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Needing In-Person Connection in a Global Crisis

2020 FSM Student Ambassador, Arielle D., writes this month about navigating mental health and the importance of in-person connection during quarantine. Read her blog!

Acknowledging that my mental health is being challenged is something I’ve neglected a lot in the past, just because I was able to distract myself with a daily schedule and other everyday activities that would help me stay positive about life overall. Over these past few months, I have realized just how much I tend to do this. Once the outside world got shutdown and stripped away, it was as if the gates of my past battles and trauma were opened to enter my daily thoughts, simply because I had nothing else to do.

I had a plan the week everything was locked down to go to the Secretary of State to restart the process of my getting my driver’s license. It was my school’s spring break; I had just returned from Las Vegas, Nevada, visiting a friend I had met through the internship with FosterClub and learning more about the Organizations he works with over there. When I had returned to Michigan with news that there were national pandemic concerns, my stress was heightened by the fact that I had been traveling but also the unknown of what was to come.

While the concerns of me contracting the virus were present, I think my overall worries were about being stuck in my house “until further notice.” On top of that, I was relying on the media for updates and information. Instead, I found myself looking at conspiracy theories and other fake articles that heightened my stress and anxiety to the max. I chose to take time off from social media and I bought a bike to ride around the neighborhood. It was something to help me get fresh air and at least get out of bed.

I started to realize how much I relied on others’ presence and communication for my own happiness, so once we were all forced into isolation, I felt empty and alone. What made it harder was that I know I have supportive adults that are here to support me in any way they can. Yet I found it harder to become vulnerable over the phone about my problems because I was not able to see the other person’s facial reactions or to feel their comfort level. Overall, I just thought about how, while yes, everyone is staying “connected” by calling or texting, I know that we need to have face to face contact to feel genuinely connected.

Being honest with myself, I know that coming out of this quarantine, I will need to come up with a plan on how to handle and maintain my mental health proactively. I know without it - knowing the person I am - I would go back to the same patterns as before, which again leads to destructive behavior on myself and potentially others.

I know the things that have been put in place are ultimately the best that we have right now, but I do want to acknowledge that it is affecting everyone, and we have to be more understanding of each other and how things must CHANGE moving forward. I learned that being vulnerable about my experiences over media reaches people who could relate to what I say and could help open new doorways for youth who have a passion for creating change. For the time being, I have adapted to advocating virtually. Still, I can’t tell you how excited I am to do it publicly again as well.

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