Mental Illness In The Pandemic
By Carli Rappaport
Photography By Riley Weeks
AUSTIN, TX – “I feel very disassociated with everything going on around me,” Sloan Wyatt said. “I mean, days go on but I never really feel present.”
Wyatt is a Sophomore at UT Austin, and has experienced panic attacks since she was fourteen. She is one of the many Americans with mental illness, who are struggling in the coronavirus pandemic right now.
Wyatt said her panic disorder ebbs and flows, but the COVID-19 outbreak sent it over the edge. She said having to move back home has intensified her situation.
“I’ve had two panic attacks since I’ve been home and I’ve had a parent or family member present for both of them,” Wyatt said. “It’s really hard for them because they freeze up. They don’t know what to give me, or how to serve me.”
UT student, Riley Weeks suffers from anorexia nervosa, and is constantly worried about gaining weight in the quarantine.
“I fear people are going to judge me, or think I lost myself, or lost my body during quarantine,” Weeks said.
Dr. Beth Chambers is a psychiatrist in Houston, Texas. She said going to college, having responsibilities, and then having a global pandemic looming over us intensifies our anxiety.
“I think the overwhelming thing people feel is just a sense of being out of control…and it really ramps up your body’s flight or fight response,” Dr. Chambers said.
Dr. Chambers recommends making a daily schedule, and sticking to it. This means planning times to exercise, eat, sleep, and even, a time to worry.
“I recommend to my patients, if you’re feeling anxious, rather than trying to push it away, you can sit with that for a little bit,” Dr. Chambers said. “Say to yourself, I’m gonna worry for about 15 minutes and at the end of that period, I’m gonna say, ‘You know what? I can’t control this.’ I’m going to focus on what I can control.”
According to Dr. Chambers, it is important to reach out to whoever you have a strong connection with.
“Reach out to your friends, other family members that you donʼt live with, your coworkers or clergy,” Dr. Chambers said. We’ve got to be easier on ourselves cause we’re all in this together.”