May is Mental Health Awareness month. I was stuck on that sentence for a long time. I planned on including statistics and maybe a pie graph, but I just can’t do it. If it was May 2019, I might have. We don’t need statistics right now. I will say normally, 1 in 5 people deal with some kind of mental illness in the world. I’m not a great judge on what is “normal” but things are definitely not normal right now.

Just think of what we’ve been through the last few months: a constant ticker tape of numbers that are terrifying; losing out on birthdays, weddings, anniversaries…being able to comfort each other during funerals; the entire Senior class of high schoolers missed out on their last few moments of their high school experience. We’ve lost people who otherwise would still be with us. To put it simply, things just suck.

People who have never really experienced depression or anxiety before feel the weight of the world. Those of us quite familiar with daily anxiety (like May 2019 anxiety) are struggling more than ever. We have found ways to comfort each other from a distance though. I’ve seen drive-by birthday parades and teachers going above and beyond to drive through neighborhoods to wave at their students. The school systems still provided meals to students this entire time. Staff rode on school buses and had delivery drop off spots because feeding and caring for our kids matters so much to them.

Things are awful but think about our collective spirit. I remember the response after the 9/11 attacks. This is a completely different situation, but I remember in the midst of tragedy and mourning, all of America hanging their flags outside their homes and windows. We came together in that tragedy and felt a little more love for one another. We are strong. We wish we didn’t have to be so strong, but we are still.

So, if you are experiencing anxiety and depression and haven’t before, you are going to be okay. As the governor said, if you AREN’T experiencing it, that would be unusual. Thankfully it is easier than ever to connect to therapists and other professionals via telehealth services. You can wear your pajama pants and talk to a counselor! There is no shame in asking for help. You don’t have to have the weight of the world on our shoulders, because there are people who care and will help or at least listen. Sometimes we just need to be heard.

I hope May 2021, I can write a story about Mental Health Awareness Month and include my original dry pie graphs and statistics. I hope I can just relay information from the National Institute of Mental Health. The most important part of that sentence is that I have HOPE. We may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is there. We will get through this together.