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Consequences for the Mentally Ill During the Coronavirus

It’s only been the past few weeks that I have seen news outlets, both online and on TV, as well as social media, talking about the ramifications of the Coronavirus on those with mental illness and those who develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of working with the ill, enduring the virus and simply trying to get by, day by day.

My question is: why wouldn’t we pay attention to those with mental illness throughout this life-altering time? Wouldn’t this be obvious? I know the answer: why would it be obvious when the stigma around mental illness is alive and well in our society? It’s still extremely upsetting given our daily life experiences.

For me, the Coronavirus entered our country while I was in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) due to depression. I had a bad reaction to a medication for a medical problem that made me hypomanic and then once off of the medication, I became depressed. Not the best time for a pandemic to hit, not that it ever would be. Moving from in-person groups to group therapy on Zoom was not a “normal” psychiatric treatment but I did it and was discharged last week, although I am still not yet stable. The world is not normal and I don’t feel normal.

My therapist and I switched to phone sessions and then to Zoom. Our schedule is usually 4x per week and having therapy through a screen is definitely not the same as in person.

I am now weaning off of my Lithium due to all of the side effects I am dealing with. I included them here as parts of my day since this is happening now. This is where it becomes complex. This is basically my current daily schedule:

  • Wake up
  • Hands tremble (side effect)
  • Exercise
  • Eat breakfast
  • Take morning meds
  • Take a walk
  • Feel off balance (side effect)
  • Try to decide what to do
  • Stomach ache (side effect)
  • Feel sad
  • Continue online art class
  • Feel tired (side effect)
  • Feel extremely thirsty (side effect)
  • Sit and watch TV
  • Hands tremble (side effect)
  • Ruminate over thoughts
  • Eat lunch with husband and daughter
  • Watch TV
  • Feel anxious about having so much time
  • Stomach ache (side effect)
  • Feel anxious about any feelings I’m feeling: bordering on hypomania and/or depression (yes, you can feel both at the same time or within minutes of each other)
  • Take walk with husband and daughter or alone
  • Have Zoom therapy session (right now, 5 days/week, usually 4 days/week)
  • Feel sad: not able to see therapist in person
  • Feel extremely thirsty (side effect)
  • Get dinner ready
  • Feel overwhelmed
  • Feel sad
  • Eat dinner with husband and daughter
  • Play Xbox with daughter or watch TV and do mandala coloring
  • Stomach ache (side effect)
  • Put daughter to bed
  • Feel exhausted
  • Take night meds
  • Binge-watch TV shows with husband
  • Stomach ache (side effect)
  • Go to bed and worry about next day, cry

Time is no one’s friend. Too much time plus being in the midst of an episode of mental illness is exhausting. Living through a pandemic, a virus that is easily spread, that requires everyone to stay home, while being in the midst of a mixed episode of depression and hypomania is paralyzing and incapacitating. There are consequences for everyone with mental illness living through this pandemic. The psychological consequence, for me, of not being well during a literal and figurative lockdown is that of defeat.

It’s just another fucking day during a pandemic for someone fighting with her mental illness.

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