Here’s to the unexpected hope helping me survive during a pandemic.
Trigger Warning: Thoughts of suicide are mentioned, as well as personal triggers associated with it. They are not shared in excess, but are mentioned for a few moments. Please assess how this may impact your mental health before proceeding.
It was the Spring Break we never came back from
At first, I was fine.
No seriously, I was.
College life was stressing me out and I needed those extra days off.
Then those few days became more, more became weeks, weeks became months, until fine was a word that was foriegn to me.
I won’t pretend I haven’t seen the videos and posts online. People talked about staying positive and taking care of your mental health, but it was hard finding information regarding those who’d dealt with a mental illness pre-covid. I’m not saying it didn’t exist, but too often I had to go searching for it.
You might be wondering why that small difference is so important. “Mental health is mental health, Draco. We all went through something and it took its toll on us too.”
I’m not saying people weren’t affected, and I’m not saying it wasn’t a mental strain on all of us. I’m saying there’s a difference.
For many, it was just about staying a float. Finding new ways to band together through the mutual strain of quarantine.
For the rest of us, it was hell on earth.
Everyone of my coping mechanisms went out the door. Every safe outlet I had for my depression and anxiety were indefinitely cut off.
My way of healing was gone. I was losing my mind.
The dark thoughts I’d locked, came rushing to the surface. How I’d fucked up my career, how I wasn’t good enough, how I was too damaged to exist without judgment and chains—over and over the shit kept piling.
I can’t remember how many nights ended with anxiety attacks, or how many times depression forced me to shut down.
I couldn’t do it—fuck—I couldn’t BREATHE!
2020 was just one shitshow after the other. To live each day losing track of time, where your only companions are suicidal thoughts, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. Wish or no wish, that was the reality so many of us faced. I didn’t want things to end before I’d lived my dreams, but it was so fucking hard to keep moving forward.
Without realizing it, my body did what it does best.
It found a new way to fight.
Shifting the focus
In the beginning, it was something to pass the time.
I’d just wanted to stick to my New Year’s intention of wanting to create more art this year. There were so many people posting art diy’s and cool crafts they were doing, and saying I was jealous would be a massive understatement.
I’m creative, not artistic—plus, I didn’t have many supplies lying around.
What I did have, however, was a sharp mind, some index cards, a shit ton of tape, and $5 gel pens that worked really fuckin well.
I decided to start stenciling little bookmarks in my spare time. They weren’t my old coping mechanisms. They didn’t do anything to soothe my anxiety or make coming down from a depressive state any easier, but they were better than nothing.
*Full disclosure: I totally traced tf outta these. I took a few creative liberties here and there (like making the mini polaroids) but I didn't just free hand them! I wish I could say this was half my collection, but it's not. It's really not.
I didn’t just make them for myself.
They were just pictures of shit that made me smile, some memes that made me laugh, shows I fuckin loved, etc. Whenever I’d be up late and sense the dark thoughts coming, I picked up my pens and cards and started drawing (needless to say, I ended up with a lot!).
It didn’t work all the time. Occasionally, I’d be left panicking anyway.
On most nights though, when I caught it early enough, it made all the difference.
After awhile, I’d rediscovered the magic of mail. Turns out it wasn’t just useful for shipping packages and receiving bills! I made a bunch for my friends, both in state and out.
It was so tedious at times, but seeing their reaction to the unexpected gift was my light at the end of the tunnel.
It felt good to have a healthy way to cope again. It felt good knowing my bookmarks made my friends smile. It felt good to strengthen the connections we shared. And it felt good to have fine be familiar once more.
We all need weapons to fight battles head on.
Some people have swords,
I have bookmarks.
*I understand the privilege I have to be in a position where this method of coping works. As stupid as it may be, I pray you find something to help you fight through the blocks in your mind.
Always Keep Fighting.
You are not done yet.
**Remember: If you believe you or your friend are in serious trouble that may lead to thoughts or acts of suicide or self harm, seek professional assistance or call one of the following hotlines for help:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Trevor Lifeline (for the LGBTQ+ community): 1-866-488-7386
For dire and immediate help, call 9-1-1