“My Mama always said, Life is like a box of chocolates, You never know what you’re gonna get”
~Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump in the movie ‘Forrest Gump’~
As I struggled to find a subject to talk about in this blog post, I remarked to myself how different it was now compared to a week or so ago, if not longer. Ideas and inspirations had come to me as easily as breathing, and the blog posts were consistently steady as I kept writing post after post.
For the first time since I started writing this blog, I was flummoxed. Utterly, and completely flummoxed. Well, maybe not so true as I am writing now as we speak, but I can say for certainty that the struggle was real.
I remarked again at myself at how ‘Up-and-down’ it felt as I was able to write to my heart’s content back then, compared to now. Perhaps it is merely a blip on the radar; perhaps it’s just yet another obstacle to overcome. Or better yet, it’s just an off day.
But I couldn’t help but compare all of this to the year 2020.
You must be wondering, “How can you compare an off day to the year we are having in 2020? Seriously, Joseph?? You just had to go there!”
Simply put, I like to imagine that we are having an off year.
2020 has been anything but ordinary. For a great many people, it’s been the year from hell. For those who suffer from the more severe mental health issues, it’s been a hardship that many people may not ever recover from. For those who live, more or less, “normal” lives, it’s been a struggle.
As I write this, my mind drifts back to everything that has happened this past year. And I just can’t help but think that overall, the experience so many of us has felt this year has been mostly negative.
Because I have centered my blog around Mental Health Awareness, it’s safe to say that 2020 has made a huge impact on many of us, mental health wise. For those who almost never experience any mental health side effects such as depression or anxiety, they now know what it feels like to have anxiety and depression. For those who experience “ordinary, day-to-day” anxiety and/or depression, they have probably sought help to manage their increasing anxiety and/or depression. And last but not least, for those who already suffer significant amounts of some form of mental health, it’s been a hellish year as their mental health has suffered dramatically.
I speak in general terms, as not everyone has been affected negatively by the events of 2020. But as a whole, society has changed in ways that we could never have foreseen in a million years. The “normal” we were so used to, no longer exists. We have had to adapt to the “new normal” way of living. And it hasn’t been easy.
The big news of 2020 is obviously the Covid-19. It struck the United States and spread like wildfire. Last year, 2019 was just a memory as Covid forced us to make many changes while we try to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Social distancing and face masks became the new normal, and a whole new set of mental health issues just popped up overnight.
For those who can’t hear, like me, face masks became a severe handicap. Our main “super power”, reading people’s lips, have just been taken away from us. No longer can we communicate effectively as people began to talk to us with masks on, and we are left blind, deaf and mute, trying to navigate the waters of communication.
Social distancing also has become the norm, and with that comes a whole slew of other problems. We humans are meant to socialize, and that’s been taken away from us. We CAN and often DO socialize but there are more restrictions, which in turn has increased feelings of loneliness; of depression; of social anxiety and anxiety as a whole.
Not only do people with anxiety and depression suffer from the current climate, so too do others with various mental issues suffer. I have seen many people not leave their houses for months on end; I have seen people not go back to work because they are afraid of Covid (and rightfully so). I have seen small businesses close up because of the pandemic and homelessness has skyrocketed because of our “booming economy”. So many people affected, so much pain and hurt, and not just because they got sick from Covid. The pandemic has played havoc with people’s lives.
The current political climate leaves much to be desired also. I may or may not be slightly opinionated because for the first time in a long time, I have entered the Wide World of Politics, and it’s left a bad taste in my mouth. But one thing that saddens me the most about this year’s political climate (and maybe this is normal every four years?) is seeing friends and family being torn up over who favors who and what political party they aligned themselves up with.
It’s really true when they say hardship brings out the best and the worst of us. I’ve seen that with my own eyes as the events of 2020 unfolded this past year.
Black Lives Matter. Any needless death is a needless death, regardless of the cause. A man need not stop breathing because of a knee on his neck. A woman need not be shot dead while she lays in bed, sleeping. It’s all needless.
But so too were the looting and the violent riots that happened afterwards. All needless. Peaceful protests? Are needed. But riots? Robbing and looting of the stores of peaceful owners who had nothing to with how you live your lives? Needless, to say the least.
I fully support and endorse Black Lives Matter. But I also fully support and endorse Native American Lives Matter. Deaf Lives Matter. Women’s Lives Matter. All life is sacred, regardless of skin color, race, religion or disability. Violence and killing solves nothing but incites more hate.
What a year, huh?
Let’s look at it in a different way. Ten, twenty years from now, 2020 will just be a memory. You’ll look back and be like, “Wow, this really did happen!” And then you’ll marvel at the fact that you survived it and maybe, just maybe, you even got stronger because of it.
I, myself, have undertaken my own personal journey of self-discovery, to regain what I have lost. Because I’m not wallowing in depression and self-doubt, I have had a very different outlook on life. Because I’m not wallowing in self-pity and panic attacks, I’ve given myself a chance to take the events of 2020 and use it as a learning experience. Of course, I have not encountered much difficulty as many of you have, but I can still feel your pain. Your hurt. I can empathize and understand, and even in some ways, relate.
But it still doesn’t take away the fact that I still need to keep on living, regardless of what is happening all around me. And I have. I have started this blog. I have started writing a book. I have decreased the amount of negative influences around me, and hopefully upped my dating game. I have embraced the Hard-of-hearing part of myself, and started to wear my hearing aids again for the first time in a long time. I have taken great strides to improve myself, and I don’t plan on regressing.
A friend said it best one time.
You only live once.
Make the best of it.
It’s been a rough year, folks, but try, please, try to stay positive, and do what is best for YOU.