Mental Health in the Time of Covid-19: Guest Post by Nora Shalaway Carpenter
In my book The Edge of Anything, the mental health of one of the main characters worsens as she becomes more and more stressed throughout the story. Although Len is a fictional character, the correlation between stress, anxiety, and other mental health conditions is absolutely real. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this book’s release would coincide with a global pandemic. But here we are. With COVID-19 on the top of everyone’s minds and literally shutting down businesses, collective anxiety is skyrocketing. Even people who normally don’t suffer from anxious thoughts are having them. “Wash your hands” has become a sort of rallying cry, with many people even inserting the phrase into their social profile names.
Len suffers from undiagnosed severe OCD, and I relate all too well to her experiences. As someone who had to undergo cognitive behavioral therapy and work really, really hard to stop washing my hands an unhealthy amount, this constant barrage of “wash your hands” can be challenging. It doesn’t send me into a panic attack now, but it would have, if the COVID-19 outbreak had happened during the severest manifestation of my OCD. And I know that there are many people out there struggling with this very issue as I write these words.
If you’re one of them, I see you. And it makes sense if you’re triggered or stressed by the constant barrage of cleanliness protocols. Public safety is essential, of course. But we can understand why these messages must exist without subjecting ourselves to them at every moment. It’s okay to take a step back, to get your news from one trusted source and limit it to a set amount of time every day so that you don’t get overwhelmed. During this time, it is more important than ever that we take care of one another. It is just as important that we take care of ourselves.
If you’re suffering from severe anxiety, OCD, or a related mental health condition, the International OCD Foundation has put together a list of excellent resources for managing anxiety during the pandemic, and the wonderful podcast The OCD Stories has an episode specifically about OCD and COVID-19. You can also find tips from The Mighty in their article “What to Do If the Coronavirus Health Guidelines are Triggering Your Anxiety or OCD.” Even Rolling Stone ran an article about the subject, written by a writer with diagnosed OCD. They are all linked below. Give them a read. They are not only helpful, but are great reminders that you (we) are not alone.
Living in the time of COVID-19 means living in a time of many unknowns. As I know all too well, uncertainty is the anxious person’s arch nemesis. To the best of your ability, try to be kind to yourself. Be kind to others, too. You never know what invisible challenge someone is going through at any given moment. And if you have a spare moment, let yourself get swept away in a good book. Sometimes there is nothing better for the soul.
The Edge of Anything tells the dual narrative of Len, an outcast teen photographer who believes she’s slowly losing her mind, and Sage, a popular volleyball star with a devastating secret, and the unexpected friendship that saves them both.
A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, Nora Shalaway Carpenter is the author of The Edge of Anything, contributing editor of Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America(Candlewick, Oct 13, 2020), and author of the picture book Yoga Frog (Running Press). Originally from rural West Virginia, she currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband, three young children, and the world’s most patient dog and cat. Learn more at noracarpenterwrites.com, @noracarpenterwrites on Instagram, and @norawritesbooks on Twitter.