The Pandemic is Improving. Why Are You Still So Miserable?

It’s okay if your mental health is not bouncing back. Here’s why.

Melinda Wenner Moyer
Elemental
Published in
7 min readApr 7, 2021

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Photo: valentinrussanov/Getty Images

At first, Lindsay Pearson felt hopeful. She was getting the Covid-19 vaccine, and case rates around the country were going down. The pandemic was, by many accounts, finally getting under control. Like many of us, Pearson, 23, who lives in Bakersfield, California, has had a miserable year — she has struggled with mental health problems her entire life, but being unable to work as an actress, her main creative and social outlet, made things so much worse. After Pearson got her first jab, she did feel some relief — until, suddenly, she didn’t. Her depression began to bear down on her harder than it had before. “It’s been a downward spiral,” she says. “I can’t help but feel a pervading sense of hopelessness all the time.”

Much of the rhetoric surrounding the pandemic right now is positive — as it should be. More than 62 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against the deadly virus we were all susceptible to one year ago. Although cases are once again rising, one-fifth as many people are dying from Covid-19 as they were in late January, one-third as many are hospitalized, and unemployment claims have fallen to a new pandemic low. Yet even so, many Americans aren’t feeling the relief they expected. In fact, according to the CDC, more Americans were experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression last month than they were in early September, when the pandemic outlook was far grislier. Why is this, what does it mean, and when will our collective pain finally ease up?

First, some reassurance: Mental health professionals say that it’s not at all surprising that people are still struggling. “If you’re at home and going, ‘I don’t feel emotionally fixed with a vaccine,’ or ‘I’m back to work and I don’t feel perfect’ — you shouldn’t. Healing takes time,” says Jessi Gold, MD, a psychiatrist at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. “There’s a lot of healing that we haven’t done. We haven’t really grieved. We haven’t really processed it. I don’t think we’ve really felt all the feelings that need to be felt for the loss of everything.”

It’s not just that we haven’t had time to process everything that has happened — we also haven’t…

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Melinda Wenner Moyer
Elemental

Science and parenting journalist. Author of HOW TO RAISE KIDS WHO AREN’T ASSHOLES. Sign up for my free parenting newsletter: melindawmoyer.substack.com.