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how my mental illness manifests as a teen in 2022, being a teen in the pandemic

How My Mental Illness Manifests as a Teen in 2022

by Bella

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Hi, my name is Bella and I’m new here at The TRUTH about Motherhood. Well, not really new, since you’ve all watched me grow up on this blog but this is the first post that I’m writing for the blog. It’s a bit personal but, after all, I am my mother’s daughter. Really, would you expect anything less than a complete overshare? Today, I’m sharing how my mental illness manifests as a teen in 2022. Be gentle, it’s my first time.

As a teen girl struggling in the world pre and post-COVID, well we have not really made it to post-COVID yet, things have been tough. The pandemic has affected me and my mental health. I’ve suffered from anxiety since I was about 10-years-old and it got progressively worse throughout middle school and high school. My freshman year of high school started in August of 2019, coincidentally, I suffered one of my worst panic attacks ever on the first day of freshman orientation.

As you can see where this tragic timeline is going as there was a series of very unfortunate events approaching. By March of 2020, my quinceanera was approaching and so was the Billie Eilish concert, which was a Christmas present for my 15th birthday, and it was all about to blow up in my face. My quince was canceled 2 days before the event ( after years of planning) and so was the concert all because of this thing called COVID-19. I really hate coronavirus.

This is how my mental illness manifests as a teen in 2022

It all started Friday, March 13th, which should have been a major red flag. Nothing good ever happens on Friday the 13th. My parents pulled me out of school early and told me to bring home all of my stuff. Second red flag. I was like alright I’m about to get a long Spring Break, then all hell broke loose. By Saturday, March 14th, the whole world was on lockdown. Stay inside, don’t leave the house type of shit, and me and my sister were dumb and like “Yay no school for a couple of weeks!” Then, 2 weeks turned into a couple of months and finishing the school year via eLearning because nobody, especially the schools, knew what the hell to do. Long story short, kids don’t get excited about unexpected “vacations” from school because it’s not going to be as awesome as you thought it was.

Since that tragic freshman year, I’ve spent all of my sophomore year navigating what my school referred to as “mode 3”, which basically meant I was home every day, not going into school, doing a combo of TEAMS meetings and assignments online, essentially teaching myself subjects like genetics and geometry. That was fun. No, it wasn’t. If you thought I had depression and anxiety pre-covid, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

I won’t lie, some of my teachers weren’t very understanding of the whole online thing and they couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t just come into school and wear a mask like everyone else. Well, the thing is my dad has underlying conditions and my mom is a diabetic. So for me, my education was an unnecessary risk to the people I love. If I had to choose between my mom and dad not dying and not struggling with school, I’d always choose my mom and dad. Not going to lie, last year was really effin hard. But, soon enough the school year was over and I was finally free of online school.

However, throughout this whole time obviously, my family believed in wearing masks, getting vaccinated and staying home as much as possible. We only went out when absolutely necessary. My parents mobile ordered our groceries and picked them up and everything else we needed, we had shipped to the house. We didn’t travel or get to do any of the normal things people do for 17 months. Honestly, things are still not back to normal and I hate it.

As a teen during this time, missing my friends and family, there was also a lot of anxiety about going back into the real world because I couldn’t help thinking that I could get this virus and potentially kill those closest to me. Basically, my whole high school experience has been stolen from me. No proms, formals, homecoming, football games and no hanging with friends, sleepovers or boyfriends. You can’t do normal things when you can’t even be around people in person. It was like life was called on account of covid.

I did what every normal person in the 21st century does, with access to the internet, I fully embraced my shopaholic tendencies, which might be my favorite and most financially damaging coping mechanism. This was how my mental illness manifests as a teen in 2022. I know it’s serious but there is something about filling an online cart that makes me feel better like things are “normal” and that’s all I want to feel.

The problem is that when you have no other outlet for those feelings of anxiety and depression because you can just feel the vibes are off in the house, and you’ve run out of movies and shows to binge on, the only logical option left to me is to shop online. My top 3 go-to places were Princess Polly, GymShark, and Arie, since then they have somewhat stayed the same, but instead of GymShark I’m drawn to Free People (specifically the movement collection) and Zara is another kryptonite for me.

Seriously, every time I have money, I want to buy new clothes. I’ve always loved fashion and shopping but the pandemic really made me understand what the term “retail therapy” means. Filling online shopping carts and planning travel are what seem to calm my anxiety.

I do love procrastinating doing my homework and spending time with my dogs just as much as the average teen, but there is something that is so satisfying about filling a cart of things you like, and hoping you can buy some of it because, well you aren’t traveling, or eating out, or seeing people why not get dressed up pretty and feel like you’re going somewhere, even though you know the only people going to see you in your cute outfits are your parents, your little sister, the dogs and some friends on TikTok. The only way to feel anything was to shop and feel like something was going to make me happy even if it was just a few days while shopping and opening that box when it got to my house. That is if it wasn’t delayed 10,000 times due to the shipping problems COVID caused.

Since August 2021 and returning to in-person school, where masks are not required, for my junior year of high school, where all we do is talk about SATs and college, my anxiety has kicked into an even higher gear. I can feel those shopping carts calling my name. It has been brought to my attention by my parents that if I want to support this habit, I’ll need to get a job this summer to pay for those carts. I’m not sure I’m quite there yet because a job means being in public and being in public means exposure to cooties and there are not enough carts in the world to be worth that anxiety trigger. Just an FYI, since the start of this nightmare that I’ve had to call life for the last 2 years, I did start therapy, and my therapist is basically my best friend besides my mom. She’s probably the reason I just keep soothingly filling carts and not hitting the buy now button.

In a couple of months, I’m finally supposed to be having my quinceanera, this time with my baby sister who is now turning 15. I keep waiting for apocalypse part II to happen any day now because that’s just my luck. I’ve got to say, if it happens again, there are not enough shopping carts on the internet or Prozac to make me feel better about it. Here’s wishing us all a very boring and uneventful summer filled with nothing but normal things like beach days and family vacations and a long-awaited quinceanera celebration that’s 2 years past due.

How have you been taking care of your mental health and dealing with the pandemic?

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