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Guest Column: What it’s like being mentally ill during the pandemic, and how I learned to make it work for me

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Editors note: This guest column references disabilities; social net programmes, and more. The views expressed in this article have been verified for accuracy in reference to these programs and how they work. The views of the author themselves do not directly reflect those of The Daily News, although, we do sympathize with the disabled community as a whole.

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When the pandemic struck I was in the midst of finding out that I as what should’ve been a grown and fairly young man had debilitating mental illnesses that otherwise would soon prevent me from ever having a 9-5 job again. Some of those mental illnesses were brought on by a number of sexual assaults, particularly, one that almost left me for dead and with an unrelenting fear of men. A fear of men that became so strong I would go on to develop equally unrelenting anxiety to the point I have undeniable fears about the most common things because my mind has tricked me otherwise.

When the pandemic struck I was just finding out the extent of these things coupled with already present problems that were lingering from my childhood that went unaddressed. My adulthood had began somewhere north of self-discovery and just south of admitting to myself that because of my childhood I was likely in need of desperate help from a therapist.

It has been almost like on the outside I am physically fine. But on the inside my invisible disabilities have often made me the brunt of jokes; the brunt of discrimination, and often made to feel like my problems don’t exist because nobody can see them on command. The pandemic made me realize that with medication I could get them under control, although, even with medication some of them are so bad they linger at the oddest of times while others don’t.

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This is what left me unable to have a job like others. The inability to be around others; particularly men, often prevented me from having the common jobs you’d find in a place like New York City. A feat that would lead to the declaration that I am a non-able bodied adult by no fault of my own. I’m not sure how it happened but somewhere along the line of my life i developed agoraphobia apart from schizophrenia and it hurts me every day. It hurts me everyday to be what some say is a damaged person beyond the standards society has laid out for people.

But it led to the discovery that I could mostly make ends meet and then some by gig-working. Gig-working for the most part has allowed me to express myself; my independence, and be able to remain clear of otherwise potentially dangerous situations that would trigger my mental illnesses. I’ve acted on T.V shows; been in modeling gigs, did a stint as a cab driver (this one was easy for me because I could instead of people deliver items or food) and actually liked it.

But the gig economy comes with its downside. Although gig workers pay taxes and the like we did not originally qualify for emergency assistance during the pandemic. It took the onset of the CARES ACT to make that happen although some feel we still aren’t entitled to the help. I remember when I first applied for pandemic assistance as a gig worker (which became legal thank goodness) getting through the phone assistance line wasn’t easy. The questions as to why I wasn’t In what the person considered “real work” were troubling as they were hurtful.

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I can’t help that I come from a damaged childhood and had a hard time going through my late teens and early college years. The attack that left me with so many mental health problems (even though they told me they’d go away when they didn’t) was a life-changing one. It left me with neurological issues because I had been harmed with a device by someone I thought had loved me. Instead I was beaten and attacked because I had tried to leave. The aftermath of the attack has been a years-long struggle because to people like that woman on the phone my disabilities don’t exist because they can’t be seen.

What I want people to learn about mental illness and disabilities (especially now during a pandemic) is that the pandemic apart from being a pandemic has intensified those of us with mental health struggles. People like me, who had them prior to the pandemic, only found ourselves worse off during the pandemic because of often isolation and being lonely. I hope that from here on out people understand that mental illness doesn’t make someone anything less than the next, in fact, it madem e realize how much more of a human I am because I am not perfect. I am in no way perfect and I finally realize that.

It took me a very long time to realize that even during the period of discovery. I had blamed myself for so long because people including my own parents had done me wrong for most of my life. Some of them had even helped bring on the bout of mental health struggles as a child. I was never permitted therapy; I was never allowed to speak about how I felt, I was always told I was in the wrong if I wasn’t manly and bold rather than empathetic and asking for help.

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At one point, my social worker wanted me to apply for Social Security although SWocial Security makes it seem like one must be worse off than they started to even use the program to begin with. A program that people pay into rather than something that the government randomly hands out on any given day. Being told that there would be a limit on how many things I could own; the general limitations, the never-ending wheel of paperwork, the fact that if I were to marry I would lose my benefits because I have a spouse. A spouse that essentially if I were married would have nothing to do with my benefits.

It just doesn’t and didn’t seem fair so I declined. Despite my mental health struggles, sometimes which make it very hard to get out of bed every day, I decided to find out how to make it work with the gig economy at home. My 2021 goal is perhaps to maybe toy with the idea of opening my own small business at home because although it wouldn’t be much I would not have to live under near poverty-inducing restrictions and the constat threat of being stripped of my benefits.


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