Slow Down and Celebrate Life

A message from the frontlines of a global pandemic.

Posted Mar 12, 2021 |

Shreya Mandal
Source: Shreya Mandal

March 13, 2021, marks the one-year anniversary when New York City public schools closed down due to COVID-19. I remember how most people I know thought this was going to last for only two weeks.

I write this as a love letter to the world, quite stunned, as an essential worker. I also dedicate this to 500,000 Americans who did not survive, including my cherished colleague, Dr. Raymond Tam, a psychiatrist and neurologist. Standing here and bearing witness to thousands of people who have come my way during the last 365 days, has been undoubtedly a life-altering experience. I remain humbled to tell the tale of so many who have journeyed with me since March 2020.

As therapists, we have collectively seen the grief of those who lost loved ones to COVID-19. We have been engaged in deep bereavement work with individuals and families who have experienced ambiguous loss from these deaths. On the other hand, I have met countless people whose entire families survived COVID-19 during these months.

Millions of people turned to mental health services in unprecedented numbers. In some zip codes across the United States, people accessed treatment like never before. This was the first time I have ever seen such a high rate of first-generation BIPOC individuals seeking services. 

Many have developed extreme anxiety disorders during this global pandemic. Claustrophobia and germaphobia have made their way to the forefront of daily living. The impact of family separations,  physical displacement, panic attacks, social isolation, distancing, and new waves of social anxiety has become evident in almost everyone that makes their way to my virtual telemedicine waiting room. What about the superhero parents who work remotely and make sure that their children keep up with online learning? I also celebrate the millions of school-aged and university students who have had to adapt to the times and continue with their growth and development, despite a number of unprecedented challenges. These aspects alone were often reason for people to seek therapy. For many, the pandemic was an opportune moment for people to get the support they needed.

Let us not forget millions of people, whose historical traumas of the past, only lay the foundation for the future trauma of uncertainty. Here we are, all suspended in mid-air, not always knowing what is going to happen from one moment to the next during pandemic times. Yet, I feel the call to celebrate nonetheless. Even though the pandemic is not over, the posttraumatic growth is strikingly evident.

We are still here.

If you are reading this, I celebrate that you and I have survived everything that has propelled us to this particular moment. It must be cataloged as a positive resource in your mind and heart—the knowing that you are a survivor; your consummate resilience; your ability to transcend adversity; and that so far, you managed to survive a global pandemic. When I have told my patients that I want them to celebrate this weekend, they said, "Wow, I never thought about it that way." By no means do I mean to sound dramatic. I am merely here, carrying out a role, reporting the obvious, and reminding my patients of an obvious fact: We are survivors.

I hope you remember this during the challenging days to come.