I’d started writing something about that weeks ago, and I never got around to finishing it, but I reread it just now and remembered where I was going with it. I’m hoping to finish it later tonight, but here’s what I have at this point:
Finding A New Normal
Things are chaotic and uncertain in the world right now. The global spread of coronavirus has affected all of us. The number of people diagnosed is still climbing, and with that, fear and anxiety are climbing as well. We’re worried about our friends and family, especially those who are immunocompromised. We’re uncertain about the future. We want answers, or at least a time frame to work with, but leaders and experts simply can’t give that to us. We’re doing what we can and being responsible (meaning we’re practicing physical distancing and self-quarantining), but to be honest, it’s hard. Our regular routines have been interrupted and we’ve had to figure out how to try and adapt in a very short period of time. And throughout all of that, we’re still trying to live our lives and manage our mental health.
I don’t know what that looks like for you, but for me, it’s a bit of a mess:
With more downtime and a burning desire for information and connection, I panic-scroll through social media and news headlines. It becomes particularly stressful when I know I should put my phone down or close my laptop, but I just can’t. I’m overconsuming information, but I’m still understimulated. Or put simpler, I’m super bored. Which, of course, leads me to be less productive than I want to be. Or less productive than I think I “should” be. So I beat myself up.
I’m lucky enough to be making some money remotely, but it’s an adjustment having my boyfriend home to distract me. I’m not alone with that adjustment –it makes my head spin just thinking about how many people are trying to get work done with distractions around them. And not everyone is in a job that allows them to work remotely, so I’m counting my blessings.
I am trying to do what I can to counteract the negative effects of being thrown into these changes, though. I wake up at a fairly regular time every morning and go about my routine as I would any other day. I get dressed in something that’s comfortable but isn’t pajamas. I have coffee. I even make the bed. It all makes me feel like I’ve begun my day, like something has happened even though not much has.
I think clinging to some sort of routine is my desperate attempt at making things feel more “normal” in the middle of this period of difficulty, whatever normal may mean.
I’ve been thinking about what normal is for a while, actually. I don’t mean it as in “conforming to the standard.” I’m talking more about it as it applies to us individually, or as a sense of familiarity we strive to have in our lives. Last month, I was hospitalized at a psychiatric facility in order for me to gain control over a bipolar depression and my mental health in general. All normalcy was obviously shattered as I spent over two weeks in an unfamiliar place trying to win the fight against my brain for my life. When I was discharged, I found that I couldn’t even return to my previous sense of normal; things had changed, so my definition of it had to change, too. It was best summarized by a quote I found on Tumblr that said: “we can’t return to normal because the normal we had was precisely the problem.”
So I’ve been trying to find a new definition of it. I’ve been asking myself what I want my version of normal to be, what I want my life to look like. Figuring it out is something that would be hard enough to do after a hospitalization, but during a global outbreak of a deadly virus? It’s even more complicated. And are those questions even helpful in my quest for normalcy?
But I’m starting with what I know for certain. Prior to the pandemic, and before I was hospitalized, my life was marked with extreme mood fluctuations and incredible instability. It was the only normal I knew, but I certainly don’t want to go back to living that way. I want that to simply be my “before,” something to look back on and be glad I’m not experiencing anymore.
Since then, I’ve gotten better at navigating these less-structured days and I’ve had a few where I’ve felt really proud of myself by the end. It’s a work in progress. And I think it’s an exercise in resilience (isn’t life in general an exercise in resilience?). But anyway, yayy for thinking positively!