The only thing people are talking about anymore is the coronavirus outbreak and how it is affecting the day-to-day lives of everyone in the world. More locally, the University has closed campus and switched to online learning for the remainder of the semester. Many people have expressed emotions of both joy and annoyance at this early departure from classes. On Twitter, attention has been brought to many aspects of the reality of social distancing. It leaves many people alone with themselves and their thoughts, and for some, this can be very difficult.
For someone like myself who is incredibly extroverted, a complete shutdown of most social contact can be very damaging. I find myself incredibly restless and, at times, depressed. Most of my friends from college live elsewhere, so I am stuck in Tuscaloosa and can only talk to them through online platforms. This is no real substitution for genuine human contact. I know many people are going through the same feelings, and for those who struggle already with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, these are only exacerbated by isolation.
There is a lot for a person to be anxious about right now. There is fear of the disease itself and its effects on the individual or their loved ones, and there is fear over impacts of the disease, such as job loss and possible economic crisis. With no ability to distract oneself with the presence of others, these thoughts threaten to overwhelm us all.
In addition, I think something a lot of people don’t consider is the struggle that those with eating disorders face right now. All over my Instagram feed, I have seen posts about people “eating all of their quarantine snacks” or “being on their ninth meal of the day.” For someone who struggles with binging or meal restriction, the alone time with nothing to think about besides food can be very dangerous. People tend to eat more when they are bored, as seen by all of the posts; it’s a common behavior we all share. However, for someone who binges and purges, I worry that all this excessive eating could lead to a mental spiral that often feels inescapable. As for those who suffer from anorexia nervosa, I hope that the slight weight gain that may happen from a stalling of typical physical activity doesn’t push a recovering victim to start restricting calories again.
Right now is a challenging time for college seniors, especially. Graduation at most campuses has been canceled, and something so unexpected could cause an emotionally healthy person to become depressed. Many people I know feel as though their educational accomplishments have been forgotten in all the chaos. Others have had to leave their friends and their college experience behind early. It’s unfair but also out of anyone’s control. In a time of so much worry and bleakness, there are more people suffering than meets the eye.
Now more than ever, it is important that we practice kindness toward one another and reach out when we can. If you know someone who struggles with a mental illness or a senior who has had their lives upended by this, this is a time to really be there for that person and have their back. This will end someday, so let’s make sure we all make it through together.