Walking the Dark Path: Mental Health in the Time of Coronavirus

Coronavirus mental health
25 Mar 2020

It’s OK not to be mentally OK as a result of the Coronavirus. This post takes a deeply personal look at depression & suicidal thoughts after losing your job or closing your business, and gives resources to help you walk and survive the dark path.

Trigger warning: This post discusses mental health and suicide.

If you have had to close your business temporarily or permanently due to the Coronavirus, my heart goes out to you.

You may be feeling a real mix of emotions: gut-wrenching grief, intense anxiety over how to pay the bills, confusion about what to do next, anger at the government, and feelings of failure, shame and hopelessness – all are common.

It’s OK feel whatever you are feeling.

These feelings may be magnified by all the additional entrenched fear in society about this virus, and the fact that you are isolated at home, which gives your mind more time to ruminate.

Look, I’ve been there! I have wandered deep into these intensely swampy mental waters when I have twice lost my job in the past, and when my first business had to fold.

I know that it is way too easy to spiral down into a very dark place, and your mind can twist you into knots and try to convince you that the world is better off without you.

I know because I have had those thoughts and felt those feelings a few times in my life.

If you are having those thoughts and feelings right now I wish I could yell to you, “Stop!  Please stop. Your brain is lying to you!”

Just because the services you offer are not classed as essential right in the middle of a pandemic, doesn’t mean that YOU are not essential.

We need you – no matter how dark things get. We need you. Your family and your loved ones need you. Your pets need you.

We don’t need your insurance or your estate. We need your hugs, your chat over dinner and your smile.

We need you to sing happy birthday with us, to daggy dance with us and to share our highs and our lows with us.

No amount of money can replace those moments.

The thought that carried me through my own personal darkest days is a spiritual one. If there is even a flicker of a chance that reincarnation is real, if you take yourself out now, you only get to come back to another life and relive all the pain again. Do you REALLY want to do this all over again?

The Other Side of Suicide

Be aware also that if you do decide to go off-planet and either succeed or not, that someone WILL find you, and you will permanently pass on all the pain, shame and grief you are currently feeling to them.

I know that what you want to do through suicide is to stop your unbearable pain.

However, pain doesn’t die when you die by suicide. It is unfortunately passed on to the next person.

Your current mental pain is temporary, but the pain you pass on is permanent.

Choosing death by suicide is NOT the kindest or the best thing that you can do for those you love. What you are doing is giving the people you most love a life sentence.

I carry the indelible scars seared into my memory and my soul of finding a loved one who died by suicide.

I found them – not yet dead, and then I watched them die in front of me.

I wish that mental burden on no one. Those feelings and that pain are never erased no matter how many years pass.

Watching my loved one die by suicide permanently removed that thought as an option for me during my own dark swamp days. I would never in a billion years put the people I love through that experience and the aftermath.

It’s OK Not to be OK Right Now

The people who genuinely love you and care about you (and there are more of them than you realise), don’t care if your business doors are open or closed, or what you say you do for a job.

They simply care that you are hurting and want to help. Reach out to loved ones and tell them that you are afraid of what you are thinking.

If you feel yourself heading down dark mental paths as a result of losing your business or job, for once in your life, let others help you.

Call Lifeline 13 11 44 and get support.

You can also contact Beyond Blue, the Black Dog Institute or a local psychologist most now are working remotely. ( I can recommend Linda Conyard as a fantastic trauma psychologist.)

Accept all the financial support the government at all levels is offering and talk with a financial counsellor to help make sure that you access every last bit of help that is out there.

Take your dog for a walk (or walk with your family) to get some sun and some exercise. Both sun and movement help your body start to heal and gets you out of your thoughts.

I am not going to tell you that by telling someone what you feel that life suddenly will turn around for you.

In my experience of grappling with the mental swamp, for a while everything is still going to feel dark and gloomy and as if you are trudging through never-ending mud with a broken leg.

However, after a while, when you are trudging through the mud, you start to notice little things – the blueness of the sky, the taste of a great coffee and you forget the pain for a moment.

After a while more, you find yourself smiling at a meme or laughing with your child, whereas just a few days before you thought your smile had permanently left your face.

Look for those little teensy flickers as they show you are starting to heal.

After a while more you will start to see more blue sky than rain and mud. Your pain lessens and becomes more bearable.

You learn how to carry your pain so it is less debilitating, work around the deepest pain pits and eventually drop much of it. But at least it is your pain and not passed on to others that you love.

Remember, this too will pass. The pain you are feeling genuinely will get less and you will find a solution to what now seems overwhelming and black (as impossible as that may seem).

Don’t choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

It is tough, but you can do this, and you CAN get through this … IF you reach out and accept help.

How to Support Loved Ones

If you love or care for someone who may have lost their job, know that they may be heading down a dark path.

Stay connected. Ask them specifically and consciously if they are OK.

Ask them if they are having any dark or suicidal thoughts. Ask if they have a plan to carry out their thoughts.

Help them to find and get expert help, but also know that it is not your “fault” no matter which way that person decides to act.

RUOK has some useful resources to help you work out what to say and do to support people during this time and is worth checking out “just in case” you need these resources in the coming months.

We Are All In This Together

The coming months are going to be rocky for many in our community. There are going to be many that will be going through rough emotional times, and we need to reach out and help our friends, family and colleagues through these times.

Be there, ask, listen, encourage action and love. And wash your hands!

About the Author

Ingrid Moyle

Ingrid Moyle (BA - Psych/Industrial Relations) is the Chief Web Wizard at Heart Harmony Communications. A self-confessed multipotentialite, Ingrid shamelessly blends her passions of human resources, psychology, web design and copywriting. When not hardwired to her computer, she quests for the perfect coffee while chasing virtual reality creatures across the backstreets of Brisbane.
Bowler hat with lightbulb.

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