I didn’t make the bed today. I did yesterday. And the day before. I’d made the bed pretty much every day since getting home from the mental hospital, since I discovered for the first time in fourteen years what it feels like to be unburdened, to be free from constant depression and anxiety and chaotic, crazy thoughts. It’s fuckin’ enjoyable, that freedom. And while I’m enjoying it, I’ve been making the bed because why not feel like I’ve really got it all together?
That’s not the only thing to happen since my discharge, though. I could list a few key things, but the most pressing is that basically the entire planet is in quarantine. Maybe you’ve heard?
I’ve felt like I’m in a movie montage, with the days blending together and time passing quickly but also inexplicably slowly, but I think it’s all come grinding to a halt. Maybe there was no grinding; I’ve been feeling the effects of the semi-isolated boredom grow steadily each day. But regardless, today is different: I didn’t make the bed.
I’m sitting here on a mess of blankets and pillows, my stuffed elephant sitting haphazardly where I left him this morning. I’m thinking: I was doing okay with this lockdown for the most part until recently, I think. And now, I just don’t know what to do with myself. It’s the lack of structure that’s getting to me. This beats being at work, there’s no doubt about that. I’m going stir-crazy, though, and I don’t know how to fight back against the boredom.
My only real defense is routine, so I try to stick to one in the morning as rigidly as possible (though I’m not really sure that’s the right thing to do). I wake up early, wash my face, take meds and drink water, get dressed, brush my teeth, make coffee, scroll Pinterest for motivation and ideas, record my moods and meds and sleep, write a journal entry, make a healthy breakfast, take my vitamins, go for a walk. That’s me doing what I can to make the most of this situation (since I’m lucky enough to not be affected by this in a more negative way).
I just want to feel productive and accomplished and proud of myself. That’s basically what I always want anyway. I want to feel like I’m doing things that are important. Like I matter.
Yeah, that’s a bit of a dramatic leap, I know. It makes sense in my head.
Before my hospitalization, boredom and emptiness seemed to be predominant in my life, so much so that it made me begin to question my identity. My therapist and I had spoken about how boredom was a sign that I wasn’t doing anything I felt was meaningful. In a journal from that week, I wrote that “being bored means I’m not being crazy, meaning I’m not in the middle of an episode, meaning I’m really not sure about anything.” That still seems dramatic. Existential. But put simply, boredom is a trigger. Too much time to think, too much time to be unsure. To combat it, I have to “find my why” and “work toward my purpose.” That obviously seems difficult. Do I even know what’s really meaningful to me?
I haven’t spent too much time working to figure it out because I’ve been trying to fill my days will as much good as possible in a more immediate way; while I certainly see the value in looking at the big picture, I’ve felt that throughout this period of uncertainty, it’s better not to zoom out too far.
I’ve had the topic of uncertainty on my mind for a while. Since I was in the mental hospital, actually. So maybe I’m at a particular advantage since I’m a step ahead of most people. Then again, maybe I’m at a disadvantage because I’m crazy enough to have been in a mental hospital (the way I write and speak about my mental illnesses applies only to me, by the mean, and I don’t mean to call anyone else crazy; I identify with it in a very positive way, but that’s just me). But my point is that I already knew I had to find a new normal. I didn’t want to go back to the life marked with such extreme mood fluctuations that I endured before. I couldn’t have gone back even if I wanted to (thanks to lots of new insight and a cocktail of meds that actually work for me). My mood has been stable, my anxiety has been minor if I have it at all. Things are different (and thankfully better!) and I have to start from here now. It’s like when I was recovering from anorexia in high school; I couldn’t return to my previous “normal,” so I had to find a new one.
That’s what all of us have to do now. We have to find a way to gain some sense of normalcy now. And if we can’t find normal, we have to create it. We have to determine how we’re going to survive this…and then survive. It’s scary to not know how, I know that. But I’ve been thinking about that, too (I guess I’m doing more than I think I’ve been doing, because processing feelings and ideas seems to be something I’ve done a lot of).
Fear of the unknown is a unique feature of people with anxiety. I’ve definitely wished that I had the power to know more things with certainty, but I’ve learned the hard way that that’s not how it works. Life wouldn’t be what it is if we had all the answers, anyway. Uncertainty, unpredictability, and doubt are not awful things.
But right now, during a worldwide pandemic, when the death count is rising and there’s still no vaccine, when our lives are disrupted and we’ve had to adjust to working or learning from home, when we’re concerned about our health, our loved ones, our financial status? It’s difficult to think otherwise. We’re living through a historic event. This is huge. And quite frankly it sucks.
I know I’m not alone in the panic-scrolling of my social media and news feeds. It feels like there’s nothing else to do. It feels like at least if I’m updated on what’s happening, I’m doing something. It affects my mental health, though.
And as it is, April has been a little been more varied in terms of my moods. The boredom from the quarantine is getting to me, which is normal, and to be expected. I don’t want to say I’m anxious because this by no means compares to the anxiety I’m unfortunately accustomed to, but there’s a definite increase in that “iffy” and uncomfortable feeling of “what the fuck do I do with myself?” I’m having this back and forth motivation. And when I’m not focused and motivated, I feel this vague sense of “what’s the point?” It’s like the ghost of my depression, something that’s recently become a thing of the past but that I still remember clearly enough to be like “yup, that’s it, that’s the ghost of it.”
It’s worse when I don’t take my ADHD medication (that’s become a complicated issue thanks to my new psychiatrist, who I saw virtually for the first time last week) but it makes sense that the Vyvanse helps my moods; ADHD makes everything more overwhelming and being overwhelmed makes everyone more emotional.
Other than that, my mood is low but it’s probably unrelated to bipolar disorder. It’s definitely normal to be mopier these days. It’s new territory for me to feel emotionally dull, or even sad, and not have it be a warning sign for a major depressive or mixed episode to come. But then again, I still have to keep at eye on things, keep track of my moods, do what’s best for my physical and mental health, and be proactive.
Right now I’m just doing what I can to get by. Like, I’m using technology to its fullest. I video call friends and family frequently. I go for virtual walks with my cousin every day, and I use FaceTime for my therapy sessions now. I’m trying to stay connected emotionally, even though we’re all physically apart. A video call does wonders to ease the loneliness that this situation is causing. I’d include texting in this, but I can’t focus on texting people lately. It’s weird. But I’m dealing with it.
I’m using Hulu to live stream the news (although I’m trying to limit the amount of news I consume because too much is just bad for my mental health). Sometimes I download to podcasts so I have something to listen to while I walk. They’re usually news-related, but I have some in other genres. I downloaded the CDC app too, which I scroll through every now and then for added info.
I use Google calendar to stay organized and track my writing deadlines, as well as plan out a schedule so I can have personal accountability. I’m continuing to track my moods, anxiety, meds, sleep, and habits on my phone, which is important with bipolar anyway, but it also makes me feel kind of like I accomplished something. I’m trying to stick with my goal of drinking enough water. I might as well work on it now, and crossing off the cups I’ve had is a definite happiness booster.
A quick aside about goals right now: So many people have these big plans to use this time to get in shape or start their dream business or begin some sort of tremendous undertaking. And that’s wonderful for those so inclined. But not everyone has the luxury of having that option. Some people have been impacted by the coronavirus more than others. Essential workers are busting their butts every day still. Some people have family who’ve caught coronavirus. Some people have gotten sick themselves. But even people not in those circumstances don’t need to feel guilty for just getting through this time however they can, even if it’s just struggling to stay entertained.
I made a list of how to entertain myself, way back when this thing started. I wanted to stay busy, since boredom has proven itself one of my triggers. So I listed as many things as I could think of, and I planned on referring back to it if the excessive free time started to get to me. There weren’t very many things on the list (read, play video games, puzzles, etc), but I found myself unable to do most of the things on it anyway. It was almost like a depression thing, when you want to do something but can’t bring yourself to do the thing. But either wat, I don’t know if my old method of frantically distracting myself to run from boredom and the eventual mood episode it brings is the right one to use. I need to find and keep a sense of balance. I need to let go of what I can’t control but work on what I can. I need to recharge. I want to recharge.
My plan to do that will involve setting guidelines. I only want to watch or read the news in the morning, and not for too long. It will involve doing things I haven’t been doing lately, any things, just to get myself a change. Maybe I’ll crochet some hats (even though it’s spring now). Because maybe it’ll help relax my brain, help me heal even more. Maybe I’ll be struck with brilliant inspiration while mindlessly crocheting. Basically, my plan is to do stuff that’s helpful and then enjoy the good feelings after.
Also, after writing this…I just decided to make my bed