Sep 5, 2020

Tapas, Depression & Covid-19… What’s Not to Love?

Dealing with depression is hard enough, but right now even while in Spain, this crazy pandemic has made it almost impossible. I’m not a psychiatrist, nor do I have any experience in the mental health sector, so I can only offer up my personal experience dealing with depression in this crazy time of Covid-19.  Am I one to offer advice?  Probably not.  But I can share what I’m going through and hope that anyone who feels similarly at least doesn’t feel alone. 

Depression shows up in many different forms and is especially predominant in women.  Situational depression, like depression triggered by the stress of the current pandemic, is as real and as serious as clinical or major depression. Having dealt with depression my whole life, I thought I was doing pretty well when in quarantine earlier this year.  I’m used to being alone. 

When I get depressed, I prefer not to interact with anyone.  I can sit in my pajamas all day binging bad TV, eating tapa after tapa, drinking too much vino, and crying for no reason.  I feel heavy, unmotivated, lethargic, and very unsure of my future and purpose.  So, for me, quarantine was actually soothing, because I felt like everyone was in the same boat.  Suddenly, my depression boat had become a huge ship, and we were all at sea together.  As they say, misery definitely loves company.

Still Depressed & Feeling Left Behind

But, as routines have started to “normalize” in this time of Covid, I’ve realized that my friends have started to adjust.  And while they’re not in peak pre-Covid condition, they have adapted and are pushing through.   Meanwhile, I still feel stuck and alone.  What’s worse is I’ve realized that my usual “bounce back” rate isn’t the same.  Before Covid, I’d gotten to know my symptoms well and could recognize my triggers.  Now, an episode can strike randomly, and it takes a lot more time and strength to see myself through the darkness.   

To be fair, I have managed to be productive since the federal-mandated quarantine here in Spain ended in June.  I’ve moved to a new city, started this website, and have made a handful of new friends.  But, to do all that I’ve had to push myself harder than I’ve ever had to before.  And, that’s been hugely difficult.  The weight I’m pushing up the mountain feels like it’s going to crush me sometimes. 

I’ve also noticed that my depression has changed.  It’s more manic now.  I still cry regularly and have those weeks when I can’t get out of bed.  Because of this, I’ve found that I need to hyper-deliver whenever when I am productive.  This creates these large swings of energy followed by periods of deep fatigue, which has made me unreliable, something I’ve never been before.  Many times, I’ve committed to something on a week I’m flying, only to flake a week or two later, when I feel I’m drowning. 

Accepting and Embracing My New Normal

And though being unreliable is something I loathe to admit I’ve become, I’ve had to.  This is part of my new normal… at least for now.  So instead of feeling guilty about it, I’m vocal about it.  I explain to those around me what’s going on.  I’m not hiding in shame but am embracing and giving validity to what it is I am experiencing.

By doing that, by sharing my truth, I’ve found that I’m attracting many women who value the same kind of honesty in communication.  These new friends in my life are women who are honest and respect the struggle.  They take care of themselves and support one another through this complicated time.  And for that, I’m inspired…. and grateful for the inspiration! 

Living with depression is just that, LIVING through depression.  It sucks, not gonna lie.  But, I always go back to a quote from one of my favorite books The Count of Monte Cristo.  Alexander Dumas wrote that “only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss.”   And, that’s exactly how I feel.  The bliss I feel when I’m not down is what fuels me to build a beautiful life.  And it’s my beautiful life that saves me from my dark place time and time again.  

Making the Decision to Get Help

I know that at the beginning of this article, I said I am not one to offer advice.  Well, I’m going to take that back.  I am more than qualified… because I am a survivor.  I deal with depression every day and will work through it as long as I live.  I’m strong and have managed to move to a new country, learn a new language, start a new career, and make new friends.  And all that while dealing with the stress of a pending divorce and a pandemic!  So, let me give you some advice:  do whatever you need to do to get through it.  And have faith that you will.  YOU WILL.  Remember, you have persevered every time before; this time will be no different.

So, listen to your body.  Go slow.  Do not feel guilty for sitting in your silence.  If you behave in ways that you don’t like, accept that and try to do better tomorrow.  Start a journal, even if you only write in it every now and then.  On the days you feel up to it, take a walk or call a friend.   Be grateful for the good days and for the small wins.  Visualize your sunny days, your bliss.  Make plans for your future.  Gather inspiration.

And most importantly, seek help if you start to feel your depression is getting unmanageable.  That’s what’s next for me.   I’ve spent time in therapy and on medication at various times throughout my life.  It’s always been a last resort for me due to social stigma, time, or money.  However, I now realize this moment is too big for me to mismanage.  I’ve seen too many amazing people taken down by depression, and I value my life too much to half-ass it…or worse. 

Resources for Depression

Our lives are precious, and we deserve to be happy and fulfilled no matter the circumstances.  If you’re looking for help managing through this crazy time, here are a few sites and apps that may help. 

When I first moved to Spain, I was feeling really lost and confused, so I started using the app Grateful: A Gratitude Journal.  It was an easy way for me to not lose sight of the really good things in my life.  It’s about $15 a year subscription for a very simple concept, so it’s not for everyone.  I personally like the easy interface and knowing I am paying a small fee makes me do it!

If you’re in Barcelona, I used Therapy In Barcelona last year to find a great English-speaking therapist.  After filling out some information detailing what I’d like to work on, they paired me with a wonderful therapist.  She really helped me deal with the transition to Spain and sort through all my “what am I going to do with my life?” panic I was experiencing.

In Madrid, two counseling services have been recommended to me by fellow expats: SINEW and Counselling Madrid. Both offer services in-person and online and have multilingual therapists.

Due to Covid-19, I’ve also seen an influx of online counseling sites lately. The most visible two seem to be Better Help & Talk Space.  Both apps offer plans for individuals, couples or teens.  Communication between therapist and client is done through texting, voice messaging and/or video chats, depending on the subscription plan.  For Talk Space, the least expensive option comes in at $260 per month, and the most expensive option is $396 per month.  Better Help’s pricing is cheaper with plans running between $200-$280 a month.

If anyone has used any of the above providers, I’ve love to hear your thoughts.

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