Illustration of a woman sitting on a mountain
Illustration by Robin Martea

This Is Not the End: Overcoming Depression During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Editor’s note: The following column talks about suicide and may be difficult for some readers. If you are having thoughts about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 741 741, or the Department of Mental Health at 1-877-210-8513.

It was Sunday, March 15, 2020, and spring break was finally over. It was time to go back to school and sit in all my classes. First, U.S. History to watch a powerpoint; then, Algebra 2 to do completely nothing; and finally my favorite class of all time, English Comp.

My junior year was coming to a close, and everything was starting to look up. I was a Junior Maid on the homecoming court, I was doing great in all my classes, and I participated in every school club imaginable. It seemed as if everything was going how I wanted it to—until we received word from school officials that spring break would be extended for another week.

Cool, no problem. I could use an extra week of no school work; besides, I had all A’s and B’s with the exception of a C in Algebra. It wasn’t a big deal.

I should have known we weren’t going back to school because there was talk about COVID-19 finally reaching the states, but I didn’t think it was that serious. Before school let out, my show choir director only talked to us about COVID once, telling us to be safe because we still had other competitions after the break. After an extended spring break for two weeks, I knew that nothing would be the same.

‘I May Be Different, but I Refused to Cut Myself’

I was fine with wearing a mask and gloves. It didn’t bother me much because that’s basic health and safety guidelines. My family is safe, and nobody caught COVID until later on. Thankfully, nobody my family knows has passed away from COVID. The only thing that worried me was falling back into depression and being in an undesirable state of mind. My mother was scared of that as well, so she made me get out of the house to walk or do whatever exercise to keep me active.

It’s funny to say this, but as a homebody who does multiple activities, even couch potatoes have to do some form of activity in order to stay out of the darkness. I was so depressed at one point during the pandemic, that I imagined myself cutting my arm up with a knife and just bleeding out. That was a scary moment for me.

Even though I have attempted to kill myself multiple times before in the past, this time it felt different. To some, attempting suicide is an attempt to gain attention from others. However, when it comes to mental health, people who do attempt sucide do not seek attention—they seek help. This time for me was because I was stuck inside the same four walls and looking at the same four people.

Many who have struggled during this pandemic went through growing pains in their households. I simply wasn’t used to being at home all the time, and seeing my parents and my brothers everyday proved that. Even though I love all of them deeply, I am my own individual person. My parents and brothers don’t have the same mindset as I do—this pandemic made it crystal clear that I was different.

Still, I refused to cut myself.

I just lay in my bed thinking about all the things I want to do in life and how I desire to be successful. I remembered the jokes I made with my parents and telling them that they can move in with me when I buy a big fancy house.

I reflected on everything.

“I’ve decided that in order for me to live, I can’t live the life others want me to,” Tiara Jackson writes. “I know that I am somebody, and I know that things will get better if I seek change for myself.” Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

As a creative person, I thought about all the stories and books I could write. I even thought about all the volunteer work I could do. Everything that I want to achieve would all go to waste if I committed suicide. Instead, my future would just be something people would say, “Oh, Tiara would have loved to do that!”

I decided that I didn’t want to end my life just because I am different from my family. I realized that, sooner or later, my family has to accept me no matter what I say and do. As I get ready for college, I know that I will change.

Will those changes be scary for me? Yes. Will those changes be confusing for my family? It will. But in order for me to get better and not risk my mental health for anyone, I can’t do that anymore.

A Journey to Self-Discovery

I’ve decided that in order for me to live, I can’t live the life others want me to. I know that I am somebody, and I know that things will get better if I seek change for myself.

I believe that I am on this earth to do all the work I can to help people. No matter how flawed I am and no matter how many times I mess up, I know that I can make a difference for those around me.

This pandemic helped me to realize more of who I am as a person mentally, spiritually and physically. I can’t continue to live life being a timid little girl who doesn’t know how to speak up for herself. I joke around and say that I’m a white girl trapped in a Black girl’s body, but I’m not. Even other people joke around or seriously address me as a “white girl.” But I’m not a whitewashed Black girl, I’m me. Yet, this society tells Black women that we can’t act a certain way because we will be considered “white.”

When I started going back to school in 2020 for my senior year in high school, I withdrew from people. I now understand that I allowed other things, people and ideas to get into my head. I am my own worst enemy, and I know I’m not the only person who has realized that they, too, need to change their mindset.

At the end of the day, COVID changed everything. There is no coming back from what all has transpired since 2020. There is no denying that within the first month since COVID hit, there was economic change; a change in how many eat and stay active; a change in household dynamics. The entire world went off the rails, it seems, and we didn’t even see it coming.

So many families have lost loved ones (over 5 million have died from COVID). Overall, it has been very scary. However, many have overcome in some sort of way and have had an  awakening. Eventually things will go back to normal, a new normal. I really believe that. But, it’s going to take a while, little by little.

As I continue on my journey from being a little girl to a young woman, I have the power to take control of my own life. This pandemic also taught me that there will be changes in our lives that we might not want, but we have to accommodate to those changes and make the best of what we have. After the hell we’ve encountered together, there is a light still shining to lead us through tough times.

Things will get better, and things will change. I will change and continue to better myself.

I truly believe that there is a mass awakening of the people and that this is only the beginning.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and factcheck information to [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.


 

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide:

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 741 741.

Call the Department of Mental Health at 1-877-210-8513.

Visit here for more information.

 

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

 The Mississippi Free Press is nonprofit, solutions-driven journalism for Mississippians and others who care about the state. 

With your help, we can do even more important stories like this one.