the bed. Last July I tried to get someone on an emergency hotline, and couldn’t get through. Either way, hotlines are staffed by good-hearted volunteers, not psychiatrists. These things are highly fallible last resorts, not solutions, let alone effective care.

An article on PsychologyToday.com muses on suicide during SARS as it may pertain to COVID: “…most [SARS-related] suicides involved elderly or chronically ill people who were afraid of becoming burdens to their families due to becoming infected, a concern that is already common among many COVID-19 patients.” A lot of people don’t consider the fact that “chronically ill people” includes those with lifelong mental illness issues. The guilt of being a burden is real.

Isolating with no end in sight might be “flattening the curve,” keeping hospitals manageable, and protecting some at-risk populations, but what about my at-risk population? Sometimes, people with mental illness need help to continue living, period. Living with any sort of normalcy/quality of life is just a bonus. Trust me, sometimes I’m tempted to say, “Just let the people with mental illness go. Let Darwinism run its course,” like I’m sure other people secretly think about my population. It’s a dark thought and, some days, I don’t disagree.

Then I remember that depression lies.

I have to fight for my bright moments, reminding myself that the offerings I bring to the world are important enough for me to stick around. But, when you feel undervalued, and that feeling is coming from inside my head and from inaction/lack of a solid public game plan for people like me, it’s hard to maintain that grit.

The world we live in is a real humdinger.

I’ll continue to move through the world sanitized, masked, and appropriately quarantined, I just have no idea how sustainable this all is for people like me.

Thanks for reading,
Bailey

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Preventing Suicide” page, last reviewed April 21, 2020
Psychology Today, “Are We Facing a Post-COVID-19 Suicide Epidemic?” Posted June 7, 2020


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Mental Health: The Gold of One’s Spirit
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: The Best Cure for Anxiety


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