“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise” – Victor Hugo
Since the pandemic, I had been living life as if everything was normal even though the world around me seemed to be falling apart. While externally I was fine, internally I was struggling. Early on, I inwardly beamed at a slower pace of life during 2020. But being locked away at home and socially isolated (Zoom actually made things worse) obviously chipped away at my mental wellness. I also hadn’t fully acknowledged life had changed the past few years – my first newborn, the death of a parent, and changing of job duties – just to name a few.
Depression and anxiety are often subtle and brews in the background for years before it ignites. For me, it began with simple insomnia. Then came body aches and pains. Then disrupted sleep. Dread, fear, sadness – all wore away at my psyche. Numerous physical examinations, blood tests and doctor’s visits equated to nothing. Counselling and medication helped for short periods of time.
My body was telling me to slow down my life and figure out what was going on. It was psychosomatic – my body was telling me something, and it probably saved my life. I want to share what helped me get back on my feet.
- Daily exercise – In my darkest moments, even simple walks were strenuous. But the exercise was necessary. Getting up and out of the house and breathing air from nature helped immensely. The saying “motion is lotion” is true; the human body requires it to stay grounded.
- Mindfulness – I used an app, Calm, for its guided meditation sessions but there are numerous others available. YouTube and podcasts are immensely useful, too. Deep breathing calmed my nervous system and mindfulness lifted me out of the noise and chatter that was actually the source of my angst.
- Joy – To rediscover my hobbies in life – reading, writing, community – including new ones like yoga all enriched my life. It’s hard to do when in the doldrums of life, and might feel counterintuitive, but joy resurfacing became the light that led me out of my tunnel.
- Community – I didn’t quite realize how isolated I was until it hit me hard emotionally. I felt I was ready to jump into the ocean if that meant I could reconnect. After a couple of years of isolation helped me appreciate that colleagues and friends are important reminders that life is more than work. I cherish time for relationships now, old and new.
As a librarian, I often turn to research for support, but surprisingly, the LIS literature is mostly barren on this topic, and much of it is about supporting services for patrons. LIS Interrupted: Intersections of Mental Illness and Library Work is one of the few books devoted to this topic by library workers. I hope there will be more soon. The lived experiences of the authors of each chapter bravely share how each faced their challenges. Mental wellness comes from feeling balanced, connected to others and ready to meet life’s challenges – things that a global pandemic helped me understand.
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not those of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.