Mental health the biggest pandemic issue of 2021
The impact of COVID-19 continues well beyond the physical threat to our well-being.
My hope in sharing my story is to encourage others to do the same.
On July 10, I got infected by COVID-19. I found out by surprise. I was working with a cross-functional team on establishing a COVID-19 protocol for industrial trainees. As I suffered from a runny nose and very mild flu-like symptoms, I decided to get tested. To my surprise, I tested positive. Fourteen days later, I was back at work. During these two weeks, I received numerous messages inquiring about my health and wishing me a speedy recovery.
On Dec. 25, I was admitted to JHAH. It was like I had fallen off a 10-story high building and smashed my head on the concrete. My blood pressure was rising and falling without any apparent reason. This condition started eight months earlier in April 2020. We were hearing about COVID-19 sweeping its dark cloak throughout the world.
First, I tried to ignore it. Then, I tried to brush it away but it kept coming stronger and stronger. It started with a feeling of not being able to breathe. Feeling trapped as if I was being buried alive, I couldn’t breathe. I was panicking and getting anxious. My symptoms kept becoming harsher — feelings of hopelessness, increased irritability, loss of pleasure, and trouble concentrating and sleeping.
Then my thoughts became dark. Dark and bleak ideas started infiltrating my mind. These thoughts became more and more obsessive. What if tomorrow was like today? What is the pleasure of living if you are in so much pain? What is wrong with me? I was slowly sinking and desperately trying to shout “Help!” But no one was hearing me. This time I was sick, but without apparent symptoms. No one was wishing me a speedy recovery, as my sickness was invisible to others.
The COVID-19 pandemic created an international experience of stress, anxiety, and depression. But now, it may inspire more open discussions about mental health in the workplace than ever before. Management consulting company McKinsey stated in 2020 that, “If companies make mental health services more accessible and intervene in the workplace in ways that improve well-being, they will simultaneously make investments that will provide real improvements in employee outcomes and consequently in company performance.”
I wrote this while I was in an emergency hospital stay for eight days. I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. Today, I am on the road to recovery. Like past sport injuries, I intend to make this recovery a learning moment, not a lifetime shame. It will be a lifelong journey. I am privileged and lucky to be on the path to recovery. Privileged to have such a great family, friends, colleagues, and job. However, neither privilege nor luck should have to be part of anyone’s mental health equation.