Mental Illness And the Pandemic
From what I hear people are experiencing different types of mental health problems during this lock down pandemic. This doesn’t surprise me as I, myself, have had mental health problems due to isolation in the past. Being by yourself and ostracized by your normal social routine can throw you off in more ways than one. At the end of 2018, right around this time of year, I experienced extreme mental health problems that relate to my bipolar disorder, but no doubt are becoming real life issues for people without previous mental health issues.
A big part of staying mentally sound is the importance of a daily routine. In this pandemic our lives have taken a drastic shift, and many peoples’ routines have changed or even become unhinged. Work always plays a huge factor in our daily routines. Now people are either out of work or stuck working at home, which can undoubtedly become monotonous, boring, repetitive, and just not enough of a daily activity. Plus, there’s the fact that you're stuck working from the same place day in and day out, destroying the social interaction that we all need. Sure, some people are thriving in these new work conditions, but I have a hard time believing that this is the norm. Feeling trapped and isolated have become feelings of normality, and can lead to worse reactions mentally. Suddenly, you’re stuck with a little too much free time. You start to overthink, question, and doubt things that you would never look back on any normal day. Eventually, you can get trapped in your own mind, which can lead to mental health concerns for people who are generally mentally sound and secure.
From a standpoint of a person battling mental health problems since early 2007, I can tell you that a routine shift can be quite dangerous and detrimental. Now the whole world is under a negative routine shift, and it’s taking a toll on the majority of people I talk to. When my day-to-day lacks structure I am most susceptible to depression and even mania.
It’s been well illustrated and documented that many people, especially those without jobs and lacking financial security for the future, are being hit the hardest by this pandemic. Many people with jobs are also feeling the pressures of work as well as the burden of not being able to get any type of release while they work at home; a far too familiar place as they may even or have even started to feel trapped at home. A general feeling of hopelessness begins to take over. Circumstantial depression is sweeping across this country as a sense of hopelessness is rising above a sense of hope. Is this feeling and downtrodenness equivalent to a depressive episode from that of a person with mental health problems like depression and bipolar disorder. I’m not even close to a doctor, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that it is eerily similar. The biggest difference lies in the fact of whether or not this depression that people are experiencing will last once the pandemic is over.
So I was on a blog of some sort just before this pandemic hit. I wrote in a comment somewhere that I thought it would really do the average person some good if they experienced a one week manic episode. This, of course, was coupled with the idea that the average person wouldn’t be crippled by the episode itself, and would, in fact, be back to normal after the week was over, which simply doesn’t happen. I thought this would be good for people because of the perspective on life one gains from mania. I didn’t think it would end up happening, and for the most part, has not. There is a fine line to all this isolation and quarantine business that relates to mania and my personal bout with bipolar disorder. Mania, and it has yet to happen in serious numbers and hopefully will not, can manifest itself when one is cut off from the outside world. Like I noted earlier, at then end of 2018 I had a pretty extreme manic episode and slipped into psychosis. I was alone for days on end, and my brain began to wander to extremes. I was convinced I was the reincarnated soul of King Tut. There’s a lot more to it than that, but you get the point. What I’m trying to demonstrate is the connection between being left alone and mania. Most people will assuredly only experience depression, but the mind can play tricks and could, in fact, push people in another direction. It’s not so far-fetched to believe that people, when left alone, will begin to create an alternate reality to avoid the reality of their own life. We should worry about this as picking up the pieces after a manic episode can be life altering.
I’ll leave you with this story and some advice… My best friend hit me up on my cell phone the other day.. ‘Hey man, how’s things going’. My immediate reaction was to text him back, ‘good, you’. Didn’t think much of it. I paused and thought about the actual answer. I wrote back to him… ‘Truthfully man, I’m pretty lonely on a day-to-day basis, but there’s not much I can do about it.’ He wrote back seconds later, ‘Yeah, same here’. It’s really hard on all of us all the time when our lives have been depleted to the absolute basics. We feel we are useless and not doing enough. Sometimes you need to just be honest that things aren’t okay. Telling a friend or a loved one that you're having trouble coping with what is going on with your life as it is seemingly insignificant and inconsequential will free you of this notion. In turn, it will show you that you’re not alone. We’re all in this and going through this crap together… It's a slow process, but things will return to normalcy. Be honest about your feelings with friends and family as it may bolster empathy.