If taking care of yourself makes you “bad,” somehow, I hope you’re bad to the bone.
This is Crazy Talk: An advice column for honest, unapologetic conversations about mental health with advocate Sam Dylan Finch. While not a certified therapist, he has a lifetime of experience living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Questions? Reach out and you might be featured in the next column: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi Sam. I feel badly even writing this, but all of this conversation about COVID-19 is depressing me. And I mean that clinically… I have major depressive disorder, and things are hard enough already.
This pandemic is making me feel so much worse, and I just need to tune it out for a while — but that seems so… insensitive? Am I wrong for just needing to ignore it for a while?
Here’s a fun fact for you: Just this last week alone, I’ve received dozens of emails asking more or less the exact same question.
So if this makes you a bad person? There are a lot of bad people out there right now.
Let’s address the more basic part of your question first: Are you a bad person for needing to unplug for a while? Not at all.
When we live with any kind of mental health condition, it’s very important to set boundaries around social media, the news cycle, and the conversations we can and can’t have at any given time.
This becomes especially important when something traumatic is happening on a global scale.
I think social media has created a kind of pressure where people feel that if they unplug from what’s happening in the world, it makes them complacent or selfish.
I don’t believe that taking a step back is complacency, though. I believe that having strong boundaries around issues that activate us emotionally is what allows us to show up for ourselves and others in healthier, more impactful ways.
That’s self-compassion… and the majority of us could use a whole lot more of that in our lives.
I also want to just validate how you’re feeling. Weeks into this pandemic, so many of us are burning out. And this makes a lot of sense!
As I unpacked in my anticipatory grief article, many of us are experiencing some serious fatigue and dysregulation brought on by chronic, pervasive stress. And if you’re someone living with depression? That fatigue is likely going to feel a lot heavier.
So the TL;DR of this? Don’t apologize for taking care of yourself, my friend. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to be doing right now.
As long as you’re still being mindful of your impact on others (wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, not stockpiling toilet paper that you don’t need, not blocking traffic because you’re mad that you can’t get your hair cut or go to Olive Garden, etc.), I wouldn’t worry about it.
That said, here’s something else I noticed about your question: You sound pretty depressed.
And if you’re thinking, “Duh, Sam! I have depression and there’s a pandemic! Of course I’m depressed!” I’d like to ask you to pump the brakes for a second and hear me out.
Sure, yes, it makes a lot of sense that you’d be feeling burnt out and depressed about the state of the world. Even so, when life gets tough — regardless of the reasons why — we deserve support to get through it.
And I’d say that when we start noticing our mental health taking a hit? It’s always a good time to check in with a mental health professional.
I’m walking that walk, by the way. My psychiatrist increased the dosage of my antidepressant just this morning. I’m right there on that struggle bus with you.
Because yes, a global pandemic is scary and difficult. But I can fortify myself against my depressive disorder by making sure I have all the proper support around me, which sometimes includes adjusting the dose of my medication.
There’s a difference between grieving the state of the world and giving our mental illness a free pass to torment us. You know what I mean?
Rationalizing your depression doesn’t mean you’re not depressed, and it certainly doesn’t mean you don’t need help.
One piece of great advice that I heard recently on the Shine podcast was that, rather than thinking of this as the “new normal,” we can think of it as the “new now” instead.
So, reader, if in this “new now” you find yourself more depressed than usual? Meet yourself where you’re at and get some extra support.
Taking each day as it comes is the best I think any of us can do right now.
And it sounds like today, you’re having a hard time. So rather than writing off the significance of those feelings or trying to cope by checking out, how about we address them head-on? Something to consider.
Reader, if taking care of yourself makes you “bad” somehow? I hope you’re bad to the bone. If there were ever a time to build a blanket fort and shut out the rest of the world for a while, I’d say the time is definitely now.
Sam Dylan Finch is an editor, writer, and digital media strategist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s the lead editor of mental health and chronic conditions at Healthline. Find him on Twitter and Instagram, and learn more at SamDylanFinch.com.