The pandemic changed me.
Before the pandemic I felt like I was on top of the world. I started a new position as the Director of Admissions in a nursing home, my grades were the highest they’ve ever been, I was excited about my involvement in the Student Ambassador program, I was President of the Business Club, and after some convincing I agreed to lead a team of 4 students in a international business competition. I was thriving from the joy of having my family and friends around me. My routine was working. I was busy. And that’s what made me happy. My life was what I considered a healthy work/school life balance.
All of my classes were on campus. Which I loved. I loved walking on campus and seeing my professors, asking them about their days, and having them scold me when I was being too much of a class clown. I lived for the interactions with my classmates. They were strangers turned friends.
Unfortunately, to my disappointment, a life-threatening virus started to spread through the United States at a very alarming pace. During the first couple of weeks, cities mandated lockdowns. Water, toilet tissue, paper towels, and cleaning supplies were going out of stock because people were afraid. Afraid for their lives and afraid for the lives of others.
In March, I went on a girls trip to Chicago to celebrate my sister's birthday, but when I got back home a week later, I was met with a Michigan lockdown, and a Stay Home Stay Safe order mandated by the Governor.
It was a culture shock. My world as I knew it turned into a computer screen.
Because of my position at my job, I was what you would call an “essential worker” so I still had to remain on my normal work schedule.
Working in a nursing home during a pandemic is hard. It’s hard and it’s sad. Everyday I was seeing residents that I loved dearly pass away because of Covid. I saw people being okay one day and then in the hospital fighting for their life the next. I couldn’t let that affect me though. I had to stay strong. I still had a full course of classes to take while readjusting to virtual learning, and staying focused while doing research for the international business competition.
I convinced myself that I was okay. I told myself that I wasn’t overwhelmed. I kept going every day like nothing was wrong. I followed the rules of the mandates, I wore my mask, I got tested regularly, and I maintained my schedule the best I could.
But eventually, I had to face the simple fact that I was far from okay.
I couldn’t go through one second of the day without having a pulsing headache. I didn’t have an appetite, and my memory was going down the drain as the days went by. I couldn't sleep for more than 3 hours, and that made me tired all day long. I didn’t even have the energy to hold a conversation. I wasn’t myself. I couldn’t find joy. And I couldn’t find a real reason to smile. It also didn’t help that my 3 year relationship ended.
My body was forcing me to realize that something needed to change.
After some slight begging, my mom convinced me that I needed to go see my doctor to find out what was happening to me. Because at this point, everyone could tell that I was not okay.
My doctor diagnosed me with anxiety and depression.
Hearing that was like a punch to the gut. I was so focused on doing what needed to be done that I never stopped to think how it affected me. It never dawned on me that maybe I had too much on my plate and that I simply needed a break.
My doctor gave me the tools I needed to cope with my anxiety and depression, and she gave me instruction on how to move forward. But the most important doctor's order I received was rest and relaxation. It was definitely an order that I was not use to. But I was determined to get back to being myself again.
After the school semester concluded, I decided to take the summer off of school, and replace it with doing things that I love with the people I love.
My summer was magical. I visited New York 3 times, celebrated my best friend's birthday in Silver Lake, Michigan riding the Sand Dunes, and spent a week in Hawaii with my sisters. In between traveling I got back to doing the things that I loved doing like; reading, hiking, camping, and spending every moment I could with my friends and family. And right before the Fall semester started, I felt recharged, energized, and most importantly I felt like myself again.
Taking a break allowed me to reduce my stress, boosted my performance, and improved my health dramatically.
I feel very excited to continue my educational journey, but I have learned that pacing yourself and not taking on too much will benefit you in the long run.
I encourage everyone who is prone to busy schedules to remember that your mental health matters.