Since March the country has been dealing with the pandemic and the various challenges, with it unfortunately still not slowing down. The men in my direct family have struggled with at least mild depression at various stages over the last few months. Luckily, we’ve had each other to lean on as our struggles have sort of staggered from each other.

My mental struggles really hit me hard over the month the AJ & McCall Show was working from home and even after we came back in to the studios in May. I wasn’t sleeping well and those two factors led to me getting an ulcer that I was luckily able to get over. I’m really not sure what triggered it for me, but being at home and stuck in a routine started me down a rut that absolutely drained me mentally. That started a spiral that got real bad and I really couldn’t shake. It wasn’t until I wrote my poem Pandemic of the Mind that I finally started to pull myself up.

Writing let me assess how I was feeling and it was really just locking myself in to the same thing day in and day out that made me sad. There wasn’t a lot of options to do and I’ve never been one that has done well with monotony and I let it get to me. That turned to stress, which turned to the lack of sleep and that contributed to more and more issues.

Despite my girlfriend and I taking quarantine very seriously it was actually getting back to a regular normal in the studio that really helped me push forward. I’m generally a home body, but the house felt less like a place of haven when it was really the only thing I was seeing day in and day out. In therapy, especially when you’re dealing with the stress of work, it is often advised to try and compartmentalize things so you can have a space you get away from everything. You’re normally told to try and leave work at work and have home be your disconnect and that’s one of the things that was wearing me down. I didn’t have a designated work space so where I was working was where I was sleeping and so at night my brain wouldn’t turn off.

Not being able to do anything social and see people made social aspects the same day in and day out as well, and so every aspect of my life was the same and that just isn’t good for the mind. I know my brother was struggling with something similar and actually finally asked me a few weeks ago about those situations. I could tell there was a huge relief when he realized the things he was trying to sort through were the exact things I was and he had someone that could give him some feedback and advice.

Actually talking to my brother helped me feel better in continuing to move past the mental struggles I was dealing with because I wasn’t alone in feeling that way. Both of our lives were really the same thing day in and day out and those new daily ritual made just starting the day already a drain. For both of us getting away from home was the cure as it mixed it up. My brother left Las Vegas for California and I went to Boise. We both took part in some fun things but as my brother said ‘Just being away from home, something different, and sleeping in a different bed I think will be what I need.’ He was absolutely right and it was extremely relaxing.

For my brother and I it was a lot the same things and so we were really able to help each other, but my dad had some other challenges to get through. While my brother and I haven’t had to worry about our jobs our dad was one of the people that was furloughed. He also went through a process where he lost his job before switching to something else, but it’s a bit more complicated as it’s something he didn’t really enjoy.

Being diligent he took it as an opportunity to re-evaluate and decide what he wanted to do going forward. However, in any normal situation job uncertainty would cause stress for anyone, but especially with the uncertainty of the pandemic because no one wants to go long without a paycheck since the bills don’t stop. So what does he do?

Since our struggles have been staggered it has worked really well the way advice has been able to pass down the line. My dad would be the first to tell you he never has really had a career and how happy and proud he is that my brother and I have found something we love that we want to do until we retire. While his situation may not be ideal it also does give him a lot of open possibilities. I think he has for sure dealt with similar things as my brother and I, but the job thing has been weighing on him most. There have been a lot of questions and my brother and I have tried to really make ourselves available in any way we can, since I’m in Utah, my brother in Nevada and my dad back in Indiana.

I’m happy to say after really examining things my dad picked a direction to change what he does for work and make it something he’s happier doing. It wasn’t a smooth transition, but he shouldn’t be without a paycheck and will be doing something that doesn’t bum he out daily. It also has seemed to reinvigorate him to have some more freedom to keep an eye out for something he’d like doing. At the advice of my brother and I it seems he’ll be looking more to get out of town just to mix it up and not be locked in the house all the time.

Something my dad said was resonated with me as well. A big reason he wanted to change his job is because he and my step mom were working different shifts and so all those challenges previously mentioned were also multiplied with the fact that he was never seeing his wife. While he was furloughed he mentioned how great it was for him and their relationship because they had time together and could actually do things together. For Ashleigh and myself that was something I didn’t realize right away either and it became a focus to really spend time together because the new normal was putting in habits that weren’t the best for the health of our relationship. Since we left town it has been a renewed focus that has really helped and made us both happy.

It’s important to remember the new normal isn’t normal and Don’t Forget what Normal Is as we all deal with these uncertain times. A new goal I’ve been focusing on is finding just one thing a day that gets me through the day, to focus on something positive. I’ve found it initially tough to do but relieving to voice that and maybe even helpful to anyone else out there struggling. Plenty of us are struggling but never forget there are more than a fair share out there that can help and always someone you can talk to.