On Wednesday afternoon Illinois State University continued to give out COVID-19 vaccines. Those who received the vaccine were in the Illinois Department of Public Health's phase 1b category including employees over 65, those in K-12 education settings and those working in clinical settings. Senior nursing student Emma Grunwald checks Luke Kubler's temperature before giving him his first does of the Moderna vaccine.

Over the course of the past year, many of us have mentally struggled due to COVID-19 changing how we socially interact on a day-to-day basis.

Before the pandemic hit, I liked to think that I handled my mental health OK. Did I handle it perfectly? Far from it, but when the world suddenly shut down in spring 2020, I found myself not doing so hot.

COVID-19 mentally ruined me.

Even though I didn’t live in the dorms, I decided to stay home since I was home and working over spring break and knew I would be back in the summer to work.

Moving back home saved me money and I loved being around my mom every day again, but mentally it wasn’t the best decision to be doing my college work from my childhood bedroom.

I felt like I was transported back to high school again. A chapter I closed years ago felt like it was reopening again, and I was not coping with it in a good way.

I missed my friends, my roommate, my professors, sitting in Milner until midnight with my best friend doing homework and airdropping songs from Spotify.

I never felt more alone than I did in March and April 2020. I missed the life I built and became accustomed to in Normal.

I was drowning in my thoughts with no end in sight. As someone who once found it easy to be alone and enjoy the quiet, I started to dread it every day.

As the days and weeks slowly went on, I barely texted my friends back. I could barely bring myself to get out of bed to attend the one class I had over Zoom twice a week. I just stopped checking my emails.

I was having a hard time coming to terms one year ago that I was not doing OK.

Now looking back on 2020 as we slowly approach March once again, I’m so thankful for the small things that pushed me to get out of bed and actually do something, even if all it required was being on my computer.

I had one Zoom class and while at the time I was annoyed it wasn’t asynchronous like the rest of my classes were, I’m so thankful I had that one Zoom class every Tuesday and Thursday. It was the only taste of the life I was used to before COVID-19. It forced me to move from my bed to my desk.

But even during one of the lowest points of my life, I still experienced some of my proudest and happiest moments.

I unexpectedly was awarded a scholarship, gained a new position at The Vidette and became closer to my friends at Illinois State University, even when distance kept us apart.

Even though my last year of undergrad is not normal in any sense, I’m just happy to be near campus, safely surrounded with my friends again.

Last year was traumatic to say the least. It took a while to become accustomed to the new normal. When summer rolled around to start my summer job, I was thankful to finally get some interaction outside of my house.

I still have days where my best is moving from my bed to the couch and being in a weird funk. But I’ve learned it’s OK to just exist some days and be sad.

GRACE KINNICUTT is News Editor for The Vidette. She can be contacted at Follow Kinnicutt on Twitter at @GKinnicutt 

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