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How to deal with depression amid the pandemic

How to deal with depression amid the pandemic
Posted at 6:26 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 18:26:04-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Feeling stuck is a common phrase spoken during therapy sessions these days.

"I feel stuck. And I hear that over and over again," said Sarah McLillard, the Clinical Director at WOAH Behavioral Health. "Just being like I don’t even know how to move forward from where we are."

When the pandemic first started, anxiety invaded people’s minds.

Now, two years in and with omicron as the dominant variant spreading faster and easier than others, McLillard says depression is the dominant mental health issue.

"It has been going on for so long that we get stuck in these states of depression and have a really hard time of being able to move out of them."

Depression can show up in a variety of ways.

Aside from feeling sad, it can make your thoughts feel scattered or give you a hard time remembering what you’re supposed to be doing.

You can feel irritable or short-tempered, and you might eat less or more, sleep more, or feel lethargic.

"I think that’s probably why people minimize it so much is that they don’t understand that it can show up in lots of different ways," said McLillard.

"It’s like this battle that I had with myself for a really long time until, you know, you start seeking help and you’re like what am I gonna do," said Sierra Hensley.

Sierra Hensley was born and raised in Richmond.

"Honestly it took me about, I would say until recently, I would say in the past two months. I’ve come to terms with it, I’ve learned so much about it," Hensley said.

The dental assistant had a traumatic experience back in January of 2020 and says isolation brought on by the pandemic made it hard to sort through her emotions until one day they all boiled over.

"I went to work one day and I was looking at a patient and the whole room started spinning. I went to the doctor, and I told them I think it’s my blood sugar and I didn’t know what was going on, and she was like ‘you might just have some depression.’"

Hensley’s depression would continue over the next several months, adding new battles like contemplating suicide, and watching helplessly as her dad was hospitalized with COVID-19.

She says her loved ones, therapy, medication and self-care all helped her take a turn in a brighter direction.

"All of those things helped me. Not overnight, but then you blink and you’re like 'Oh, I got through it, and I’m stronger, and I know that deep part of me that I didn’t know existed, and I know that I can get up from there."

Like in Hensley’s case, McLillard says depression can take a toll on anybody but stresses that it doesn’t have to be a forever feeling.

"It doesn’t have to be something that they experience throughout their whole entire life. It can be something that they have symptoms of depression for a period of time," McLillard said.

And for anyone struggling right now, Hensley urges you to reach out to those who love you.

"I think everything happens for a reason, and people are in your lives for a reason, you don’t even know why until you go through something like this," Hensley said. "I have my roommate for sure to thank, my friends, my boyfriend. You can't survive without your people sometimes, but you have to find that warrior within you to do that as well."