A collection of writings by young adults and teens on their experience of the COVID-19 Pandemic
The unpredictability of news and events during COVID-19 has heavily increased the anxiety and pressure I have felt in my daily life. As a person who struggles with generalized anxiety, I like to keep my life structured and constant, but as news about COVID continues to come and there are new rules every day, I find myself struggling to keep up and that I am becoming increasingly overwhelmed. In the beginning of the “quarantine” period, I enjoyed spending newfound free time by myself, enjoying the hobbies I never usually found time for. However, as time went on, and the COVID-19 world became more serious, the fun “grace” period ended and I fell into a lull. I lost motivation to do schoolwork, found no inspiration for my hobbies, and stayed reserved from my family and friends. I find that I am worried about taking part in the social events I used to love attending for fear of the virus and I am much more nervous to be in public spaces. Finally, as a rising senior in high school, I am incredibly anxious and saddened by the sudden change in how this school year will run. I have always had an idealized view of how my senior year will be, but unfortunately, this idea has been greatly disrupted for my class, the class of 2021, as well as the class of 2020. Though difficult news comes in every day, I have learned how important it is to be able to turn to family and friends for help when I need it. While isolated, I had a lot of difficulty dealing with my emotions and anxiety, but as I have turned to family and friends to help talk-out my emotions, I have realized that my feelings are valid and are shared by others. Every day, my friends and family are helping me feel more comfortable in the COVID-19 world and are reassuring me that life will be better on the other side of the pandemic.
I will be honest with how my life went before the pandemic hit the world and after. I cannot say that I was living my best life and then all of a sudden, this massive crisis came upon the world like it was the apocalypse and everything went to hell. The truth is I wasn’t living my best life at all. I had two psychiatric hospitalizations in that year alone shortly before everything happened. I was always on edge, alone, starving (eating disorder), and terribly suicidal.
For years that was my life: in and out of hospitals and residential programs. I didn’t see an end to it. In 2019 I did start thinking about college as I was 19 years old. I thought I didn’t want to take any more time off from school even though school was a massive trigger for me. I decided which university to go to and applied for the spring semester. To my surprise, in late 2019 I got an acceptance letter for the spring semester starting January 6th, 2020. Now, it was late December when I got this so I was more terrified than happy.
Still the semester started and I balled my eyes out for the first week or so and then after that it wasn’t so bad. I finally had somewhere to go instead of sitting at home alone and thinking. I was talking to actual real people and saw the possibility in making friends. I was even ready to try and get my license again as I’ve failed the test 3 times. My braces were going to come off soon. Things weren’t looking too bad, minus the hospitalizations in mid-February. The thing is, I was feeling terrible but, I had hope and I had plans.
I had to go to Germany in March because of a death in my family. We left America in its normal state and then came back a few days later to confusion and panic. Then all of a sudden Germany was in shutdown, the rest of the world went into shutdown, and numbers were rising. It all happened so fast. Next thing I knew I was back to sitting in my room alone and thinking.
I finished my spring semester online and I took a couple summer classes online but I still had free time and no one to talk to but my family and my treatment team. My depression never left, my social anxiety never left, my eating disorder, my suicidal ideation, they all never left. I just finally had an opportunity to put some normalcy into my life before the virus. I haven’t had a friend that I was comfortable with in years and finally the opportunity to find one or a few comes and I can’t even leave my house. Where is there an opportunity now to make friends? Where can I just talk to someone my age without it being through therapy groups.
I was forced to cabin again, the same thing I was advised not to do as it would worsen my depression. Well, it sure as hell did. The zero motivation, the fatigue, the scary thoughts, the panic attacks all came back to me, knocking me to the floor and keeping me from getting up. Not to mention the intense anxiety about the state of the world. Every day I feel like giving up but every day I keep going, I don’t know why, maybe it’s hope that I’ll find that friend, or the pandemic will end and something good will come
out of it.
Honestly, I don’t even know if the pandemic ending would even help. This threw me back, way back. It’s hard to tell if I would’ve struggled like this even without covid-19. I could’ve had another terrible experience in school, the only difference being its college. I still probably wouldn’t have had any friends at this point whether COVID happened or not. So, keeping this in mind, I don’t know how I’ll do after this whole thing ends which won’t end for a pretty long time. I’m really sick and struggling and the COVID isolation is driving me a bit mad.
This all doesn’t really matter. I think what does matter is that the number of cases and deaths lower, that people from all over the world keep themselves and others safe by following guidelines in hopes to see a closer end to this horrible experience and to give people their lives back, what they’ve lost if they can even retrieve it, and that sense of normality. I hope that all the other sufferers of mental illness who have been knocked down just as I have will find relief from the constant darkness and pain. I hope they find their way out and I hope this pandemic will just be over with already.
As a person with social anxiety, I expected this lockdown during the pandemic to be a peaceful and restful quiet time where I would have nothing to worry about. Instead, I found myself becoming far too comfortable in my own little world and little things like going to the store or driving around would cause significantly more anxiety than they once did. This pandemic caused a new set of challenges for me to overcome, including learning how to be more comfortable with situations that made me anxious. At first, I avoided everything, made my mom go out to the store alone and rarely drove anywhere myself. I let myself fall deeper into my pit and avoided all the normal things I used to do. The new social rules about masks and social distancing created a new kind of social anxiety in terms of unwritten and written rules about the proper social intervention in the COVID-19 world. Eventually, with a lot of help from my mom, I reentered the world and began going to stores and driving places. It was not easy, going from a happy life by myself into a world with a whole new set of ways to embarrass yourself. I can happily say that I believe I've overcome the setback that the pandemic gave me, but of course, I still struggle with my anxiety every day.
I rely on certainty; I am a planner, I thrive with structure, and my entire life is outlined by to-do lists. So not surprisingly, my high school experience has been one big to-do list. I spent hours studying, practicing sports and volunteering in order to reach the moment when it all became worth it. The moment when the senior class of 2020 has big celebrations, hugs their family and friends, and moves on to the next chapter in their lives. So, when the CDC’s guidelines prohibited all of these things I had been working towards, I quite honestly felt broken.
I was lonely. I missed my friends, I missed my teachers, I even missed the classmates that drove me crazy. Quarantine truly revealed how much I needed interaction with my peers. I was sad. I mourned for all of the “would have” and “could have beens” of my senior year: the events and milestones that I watched past seniors enjoy. I was nervous. There was, and still is, no end date to a global pandemic, and that is not something that sits well with me; I like to know what the future has in store. I also felt guilty. How could I sit in my house and feel sorry for myself because my prom was cancelled when thousands of people across the country were dying? This guilt led to anger. I was angry that I had to feel guilty for wanting a prom, or a graduation, when these were givens to all classes of the past. This plethora of emotions led to a lot of questions. Why did this have to happen this year? What will the future hold? When can I return to normal? I drove myself crazy trying to find a reason for everything that was going on. But when even my parents, who of course know everything, could only offer me sympathetic hugs, I knew that there was no reasoning. There was no certainty.
I tried to cope in the best way I knew how: planning. I planned for the return to school, until it was cancelled. I planned for my summer job, until it was cancelled. I planned for college, until it was cancelled. My trusty planning got me nothing but a pile of dorm supplies that now sits unused. So I’ve had to accept that there cannot always be certainty. Trying to control the future at a time like this will do no good, and the only solution is taking things one day at a time.
Thank you so much to the young people who so graciously volunteered to share their writing.