• Evi Arthur

Mental health during the pandemic: advice on processing a breakup in isolation

“I always reiterate to people that it’s OK to have anxiety and it’s OK to have depression, but it’s not OK to ignore it and hope that the problems go away,” Meagan Weldon says.

The past few months haven’t been easy, by any means, for anybody. Millions are unemployed and/or infected with the novel coronavirus, nearly 200,000 people have died, and it seems the current state of everything has taken a toll on the population. Politico reported that 30.9 percent of those surveyed by the CDC said they had symptoms of anxiety or depression while another 13.3 percent said they turned to substance use to cope with pandemic stress.

This isn’t even taking into account those who are already dealing with disorders that make them predisposed to low points. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 18 percent of the adult population suffers from an anxiety disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health says 7.1 percent of U.S. adults have depression. 

For those like Meagan Weldon, who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in early 2017, the pandemic has brought more tension. “It has affected my anxiety and depression because you can’t go anywhere with friends. You can’t go out to eat or go shopping whenever you’re feeling down just to get out of the house,” Weldon says. “That was really tough.”

Weldon also discussed concern for her photography business, Meagan Weldon Photography, and her struggle to make money amid the economic fallout.

Weldon mentioned that her six-year relationship ended about a month ago—meaning she had to tack “breakup” onto her list of worries. “At first, I didn’t know what to do; how to cope with things. I basically just laid in bed for a week and a half and binge-watched my favorite Netflix shows. For that week and a half, I allowed myself to feel every single feeling,” Weldon says. “Normally you would go out with your girlfriends and get a drink in a bar, just go hang out and go out to eat and vent and talk about things, but you can’t really do that during a pandemic.”

But after that week and a half, Weldon says she came around and found her way forward. “I realized I don’t want to be with somebody that doesn’t want to be with me, and I just decided, ‘I have to pick myself up. I have to move on with my life and figure out what comes next for me.’”

Interestingly enough, Weldon feels her experience learning about her anxiety and depression over the past few years prepared her to move on from her heartbreak. “I’ve had to focus on myself and get really in touch with my feelings,” she said. “I’m not afraid of my emotions, and I’m not afraid to feel sad.”

As for mental health, Weldon recommends trying to focus on the positives in life, as well as being open with your doctors if you’re on medication and reaching out to a therapist if you haven’t already. “Everybody that loves you and cares about you is there to help you, so if you’re going through anxiety and depression, it’s just so important to reach out to somebody.”

Weldon also made sure to emphasize the importance of destigmatizing disorders like anxiety and depression. She says when she was diagnosed with anxiety in early 2017, along with a form of OCD called trichotillomania, she realized she'd been wrestling with anxiety her whole life. “I had always been a perfectionist in school. If I got a bad grade, I would freak out and have a panic attack,” Weldon says. “I didn’t know what that was growing up because it’s such a taboo subject that people don’t talk about it.”

Although things feel almost impossible to handle at the moment, Weldon has advice nonetheless. “You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can always control how you react to the situation and how you move forward from it,” she says. “The first step to change a situation you don’t like is to change your attitude about it and try to find positives, no matter how difficult that might be.”

She adds: “I always reiterate to people that it’s OK to have anxiety and it’s OK to have depression, but it’s not OK to ignore it and hope that the problems go away.”

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