The symptoms hit hard and fast. I was fine when I went to bed, but I woke up feeling exhausted, a little queasy and totally paralyzed. I could move, I just didn’t want to.
“Are you depressed?” my retired-nurse Mom asked when I finally answered her daily check-in call around noon and admitted I was still in bed, but didn't have a fever, cough, sore throat, or anything else for her to worry about. “I don’t think so,” I said.
Sure, we’re on lockdown during a pandemic. I’m concerned for my family, especially my aging parents. I’m worried about work – or, as a freelancer, lack thereof. My neighbors just had a giant screaming match outside my window, my gray roots are showing, my eyebrows look like two squirrels fighting each other, and my teens’ new TikTok-binge-watching habit might drive me straight to crazy-town.
Sound familiar? Just about everyone I know took a ride on the struggle bus this week.
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“After three days of working on assignments, cleaning, cooking and keeping my spirits up, for the most part, I'm still in bed at nearly 11 am, not *quite* able to face the day,” my friend Karen Epper Hoffman wrote on her Facebook page. (She also gave me permission to put it in this story.) She called it the “morning malaise,” and asked her friends how we were feeling. Nearly 50 of us responded, “the exact same way.”
The new not-so-normal
As this whole shelter-in-place order stretches into its third and four weeks for many of us, it seems we’ve reached a new level of anxiety, isolation, fear, stress, cabin-fever, and frustration of having no clue when it might end.
But whatever. I’m fine. Right?
“You probably are just fine,” Dr. Neil Leibowitz, Talkspace's Chief Medical Officer, told me over the phone, “But with everything going on right now, it’s like anxiety on steroids.” He went on to reassure me that it’s pretty common to feel out of sorts. “When you get the rug yanked out overnight, there’s no routine, no ‘normal’ anymore, it’s not comfortable. But we will all adjust.”
The online therapist will see you now
Calls and emails from people seeking mental health support over the past week were up 65% for Talkspace, one of several teletherapy resources for people seeking help via encrypted video conference, phone, or text message. Demand is so high, the company has doubled-down on new ways to get people support quickly including a free therapist-led Facebook support group, and new Instagram Stories COVID-19 channel. Both social media sites have Talkspace therapists answering questions daily in the hope that “as many people as possible take advantage of these resources, and know that we are here for them in this time of need at any time of the day," Dr. Leibowitz said.
There have been a number of recent emergency changes that allow both therapists and psychiatrists to provide care to patients online or from an app. For the first time ever, Medicare OKed teletherapy according to Ken Duckworth, the chief medical officer at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). In an interview with NBC, he explained that for many mental health conditions, “teletherapy has the same effectiveness as in-person therapy.”
When help is a click, tap, text or phone call away
I also connected with a licensed therapist through JustAnswer, where mental health inquiries are up 75% according to a company spokesperson.
“I think we can all acknowledge this is a very stressful time,” a therapist named Leah texted me within the app’s dashboard. “I think it's most important to give yourself some grace and some patience here. Remember how out of the ordinary this time in our lives is, and remember that you’re not alone.”
Many of JustAnswer’s therapists work on a sliding scale you agree to upfront, and you can connect via text chat or through a phone call. Others I took for test drive include reaching out via video conference to a psychologist at BetterHelp, and touching base with therapists at AmWell, Doctor on Demand, and Wellnite. The way most of these work is that you sign up, answer a few assessment-type questions online, choose a session frequency and payment plan, and then begin one-on-one counseling with a therapist within a few hours or a few days. Several other teletherapy sites include Larkr, Real, ReGain, AbleTo, and MDLive, and many are running specials right now due to increased COVID-19 stress and trauma-related demand including:
Talkspace:offering $100 off with code 1004U. They’re also providing free messaging therapy for nurses, doctors, and social workers. According to the site, healthcare workers can register via the app (Google Play or App Store) or website by providing their NPI and state of residence for verification. Once verified, they will gain access to Talkspace’s Unlimited Messaging Plus plan.
BetterHelp: 50% off the typical weekly membership price of $65, “which includes both unlimited messaging with their therapist and a weekly live session over phone or video,” according to Alon Matas, BetterHelp founder and president.
Wellnite: Offering four free 30-minute mental health coaching sessions via chat. To redeem the free Wellnite sessions, use the code "COMPASSION" through this link.
AbleTo: Includes a free mental health toolkit and additional resources for families at https://info.ableto.com/coronavirus.
Even the CDC is making sure people have mental health support right now and at least one subreddit – Covid19_support – is trending as a place for people to seek emotional support too.
Here are some of the top resources for crisis outreach in one place:National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) helpline: 800-950-6264 Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 Disaster Distress helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs: 66745. Crisis Text 24/7 support: Text HELLO to 741741 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA)
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your emotional health? Be sure to connect with us via social media and let us know.
Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferJolly.