Quarantine Chronicles: Mental Health

So yeah, the whole blogging everyday thing didn’t last very long; in all honesty, I wasn’t expecting it to. At first, it was something that would take up some time everyday, and then it was something I looked forward to and had all these ideas for, and slowly but surely it became something I dreaded and had no motivation for, again.

If that cycle sounds familiar to you, then you probably have experience with depression–whether your own or someone else close to you who has dealt with it. I have struggled with what I thought was anxiety and depression since I was in middle school. The dark fog that creeps over my mind, and the the bubbling panic for no reason, have become two of my closest companions in this last decade of life.

I say “thought” because I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (unspecified). Truthfully, it really wasn’t as much of a shock as it probably should’ve been. Since college, I’ve questioned whether or not I could be bipolar (and have definitely been accused of it by plenty of ex’s), but I didn’t have a deep enough understanding of the spectrum of bipolar disorder to ever really broach it with my therapists.

The long sleepless nights with boundless energy and racing thoughts were justified away as insomnia or creative genius. My sudden lack of impulse control with relationships, money, sex, food, etc., I thought, were just normal college growing pains. My feeling trapped in my own skin and desperately having to escape my apartment or classroom or office space at any time day or night, I really thought just made me a free spirit. Starting an infinite number of projects or taking on more responsibility than humanly possible, but then never following through, I believed meant I was just a quiter.

I now know, that all of these symptoms, combined into a specific time period, are defined as a manic episode (or hypomanic for me). I’ve had probably two or three of these episodes a year since my freshman year of college. These were closely followed by deep depressive episodes. Where all the projects I had started just seemed pointless and dumb; sleep and netflix were basically the only things I lived for. As I start to crash I feel irritable, like PMS on steroids. Anything and everything starts to set me off, even the people I care about most.

That last part I really only started to recognize as a sign of an impending depressive episode, very recently. Since the start of quarantine actually. Some days, there’s really not much more to do than sit and introspect–this is both helpful and terrifying. This new normal of having to force a routine for some form of sanity, isn’t new to me either. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort to create balance around me and my life, since January, once I understood that “inner balance” was pretty much out of the question for me. Routines and schedules became my best friends and being extremely protective of my space has to come first.

I know a lot of people are now struggling with the realization that there is no such thing as “going back to normal”; our old American lives are done. We’ll have some things that come back and feel familiar, but I personally don’t believe things will ever fully go back to the way they were before COVID-19. So now is the time to figure how to make this new normal work for you. To find things to get excited about and look forward to, things that make you feel fulfilled. It may take more effort now that we can’t just run down to a happy hour, or bar crawl, or brunch, or anything else that is basically just an excuse to drink with other people and not alone.

Maybe it’s a virtual book club. Or a podcast series to listen to while you get ready or take a walk. Maybe it’s literally just showering and putting on real clothes in the morning. Whatever it is, I encourage you to start looking for it now. I understand the tendency to feel hopeless and just tired of it all. I’ve felt that way for the past two weeks now (hence my absence); but eventually we will come out of this, and it may look different, but I don’t think that has to be a bad thing.

Take this time to create, or innovate, or change, or rest, or just be. Be intentional, though, with whatever it is you use this time for. Trust me, even if it is just resting, setting your internal intentions towards rest instead of just letting it happen, will trigger something in your brain–it will help the funk and the pointlessness of it all. The good news is, eventually, the fog always starts to lift and the blue skies come out. I’m looking forward to that time myself.

Be intentional,

xoxo, Ali