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'Depression can't hit a moving target' | The mental health pattern impacting San Diegans during the pandemic

During stay-at-home orders, it’s harder to run away from your problems - problems some people didn't even realize they had.

SAN DIEGO —

Josh Hudson said he was an introverted kid who often studied human behavior. That’s one of the reasons he became a licensed marriage and family therapist.

“Your mess becomes your message, so a lot of relationship pain early on in my life kind of led to solving my own issues and then wanting to help others in the process,” said Hudson. “I felt the pain with not knowing why you do the things you do - kind of those subconscious patterns and healing those emotional wounds.”

Before the pandemic, you may have found Hudson meeting with clients in-person at an office in Golden Hill or over Zoom. Due to the pandemic, he’s now virtually meeting with all of his clients over Zoom. 

“Studies how that there’s not much of a difference, but I do prefer in person because, I don’t know - there’s just a different vibe or energy when you are talking with someone and they’re in the same physical space as you,” said Hudson. 

One of the things he’s seeing in clients during this pandemic is the “moving target theory.”

“Depression can’t hit a moving target - not my original quote,” explain Hudson. 

In other words, during stay-at-home orders, it’s harder to run away from your problems.

“When we’re forced to stay at home, we have a lot of idle minds, right? And a lot of our problems come to the surface during times like this,” said Hudson.

While the pandemic may not be the cause of one’s mental health struggles, it may make an existing problem harder to ignore. 

“A lot of isolation is producing amplification, right? So a lot of the problems like depression or anxiety - it gets amplified when we’re sitting alone,” said Hudson. 

That reality hits home for Erika Parisi. 

“This has been a battle and a half,” said Parisi.

She moved to University Heights back in March, just two days before stay-at-home orders kicked in. She’s far away from friends and family back east. 

“Everything closed. Not having any furniture or really anything for my new place - it made things very difficult to get settled. There have been many nights that I have cried myself to sleep wondering what’s next. [I] miss my family terribly, but we have made use of technology and we now video call more than we have ever before,” said Parisi.

It’s not the fresh start in San Diego that she was expecting, especially she said she went through both a car accident and house fire months before the pandemic. She attended virtual therapy sessions and is working from home. 

“The think the hardest for me is that with the restricted travel, my mom can’t fly out. She normally comes out and spends a few months here. So, being here alone during COVID has been hard,” said Parisi. 

Credit: Erika Parisi

Steven Arias of San Diego said he’s always been open about his mental health, but the pandemic has been a challenge. 

“The pandemic has felt a bit like a roller coaster ride. I think mainly because a good number of things happened for me. As we were going into lock down, I began a new job that was essential, so onboarding was a strange experience. I was also juggling helping my parents out who are both high-risk individuals. I also have generalized anxiety so because of all these changes on top of the changes - because of the pandemic - it just feels like my stress levels are definitely elevated and my mood has been fluctuating between stressed and just barely okay,” said Arias.

So, what about social media?

“You can see two sides to this coin. I see that it [social media] is making it [anxiety] worse,” said Hudson. “These apps are kind of creating like a pseudo need. There’s something different about texting someone and actually having that exchange in person.”

“The human need of connection can only truly be met in person. That’s just my opinion,” added Hudson.

“Social media is also a physically safe way to keep in contact with loved ones around the world, especially when optional travel isn’t advised,” said Parisi. 

Many people in general are turning to dating apps as a way to connect without physically exposing themselves to someone who may have COVID-19. 

“Dating apps - they kind of teach our minds that there are more options out there than there should be. It’s kind of like a maximizer mindset. Another person could be around the corner and the grass is always greener,. So, it kind of produces this false entitlement of what’s out there and actually even though we have more options, we’re committing less to relationships, which leads to more isolation, ” said Hudson. 

Hudson said he specializes in working with men between the ages of 25 to 35. Many of his clients struggle with relationship and confidence issues. 

“As men, don’t focus as much on connection as we do on purpose,” said Hudson. 

Hudson sees clients for a variety of reasons, but over the course of the pandemic, there are some commonalities. He said oftentimes men will chose getting ahead on work over social plans.

“There is a pattern, specifically around not feeling connected - not feeling apart of something bigger, like a community,” said Hudson. 

Hudson also a YouTube channel, "Pinnacle of Man", where he discusses the “No Fap” movement, which he describes as an effort to discourage people from watching porn. With many people home bored and lonely, the “No Fap” challenge is more of just that - a challenge.

“It’s been hard for a lot of guys because of quarantine,” said Hudson. “A lot of guys when they’re alone, they want to escape into a different world.” 

If you can’t run away from your anxiety and depression and you’re seeking that connection, Hudson has some tips to improve your mental health during this pandemic: 

1). Utilize different online resources and mental health groups.

2). Use this time to make it a priority to call a loved one everyday.

3). It’s “vitally important” to get outside at least once a day to connect with nature.

4). Plan times to fill up your day a little more, such as getting dressed, exercising, reading a book, and learning a new skill.

“Use this alone time to develop other areas of your life that you’ve neglected,” said Hudson. 

Additionally, Hudson recommends Psychology Today’s directory of therapists

“It’s important to discuss it and let others know that they’re not alone in their struggle to combat anxiety, whether it’s chronic or acute,” said Arias of his own experiences.

Overall, don’t wait. 

“Get help,” said Hudson. 

Here are some more free mental health resources.

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