Out of Retrograde: A Mental Health Story (Part 2)

It’s no secret that essentially everyone experienced some sort of mental health struggle over the last year. We all lived through a global trauma, and you’d be lying if you said you were okay 100% of the time. The world was turned upside down, things that used to be normal weren’t normal anymore, and many of the activities we relied on to make us happy were taken away from us.

Working in live events for a company whose manufacturers were in China, we knew something was going on well before it hit the US. Our equipment we needed for festivals weren’t getting sent to us, there were delays on when we’d get stuff, things were inconsistent before we were finally told there was a situation going on with COVID and to be ready when it hit us. About mid- to late-February we started having show cancellations. We didn’t think anything of it at the time, as that tends to happen as life happens, but this was different. One by one shows were cancelling and not rescheduling, our vendors were exasperated as they called us saying they were hearing of various festivals getting ready to pull the plug as COVID cases slowly started rising. Again, we didn’t think anything of it until South by Southwest cancelled in March, then EDC, then Coachella. It all happened really fast, and in just a few days our entire industry was wiped away and our jobs didn’t exist anymore.

Looking back on the week the music industry shut down in March 2020 is emotional, I won’t lie. In a matter of hours my company was gone, and we didn’t know if it was temporary or permanent. I was on the phone with friends getting ready to start their tours, only to get turned around because it was cancelled. People I knew from other jobs were posting on social media that they had gotten laid off too. My dad, who fortunately kept his job during the pandemic, would call me every day saying they were throwing things out from employees they had let go because they weren’t needed anymore. Festival after festival was getting cancelled and as COVID cases were rising, the reality that the industry was crumbling was starting to set in.

To say I was a mess was an understatement. Everything I had known was taken away and no one knew when we’d get it back. Shows were my happy place, an escape from life’s daily struggles, and they were gone both as a fan and as an employee. Instead of talking about which shows we were all going to, my friends and I were now discussing which cancelled shows we still needed refunds from. 2020 was supposed to be the busiest year for us and we joked about it all the time, and now we had nothing.

When COVID hit my mental health was actually pretty good at the time. I had worked so hard on myself, and I felt like I had made significant progress in navigating the highs and lows and all of that had been thrown out the window as the world shut down. My anxiety was through the roof again, I was crying essentially every day, the suicidal ideation had started creeping back into my brain, and I found myself engaging in the harmful behaviors I worked so hard on to stop. I had hit rock bottom again so fast I didn’t know if I would make it out this time.

When things like this would happen in the past, my first go-to would be to reach out to someone in my circle, however this time it felt different. I was a little more hesitant in reaching out. We were all experiencing this unknown entity together and the likelihood of me being a burden to someone while trying to talk felt really high. On top of that, admitting you had fallen back to square one isn’t something that’s easy to confess. I didn’t want to add to anyone’s stress, and I didn’t want anyone to think it was their responsibility to check-in as we were settling in to this new “normal.” Others had lost their jobs too, some still had to work and were terrified they were going to catch COVID, we all had things we were dealing with, and I didn’t want to put myself on top of that. So, I didn’t.

As the weeks turned into months and the end still wasn’t in sight, my mental health was getting increasingly worse. It was getting harder and harder to get through each day and the thought of not making it out the other side had crossed my mind more times than I care to admit. I knew I needed help but again, didn’t want to burden anyone with what I was going through. I talked about it a little bit with my best friend, but it wasn’t until someone had actually seen evidence of my hurting myself that I realized I couldn’t keep it all in anymore. I ended up reaching out to a couple friends that day, who all said they were there for me and that they always would be.

Opening up to someone regardless of worldwide events can always be daunting, but it always feels like a weight lifted off your shoulders when you do. A friend I had reached out to urged me to start therapy, which I did. Another friend and I had gotten into the routine of FaceTiming or talking on the phone every few weeks to catch up, and my circle of friends would zoom or ask every so often in our group chat how everyone was doing and we’d talk about it. Going through life is easier when you have a good support system, and when living through a collective trauma together for over a year, it’s more important than ever to check-in and be there whenever someone is feeling low.

Now, a year later, I can honestly say I’m doing so much better. The lows aren’t as frequent, I’ve found solace in other things that bring me joy as we slowly open the world back up, therapy has been great, and it’s easier being candid about my mental health when things aren’t great.

This past year has probably been one of the hardest years for a lot of people. There were a number of people who succumbed not only to COVID, but their mental health struggles as well. If you had the same thoughts are still here with us, I’m happy you’re here. If you know anyone who lost their battle, I’m so sorry for your loss. We talk a lot about destigmatizing mental health, but the reality is it’s still hard for those going through it to tell someone they’re not okay. IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY. Be gentle with yourself, especially with the year we’ve all had, and if you need help that’s completely okay. We’re all trying to navigate through life together, be kind to one another, and lean on people to help you through if you need it.