Pandemic Emotional Update

Dr. Natalie Gelman

Pandemic Emotional Update

I have written a few articles since the pandemic began. This is not the first one to address the emotional response to this event. We have all been affected, and no professional is able to anticipate how it will resolve. This is new.

Johns Hopkins and Mayo did a study after seven months that showed that anxiety and depression had increased dramatically in this country. One month later the president of the American Psychological Association said that stress was at a very high level and had no idea how it would play out. I can confirm these assertions through my own practice.

I find that I am repeating myself to clients. I tell them that I am aware of repeating a line I have spoken to them before, but I am going to say it again, “You are not alone. Everyone is having a problem right now.” And when I say it, most respond by telling me that hearing it again is valuable, because often they envision themselves to be isolated, as if they are the only ones feeling lonely, isolated, anxious, depressed and not happy.

I have one client who has dealt with depression for 30 years. She is on medication and is very knowledgeable about depression and her own experience of it. There are times that it surfaces in her life in painful ways. She does have suicidal ideation and feels worthless. She also knows that these characteristics are classic.

During the pandemic, the intensity of the experience was huge. Nothing seemed to be working. We would talk, work out a plan for the week, and she was unable to follow through.

I told her that her depression was being enhanced by the pandemic, that everyone was being affected by it. This came up often. One day she had an appointment with her psychiatrist to review her medication.

She told me, at our next session, that he told her she was not alone and that her depression was exacerbated by the pandemic.

She told him her therapist had told her the same thing. He told her to listen. She told me it was valuable to hear it from someone else too.

And so, we live with a lifestyle change. We became a bit optimistic when the vaccine was approved. Then the availability became a problem. We were told the tiers, but there was not enough vaccine or enough facilities to distribute it. Other states were ahead of California. It became unclear when we could anticipate some return to our former lifestyle.

Patience. Confidence. A ray of optimism. Hold on to these. It will happen and we will all be affected in a helpful and meaningful way.

Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to drnataliegelman@gmail.com or through her website, www.drnataliegelman.com.