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  • Sincerely, Southern

Keeping mental health in check during a pandemic

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

By Davon Johnson

Photo courtesy of Micayla Shirley

It is a Wednesday afternoon in the middle of November in Statesboro, Georgia. Some friends are hanging out at a restaurant, just enjoying each other’s company. The coronavirus is still lurking around, and there is no telling when it will go away or when a vaccine will be out. To keep safe, the group of friends kept their social distance. All the safety procedures have been officially met by the group.

The next day one of the girls got a call from her friend saying her roommate had tested positive for COVID, and she was in contact with her and might want to get tested.

That is how life during a global pandemic has been for the senior Biology major, Micayla Shirley.

Work was canceled soon after the news broke, and professors were not going to see her that week.

“The whole thing was scary because even when we booked the appointment for the COVID-19 test, it kept getting pushed back because so many people were coming in to get tested too,” Shirley said. “It just made everything worse, and I was crying.”

The test came back negative, but the situation did not help her mentally.

Since last March 2020, it has been very mentally challenging for people to get through their day, but speaking to Shirley, adding a new problem like COVID-19 has made her anxiety and mental health worse. Thoughts of loved ones passing, everything being closed, and less human interaction caused Shirley, as well as many others, a lot of depression.

“I felt trapped in a box for a long time, and it was suffocating being at home all the time and not doing anything,” Shirley said. “The fear was, I or someone in my family could get this virus."

Rose Matthews, Micayla’s mother, always kept her mask on and told her children to do the same. The store never had the Lysol that she needed, so she bought the off-brands and told family and friends to pick some Lysol up for her, if they were lucky to see any. She did not even let her car windows down because who knows if the virus could fly into the car if they were.

She took this virus seriously.

In February, she ended up getting the virus.

“It is something I was trying to avoid every second of every day, but it still somehow got me,” Matthews said. “Luckily, I did not feel too sick, and I mainly wanted everyone around me to stay away from me and keep safe, so I isolated myself in my room.”

Shirley said she was visibly frustrated when her mother ended up with the virus, and it scares her to think about it every day.

“It is upsetting because someone brought corona into her workplace, and she ended up catching it even though she is very careful,” Shirley said. “Someone like her who leaves everything at the door can still get the virus, so what does that mean for all of us?”

Unlike most students her age, Shirley has a habit of always putting her mask on no matter where she goes. She stated that it is “very serious” to have on a mask outside of the home. The only time she takes her mask off when it is hot outside, then it comes off for a few seconds, but then it goes right back on.

The spring semester has now brought up a new challenge for Micayla that she did not have to deal with in her previous term. There was not much of a need last semester for students to be on campus, but this semester, many students are having to go to class physically.

“I find it annoying because now our schedules are pushed back later, and I hear that now there are even Saturday classes, and now you are putting yourself more at risk, so I do not know why they decided to put us back mostly in person this semester,” Shirley said. “It should be just half and half classes and not everyone together.”

With spring break approaching the semester being halfway over, Micalya has learned to adapt to her classes and campus life again. By following her routines of always wearing her mask and staying away from people as much as she can.

“This last year has been a challenge, but I am going to listen to the CDC and follow the rules and do my part to keep everyone safe,” Shirley said.

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