Larry Jin Lee: Stressed Out

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Having trouble with anxiety and depression during the pandemic? You’re not alone. Larry Lee is struggling to cope, too, and he’s a psychotherapist.

In college, I would tell myself that I couldn’t get sick during finals and I wouldn’t, but invariably I’d get sick right after finals were over. In many ways, I feel like I’ve been in a protracted finals survival mode for the past eight months. Telling myself to not let my guard down from this virus.

However, the human body and psyche wasn’t meant to be in such a sustained state of acute stress. I learned a new name for this unrelenting stress, allostatic load. It helped for me to know what to call this overall sense of dread I was experiencing.

My anxiety peaked when the virus came into my home as my daughter contracted the virus from her job. I wondered how long I could continue to cope through this. I have had days of anxiety, depression, at times, just plain numbness and disconnection. I find that I am compartmentalizing all of this emotional distress suppressing it just to get through each day. I feel that I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to unpack all that I’m feeling right now. It’s been a struggle living with this baseline of “not safe” and it has certainly taken its toll on my emotional health. Little did I know until now, just how precious feeling safe was.

I also feel guilty because I enjoy many privileges, such as financial stability, a home, food and good access to healthcare. As a seasoned psychotherapist, I felt I should be coping better, but none of this has shielded me from the negative impact of the pandemic. It’s painful to imagine so many people who have endured catastrophic losses of friends and family and to not be able to grieve in customary ways during this pandemic. We’ve all lost opportunities to come together for significant milestones, births, weddings, graduations and funerals.

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It remains uncertain when the vaccines will be available, but it’s never too soon to reach out for help, to identify and name your feelings, to be reminded you are not alone. I’m reminding myself that it’s better to address my struggles in the moment rather than having it hit me later. Beware of the final exam syndrome.

With a Perspective, I’m Larry Jin Lee.

Larry Jin Lee lives in San Francisco.