I guess I had a decent day. I had a good morning, anyway. I claimed this week’s unemployment, I got some stuff done for a magazine I help out with by reviewing article submissions. But I dunno. I didn’t make the bed. I didn’t write as much as I wanted to. I feel unfocused. It’s stressful. Because I’m thinking waayyy too much about this fricken adhd meds thing. I never really thought about it before because I assumed I’d always be able to get meds for it. I still don’t fully understand why I can’t continue to take them. I looked it up after my last appointment and couldn’t find anything about adults not being able to take Vyvanse. I downloaded the ADDitude magazine to my phone and iPad, but I still haven’t read much of it. I should. I wanna become more educated about all this. But anyway, my point is that when I can’t focus like this, it makes me sad. Like. I feel sad right now. I mean, it’s not the crippling depression I’m accustomed to (thank god), but like. I’m using energy trying not to be too frustrated or panicky. Because like. I do have things to do that require me to use my fucking brain. Ughhhhh
But it was a decent day anyway I sat outside and enjoyed the weather and soaked in the vitamin D and I video chatted with my family, saw my nephew (who can wave now!!)…like, overall? Not terrible.
I’m telling myself not to give up. It’s was a yucky day. But tomorrow is a new one. It might be a “cut myself some slack” type of thing. I think.
I had a random thought pop into my had and I was thinking about it. And I know there are countless ways to dive into this topic and that there’s so much under the umbrella of mental health management because mental health is made up of so many different things. But I think, for me, there are three components to staying on top of it. Even typing that feels weird because the number three doesn’t capture how hugely important mental health is. But at it’s most basic level, at this point in time with my current train of thought, it comes down to:
What goes into my body. My meds, obviously. And vitamins and supplements, which I take because there’s no harm in doing so. Food. Water. You get the point.
The things that I do. How I use my body and brain. My daily routines, the habits I’ve formed (and have tried to keep healthy). Journaling. Tracking my moods and anxiety and sleep. Going to therapy.
The thoughts in my mind. What I focus on. How often I renew my motivation. My internal monologue and self-talk.
I need the most work in the category of thoughts. I am consistent with what I take in terms of meds (finally) and supplements, and I’ve been making more effort to drink enough water, and now that I’m saner (thanks, lithium) I’m not struggling with eating as much. I’m pretty good with my structured routines, even though this period of time is difficult and different, with the quarantine and whatnot.
But now I have to be careful about what I do with my mind and my thoughts.
I think a key thing I can do to make sure I’m thinking positively is to work on only consuming content that makes me feel good. I’ve been bored (obviously), so I’ve been spending too much time on YouTube. Which is fine, but I have to really put in the effort to process how I feel about it. I enjoy it (mostly) but also feel guilty about enjoying it (since I’m mindlessly consuming what other people create instead of creating myself, I guess!) and compare myself to these random influencers (which I honestly rarely do in real life).
I’d love to rattle off some statistics about how much content the average person consumes every day, but I also don’t wanna do that so suffice it to say it’s an overwhelming amount. YouTube videos, news websites, blogs, social media, apps, music, podcasts, shows, books, movies…so much going into our brains ahhhhh. It totally makes sense that I’m thinking about how to make sure it’s mostly positive and helpful (because what goes into my brain influences how my life is). Anything to keep me in a good frame of mind, with THIS EXACT level of sanity (I spent far too long fighting with myself and my moods and my brain and my disorder, and now that I’m okay let’s fuckin’ keep it that way, shall we?), and every little bit helps.
The renewing the motivation thing is also important for me. I have this desperate desire to be productive because it is somehow linked to my worth (I know, I know, I’m working on fixing that). But I’m not always productive. I have ADHD and my moods get in the way sometimes and oh yeah I’m a human being haha, and that’s just how humans are. But I think it’s a matter of getting back on the horse when I’m unfocused or can’t seem to do what I want/need to do. Not getting discouraged or thinking it’s the end of the world.
While this post might seem totally pointless, I just want to say that I love writingggggg because I can start with some random thought I had a few hours ago and make sense of it (sort of) and it makes me happy!
I’m so bored. Still. But there’s a lot to be thankful for. Still. And I’m trying to take note of it all. Which should be helpful during this chaotic period in our lives, right? Gotta try to look on the bright side, and since I’m able to, there’s no reason for me not to actually do it.
Technology always makes the list of shit that’s helpful to me. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I was born in a time where I didn’t have access to a phone.
I’ve downloaded lots of apps. That’s partially because I was in the wormhole of YouTube videos where people talk about their favorite quarantine apps, but I have no regrets about watching them and downloading some of them. I’ve even organized and re-ordered my apps all on my phone, and it’s made me feel that much more put-together, for some reason.
Anyway, this isn’t really new for me. I always talk about how apps make my life so much fucking better. Mood tracking ones (Daylio and eMoods, specifically) have been on my phone for a long time now and are so useful in so many ways, and omg, please allow me to geek out about the graphs and charts and data they provide me with (doesn’t it make my insane mood disorder sound cooler to think of my symptoms as “data points” or something?).
You probably guessed where this was going, but (to be trendy as fuck) here are my favorite apps and ones I’ve been using during this endless quarantine:
I don’t remember where I heard about this one, but it’s super calming and makes me really enjoy guided breathing. It feels like forever ago that my therapist brought it to my attention that I can go long periods without actually pausing to take a breath haha. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve tried to stop and consciously breathe, and according to my fitbit heart rate thing, when I make an effort, it’s helpful in slowing things down to a more acceptable speed. So I’m really trying to make it a habit to steady my breath. I use Calm for peaceful background noise, and I actually currently have a month-long trial of a full subscription that I can actually meditate with, but I think Melly is more fun in a different way because you get to build a little zen garden thing. Super cute.
Guys. You know when you’ve hit a slump and you’re bored and you want some form of stimulation so you pick up your phone but you wind up just staring at it because you don’t want to read the news and you’re sick of social media and you don’t have the head to play a game or read an article or check your email so then you close it only to open it again and repeat until something just kind of…happens? Yeah. I downloaded this game (would it even be called a game?) where you basically just take pics of cats that come to your yard and play with what you put out for them. It’s a free game with no adds (amazing), and it’s so soothing and calming. It’s great to have on in the background and have something to do when I look at my phone for something to fucking do.
Honestly, I downloaded this because I had to see what all the fuss was about. Everyone is obsessed with it, and I don’t have a Nintendo switch. When I saw there was an app (called Pocket Camp), I started to play and I have to say, it really is peaceful and relaxing. Mindless but in a way that feels like you’re actually doing something. And it makes me feel included in the craze, whiiiiich makes me happy.
Oookay. This is a kid’s game. But I downloaded it a while ago when I was big-time anxious, and it helped calm me down and distract me from panicking. It’s colorful. You “cook” unicorn and rainbow themed foods. That’s it. I’m obsessed. It’s an oddly satisfying game, and even though it’s for kids, I have no shame about playing it because it’s fucking helpful as fuck when I get overwhelmed
The point of this “game” is to make people remember that there’s nothing wrong with not being productive all the damn time. Nothing wrong with just laying in bed and recharging. It’s like you’re in your bed, and there are little activities you can do to ground yourself or slow down or relax. It’s also just really pretty.
I use this one to help me get my writing done and focus a little better (since focusing is a constant struggle). It’s this little bunny you get to name and feed and keep happy. And you do that by setting the timer for however long you want, and then doing whatever you have to do. I also use the lo-fi music that comes with it, or if I want different focus-noise, the ticking of a clock sound. Aaaaaand it makes graphs, so I’m obviously a fan of that.
*I’m just gonna group all of these as one: YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+
Necessary, amiright? If binge-watching shows makes the days better, then why not do it? I also stream the news on YouTube and Hulu (although it’s been a while since I felt the need to do that).
It’s so obvious to say, but like. I have been obsessed with my Pinterest lately. I always enjoyed it, but once I couldn’t leave my fricken house, I sat down and actually organized all my board and pins into categories and whatnot, and it was so satisfying. And now it makes me happy to scroll through it all for inspiration and ideas and honestly just because it’s aesthetically pleasing.
Trying to be productive isn’t a bad thing. Obsessing over it and beating yourself up if you aren’t is a bad thing, but trying to do good things for yourself isn’t. I found this habit tracking app that turns doing what you want to do each day into sort of a role-playing game. It helps me make my days go how I want, it helps me get things done that I want to get done. And my motivation for completing my to-do list isn’t just “because I have to,” but because the gamification of my list makes it fun.
Special shoutouts to:
*video calling apps for obvious reasons
*my calendar apps and Trello for keeping me organized in an easy, colorful way
So yeah, I’m in no position to write any form of advice on how to be productive, but I think I’m certainly capable and qualified enough to write something on how to survive. I’m good at survival. (Is that something all of us with mental illness are good at?) And even though I’m not feeling like super put-together or on top of my shit, I’m still getting by, and I’m not unhappy or worried about soon becoming unhappy. And for me, after years of fighting with my moods, that’s huge.
I’ve gone through a few different phases during this whole thing, with varying degrees of motivation and frustration and productivity and enjoyment. It’s confusing. But there are small things that make me calmer or help me hold it together during the craziness. There have always been things like that, although I’d like to make a special shoutout to my lithium for being one major thing that’s allowed me to actually succeed in doing so.
I think I wrote this post because I was just overly excited about how much I love my phone???? But either way, I feel good about what I smashed onto this blog post, so have fun reading. Or don’t, no pressure.
Let me start out by saying I’m thankful that that’s the worst of my problems right now, because I know things are crazy in the world and I’m lucky to have a roof over my head, food in my kitchen, and internet and technology and good people and things around me.
But still, like…I’m fucking bored. And it’s impacting my mental health (even though again, I’m super thankful that I’m not in a bipolar depression during this thing.
Aaaaanyyway, I told myself that I was going to try to spice up my days in smalls ways, maybe starting with my coffee (maybe you read that post?). Simple enough, but I was hoping it would go a long way.
And okay, it hasn’t changed everything, but it’s helped, ya know?
I’ve been doing pretty good with making each coffee I have (which is about two a day…sometimes more ahh I’m addicted lol) different.
And now, drumroll please, I am going to share some nifty coffee recipes with the like, seven of my blog readers (all of whom I love dearly, btw!).
Note: none of these are completely mind-blowing, but they’re fun and let’s face it, I don’t have much else to look forward to.
Other note: I’m not being as “eating disorder-y” as I was a while back, but I’ve still got this like aversion to sugar. Not fat. Just sugar. Weird. I’m working on it. It makes these recipes a bit harder to be creative with, though, since I won’t use things like whipped cream or syrup or whatever. But the good thing is that my at-home cafe might give me more of a reason to cut the no-sugar nonsense.
I used a chocolate coffee flavored k-cup, made the coffee strong, and added cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. I always add stevia and half & half. Boom. Interesting start to my morning.
Used the French Press this time. Put mint leaves and cocoa powder in the press with the coffee and let it sit for a while longer than I usually do. Added stevia and half & half. It seemed more exciting before I typed it out haha.
I used my French Press again for this. Added cocoa powder and vanilla extract in the press with the coffee grounds and waited the five minutes, poured it into one of my bitchin’ mugs, and enjoyed. I sprinkled cocoa powder on top to make it instagram-worthy.
I had coconut flavored k-cups so I threw that bad boy in the Keurig and brewed half a cup. Then I frothed half a cup of coconut milk with vanilla extract and cinnamon. Mixed those into the same mug with stevia and chugged it down because omg it was so good.
Same thing but a blueberry k-cup.
We all know what this is by now. The whipped coffee trend, and I obviously had to partake in the trendiness. Whisked 2 tbsps instant coffee with 2 tbsps stevia and 2 tbsps hot water. Filled a mason jar (had to be clear and look cute for pics, obv) with ice and oat milk, actually (because that’s what I had) and with cold brew from the bottle that I’d bought. Caffeine OD? Yes please.
I also want to buy matcha powder and make a matcha latte version of this whipped drink. It would be such a pretty green and I could use coconut and yay I need to go buy some.
Protein Cold Brew
To be honest, I had a ton of those premier protein drinks, so I mixed the caramel one with cold brew and it tasted really frickin’ good. Get your fave protein drink and do that because it feels oddly satisfying to be vaguely healthy while still getting the elixir of life that is coffee into my body.
Okay so this one’s for tomorrow. I have chai teabags and I’m gonna add espresso to it. And stevia and whatever milk we have.
I’ve made these without the coffee before, since turmeric is good as an anti-inflammatory. I’ve used coconut milk, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger. But the interwebssss says it’s also good with actual coffee so we shall see.
I was itching to get all this into a post. Don’t really know why. Maybe I’m just proud that I’m doing something I said I was gonna do (however small and seemingly insignificant).
But coffee is amazing, so maybe someone will comment with more coffee recipes that I’m unaware of. I’d be super fuckin pumped about that ♡⇩
I was listening to a meditation podcast in my car this morning and I made a mental note of something it said that I thought was important. “Balance is a moving target.” It depends on so many different factors that all change all the time. Balancing it all requires different things at different times. It was funny because speaking of targets, I was on my way home from Target (everyone’s favorite store, am I right?). I had to get out of my house, we needed some groceries, so it worked. Once I got home, I wrote the quote in an actual note (mental notes aren’t as helpful to me lol) and thought about how it related to what I said yesterday, about how motivation needs to be renewed continually, and how that’s okay.
All that is super applicable to me today. I woke up at 5:30 this morning because my cousin texted me. It was way too early and I was still mostly asleep haha, but I didn’t mind because I prefer to be up early than sleep late. I did my morning stuff. Ya know. Washed my face and took my meds and brushed my teeth and cleaned up a little and stretched a little and recorded my moods and meds and related info for yesterday (oh hey bipolar coping skills).
I said yesterday that I was gonna make fancier coffees to keep things at least slightly more entertaining this week. And I’m happy to announce that I did (I put cocoa powder and vanilla extract into the french press along with the coffee, frothed my oat milk, and then topped it with cinnamon). Let me tell you something, it was delicious. So yay for that, but by 8:30 (after I’d been awake for 3 hours already), I was bored as shit and my mood was going down. Ugh. It’s annoying because I’m not crazy like I normally would be this time of year (my typical disclaimer that I call myself crazy because I relate to the word myself, and I’m not looking to insult anyone with mental health issues who don’t identify with it). I’m not DEPRESSED. I’m just overrrrr the fact that I’m in this slump and don’t know how to get out of it.
That was when I went to Target, narrowly avoiding the first bad mood of the day. Came home. Made myself a healthy breakfast (yogurt, almond butter, and some pumpkin all mixed up, so good btw). And then? Boom. Bad, yucky, annoyed mood.
To get out of THAT one, I did the thing where I set a timer and told myself to get to work. It was semi-helpful. I set a timer for 20 minutes (I used an app called Study Bunny, actually…it’s similar to the Flora one I sometimes use and that I’ve written about, but you can use your phone so there’s less pressure, aaaand you can feed a cute bunny rabbit!) and lit a candle, actually put a facemask on, did a tiny bit of work, and then washed the mask off when I was done.
Okay, felt good, got some stuff done right? Uh no, didn’t enjoy feeling accomplished because focus is so COMPLICATED for me. I didn’t wanna rant again about my ADHD and medication issue again, but I’ll update this blog for anyone out there who cares haha. I’ll just say first that when I can’t focus, it puts me in a bad mood. It doesn’t make me irritable or bipolar-angry or depressed. It just makes everything so much more difficult because I struggle to manage my emotions to begin with, like in general, and when I can’t focus on doing that, I’m at a worse disadvantage.
Last I said here, my new psychiatrist wouldn’t give me my Vyvanse to help me focus. I wasn’t really given a reason, but I was obviously upset, and it impacted how my month went. I had another virtual appointment last week and after I explained that it was a struggle, she said it was kind of a misunderstanding, and she gave it to me this month, but she said don’t take it every day because it’s bad for my heart. And she said something about it being bad for adults, but I still have more questions as to why. Because after that appointment, I’ve done research and asked around and talked to my therapist about it. I don’t wanna type anything specific here since I don’t have all the facts yet, but long story short, I feel guilty whenever I need to take my pill.
And today, after fighting with myself, I finally took my Vyvanse. I guess it could be placebo, but I feel so much better now. I just typed all this out in ten minutes, didn’t I?
Yesterday I thought making a better plan would help me manage my days a little better and be a little happier by the end of them. Today, I’m thinking that too much planning only puts pressure on myself and breeds more guilt, soooooo that’s probably not a good idea. Maybe it’s just a matter of trial and error, process of elimination, figuring things out as I go. Noneeeee of us have ever had to deal with something like this coronavirus quarantine thing. It’s been said before but there’s value in cutting ourselves some slack.
What am I trying to say… Basically? Today is not a lost cause. And furthermore, it’s never too late to restart the day.
It’s another morning of another day, the start of another week where we’re gonna be doing a whole lot of the same thing (that thing being nothing). It’s actually kinda funny, the fact that we’re living in a weird “Groundhog’s Day” situation, and I definitely typed that with light humor as I try to see the bright side of things: I’m not dealing with the savage customers at work, I’m lucky to not be absolutely panicking about money, I’m at home with all my stuff and with technology that I swore I’d never again take for granted after not having it in the psych hospital. But the monotony breeds lots of stress, on top of the stressful uncertainty that everyone everywhere is feeling. Quarantine has taught me that doing nothing is tricky (which I already knew, but this confirmed that it’s not just me who finds it difficult; it’s actually a trigger for most people). More recently it’s taught me that I need to adjust how I approach this whole thing.
I’ll start where I am now. I’ve been so…unmotivated. I won’t say lazy, because that word doesn’t fit and because it doesn’t give me credit for the effort I’m putting into being my best self. It’s just that I haven’t gotten much done, though it’s not for lack of trying. This stay-at-home thing is a fight for me because I can’t stay focused. I’ll explain the whole story with my ADHD and stuff later, but suffice it to say that it’s causing me grief. I have all the time in the world to write and work on my fun personal projects, and I can’t fucking concentrate. It’s ironic in the most infuriating way.
Anyway. What have I been doing? Well, I’m glad you asked. I looked back through my journals to get an accurate answer: I’ve been trying to stick to a structured routine. That’s something most bipolar people should do all the time regardless of pandemic or not, but it’s obviously more important during one, and it honestly just makes me happy to check things off a preset list because it gives me the surge of dopamine accomplishing something gives me. And it’s like, legitimately healthy. Like, I try to complete all my habits and track them along with my moods and other info. It makes me proud of myself. I have of course been writing (and exploring new opportunities with that). I’ve been video calling my friends and family (I am endlessly thankful that we have the ability to do that). I try to go for walks. I journal and scroll social media and read articles and play gaming apps. I watch YouTube and I must have binge-watched Family Guy fully like twice already (it’s one of those shows I can enjoy without having to actually focus on it).
I guess that seems like enough shit to do, but it barely fills one day, and it isn’t fulfilling, especially because it’s the same daily. It’s not like these days are much different than a normal day off from work that I would have had during the previous version of my normal. But it’s not broken up by anything. It feels less meaningful (which sucks because I have so much more time to work on what I actually DO find meaningful).
If I had to summarize the last month? Boring. I also think the word “mundane” fits, and actually I think that works with what I’m trying to do here because it reminds me of poetry by Tyler Knott Gregson where he talks about the “miracle in the mundane.” Seeing how the normal, seemingly trivial parts of life can be beautiful. It’s a lot like how finding joy in the little things makes us feel better about life.
So, what can I do this coming month to make it better than the previous weeks? Uhhhh, oh man, let’s see.
Try to change up my routine. Mix up the order. Add new things. Take some things out. Get creative with it. Maybe I’ll start by binging a show that isn’t Family Guy haha. Maybe try to make something totally random into a daily habit. I can’t think of anything right now but I promise I will. Oh, here’s a sort of related but random idea: make my coffee differently every time I make it for five days (and I drink at least two cups a day, so that means finding a bunch of different recipes or tweaks). Okay, this paragraph is actually getting me really excited. I’m gonna make an actual plan and set goals and shit for this. New week, new goals. Renewed motivation (because I’ve been reading stuff about how motivation isn’t a permanent thing and needssss to be renewed a lot, which is just how it is and that’s fine). Yeah okay I’ll update again at some point, but I’m hoping the next few weeks are more…I guess I’ll use the word exciting because that’s what I want it to be and I wanna attract that shit. Boom.
Thought this quote was fitting because good little things are what’s getting me through the all-consuming boredom (things like fancy coffee from my own personal at-home cafe lol, finding and downloading and playing new games on my phone, infused water, and video calling my family♡ every day).
I’m telling myself to focus on these awesome little things because I just regained my mental stability and I don’t want unending boredom and the looming feeling of uncertainty to uproot that. The second part sounds dramatic, but seriously, the world is a mess and the uncertainty is a trigger (for lots of people!). The first part sounds like it shouldn’t be a big deal buuuuut
Boredom makes me feel super shitty. I want to be motivated and productive and feel accomplished (and not because the world is telling me I have to, it’s just an internal feeling of calm I get from it that I want). I need structure (I am clinging to my morning routine bc I like the way my mornings go, and that helps, but still, I don’t have places to BE). Oh hang on, I started writing this wanting it to be a positive rant lol so yeah, focusing on the little things and enjoying them to their fullest and doing what I can to combat the negativity that comes with the quarantine (that’s an absolute necessity still, by the way) and thinking good things.
I took this selfie on the 1st, found a mental health sticker for it, & I wanted to post it but couldn’t think of a perfect caption for it. Because I wanted it to be about something important. Because mental health is HEALTH, not something separate but a portion of the whole piece. The conversation about mental health is for all of us, just not those of us with mental illness, although I guess sometimes the term “mental health” is used to mean the absence of illness, which I don’t love.
But I do think if you have issues it’s more apparent that you have to focus on mental health since your life revolves around it & you weren’t given a choice in the matter. Basically, mental health is “cognitive, behavioral, & emotional well-being.” Health in how we think, act, & feel.
I’ve been thinking about what that random sticker I found says. It’s good advice, but what does it mean to ❝make your mental health a priority.❞
Here’s a brain-dump I came up with:
↳ ᴅᴏ ᴅɪғғɪᴄᴜʟᴛ ᴡᴏʀᴋ -think about things you have to process -get things done when they need to be done -ask for help when you need it
↳ ʟᴏᴏᴋ ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇ ʙʀɪɢʜᴛ sɪᴅᴇ -part of doing difficult work -try to find the good thing even during bad times -be grateful for those good things
↳ ғɪɴᴅ ʏᴏᴜʀ ʜᴀᴘᴘʏ -and hold onto it during the craziness we call life -do more of what makes you feel good ⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ↳ ᴄᴜᴛ ʏᴏᴜʀsᴇʟғ sᴏᴍᴇ sʟᴀᴄᴋ -be gentle with yourself -take a break -it’s okay to make mistakes -you’re only human⠀⠀ -don’t feel guilty for needing to rest -you’re trying your best
I think it was like a few years ago, in early January, I heard about people picking a “word of the year” instead of making New Year resolutions. And this year a blog post by blessingmanifesting reminded me of it. She said to choose a word that embodies how you want to be and think and feel and do, “something you can apply in little ways throughout your life instead of a concrete goal that involves either failure or success.” I chose three words this January, and as I was just looking through my current journal, I found myself thinking about them again. The first word I wrote down was “continue,” because shit was hard a few months ago and I wanted to keep going, keep moving forward, and not let anything stop me in doing that. Which is why word numero two was “unstoppable.” Can’t let things get in my way. My third was “unbothered,” and by that I meant I didn’t wanna let was customers upset me, not let the insignificant action of others influence my mood. And that’s the one that really got me connecting the words I wrote down five months ago to this present moment. I’m not at that shitty job, so letting morons bother me is n out an issue, but I’m not really letting any random nonsense bother me. Like minor mood fluctuations that would have sent me spiraling (for obvious reasons, after having uncontrolled bipolar for yearsss). Alsooo, I sure as fuck continued in spite of difficulties. So check those boxes too. I haven’t written in my physical journal too often lately (I switch between digital journaling and physical journaling, best of both worlds alwayssss) but I’m glad I found these three little words and the pretty butterfly I glued next to it (I’m gonna stop writing before I go offfff about how symbolic a butterfly is in relation to continuing…it is right? or is it just me who feels that way lol)
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!