Many still struggle with mental & emotional recovery 2 years after COVID-19 pandemic

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 04, 2022

(WXYZ) — Masks are now optional at many locations in metro Detroit, and many Michiganders are going out to socialize and visit stores and businesses.

That's the part of the COVID-19 recovery that we can see. What we can't see are the ways so many of us are still struggling with the ongoing mental and emotional recovery from the pandemic.

Health leaders say we shouldn't expect the physical and emotional recovery to line up, and it's important to respect the healing process.

For some people, the pandemic has been devastating, with worsening isolation and loneliness. It's creating anxiety for some, and deepening depression for others.

The pandemic has been hard on us all. But for some it’s been devastating. Worsening isolation and loneliness, creating anxiety for others deepening depression.

It was like a jungle of wires in my head. It was making me sad, emotional, irritated, frustrated," Charese Wilson said.

Wilson said the pandemic hit her hard emotionally and financially. She said getting back on her feet has been a challenge, and she expects that anxiety and stress to last long after the masks come off.

Dr. Michelle Riba, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, said in addition to a rise in anxiety and depression during the pandemic, we saw an increase in substance abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse. Those will take even longer to heal.

"There have been so many complex and complicated issues going on for all of us, actually," Riba said.

She added that younger people, women and people of color have been hit hard. The physical and emotional trauma and economic insecurity from the pandemic make it harder to bounce back. In fact, the trauma could reemerge from lesser more common triggers like stress at work or trouble making ends meet. But the symptoms remain largely internal

"Trouble sleeping and they would have fitful dreams and nightmares that would affect their mood and concentration," Riba said.

Or, a change in sleeping and eating habits, and isolation from friends. When these symptoms return, we may not realize we are suffering the lingering emotional impacts of the pandemic.

"It's really important to try to ask the question, what's going on?" she said.

Also, she said to watch for signs of mental and emotional distress as we move forward, in both ourselves and those around us.

Remember, it's OK not to be OK. Ask for help from your primary care doctor or pediatrician for your children.

Wilson says she’s back in therapy and it’s working. The key is to find a partner on the journey to mental health recovery.

Riba says to remember to be compassionate to yourself and others. Don’t expect any emotional and mental health challenges to just vanish. It takes work and time.

Everyone’s recovery is individual, as well. There is no set timeline for recovery

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.