Labor Day weekend (in the States) and covid-19 protocols

It has been in the news that we saw a spike of covid-19 cases after Memorial Day and July 4th holidays in the US. This is a plea (probably preaching to the choir) to wear face masks, keep socially distant and wash hands a lot this Labor Day weekend. (For folks who don’t know Labor Day on Monday September 7th is a US holiday.)

These precautions are not things to do because we are told to do them. They are things to do because we respect the lives of those around us and request they do the same for us.

What do Fall and December Holidays look like this year?

From where I sit, it is looking like Fall / Thanksgiving and December / Christmas Holidays will be experienced at home without visiting out-of-state family. It is a two-day drive to get to see the in-laws. There is staying in a hotel on the road and then exposure to everyone in our extended family. I just can’t see that happening with covid-19 lurking about.

What are other people planning for fall and winter breaks?

One home project at a time

Since the end of July / beginning of August and largely due to covid-19, I have been embarking on a prioritized home project every week to ten days. It feels good to accomplish projects with a beginning, a middle and an end. I can check them off my list which is great. I can also enjoy the added sense of new homey touches for home enjoyment and decluttering our living spaces.

At first it was being sure my daughter had a good place to do her remote learning. We set up an existing table as a desk for her, got a new rug, added a new pillow, and cleared the room of most of the clutter. Another project was sprucing up the back porch by adding two new jade plants. An additional project was adding two new plants to my daughter’s room – a peace plant and a pothos or fast-growing climber. Another more costly project was getting a new dining room rug since we will soon be inheriting a new dining room table from my mother who is downsizing to go into a facility for the elderly. This took a lot of work and some not so subtle swearing from my husband and me to get centered into the dining room. In addition, I have been cutting the back and front yard every week to ten days this summer and attending to flowers out front of the house. The outside of the house looks nice. It is looking nicer with each project completed inside as well.

For the most part these projects have not been too expensive. Going to discount stores for pillows and decorative accents and to Home Depot for plants helps with the price side of the equation for sprucing up the home. A new plant or a candle can do great things to brighten up your living room or other area where you spend a lot of time.

In addition to home projects, I like to check off my list the regular weekly chores as projects as well. This includes things like grocery shopping, watering plants, vacuuming the downstairs, cleaning the bathrooms, paying bills, getting a pescatarian meal on the table each day, doing the laundry, and other regular maintenance activities. I feel I need to give myself credit for those tasks as well even though they are more maintenance and less of home projects. There are times when I don’t feel motivated to take on a new home project so I have to give myself credit for getting maintenance work done during those times. It is nice that my husband thanks me when I am doing these chores and that he is aware of those contributions.

Other home projects on the horizon include: getting mums for the fall for the front porch to replace the current flowers, getting the dining room table from my Mom, putting down a new living room rug from my Mom, organizing my closet, organizing the kitchen towels and napkins and place mats, etc. I hope to get a further list together in the next few weeks.

Overall, I have to say that having home projects and regular maintenance projects to do is one way of combatting cabin fever due to covid-19. They give purpose to the day and they end up making the home a more comfortable place to be. And that is important because at home is where we need to be now and for the foreseeable future.

What is your take on home projects during covid? Are you in maintenance mode with weekly chores which is still a fantastic accomplishment! ? Or can you tackle a small home improvement project here and there? Not on the scale of official remodeling but more along the lines of decluttering a family space or adding a new touch of color with a candle or a plant or some such small gesture?

I just had a three-hour talk with my best friend…

My best friend and I talked on the porch with masks and social distancing for the last almost three hours. She is the type of friend who you cannot see for 6 months and then pick up and connect just where you left off last.

It was wonderful to know more about how she’s been doing and helpful to feel that I might be of help just listening to some of the things that have been occupying her life — like caring for her teenage son who has had some mental concerns and being a teacher in this time of distance learning and covid-19. The teachers right now in the States are having a time of it.

Talking also helped me put my own problems into better perspective. The challenges of my life seem to largely revolve around my anxiety even when the actual problems themselves are not that dire. Talking to my friend helped me gain some insight into my own peculiar need to always have something to worry about when that is not necessarily helpful or needed.

My friend is also an avid exercise person. I gave her permission to get on my case for not exercising on a regular basis. I asked her to reach out to her son and to her ex-husband and let them know that she respects the work they are putting in daily to overcome anxiety and other related challenges.

Once again, I am reminded how thankful I am for the relationships in my life. It makes me want to invest more time in developing more meaningful relationships across the board. Even when the conversation moves to serious topics, it is good to know we are not alone and that we can do our best to put on each others’ shoes and walk a mile or two.

Anybody Experiencing Memory Loss (revisited)?

This original blog post on memory loss and mental illness posted almost 2 weeks ago has had the most traffic of any of my posts: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/mental-health-is-health.com/473

For that reason I am revisiting it. With this update, I am trying to understand when people experience memory loss, what kind of memory loss it is and how long it lasts.

  1. Are your memory issues associated with certain episodes of mental illness, meaning they just occur when you are in a depressive state or manic state or the equivalent for you?
  2. Do these memory issues linger after the episode is complete?
  3. In other words is your memory loss temporary during the episode or does the memory loss remain after the episode is complete?
  4. Are you more likely to experience short-term memory impacts or longer term memory impacts?
  5. What coping mechanisms like writing notes, leaving reminders on your phone have you adopted to help manage the memory loss?
  6. Do these mechanisms help you manage the memory loss?
  7. Would you say the memory loss is mild, moderate or significant?
  8. Have you talked this through with your care team / doctor / therapist?
  9. Do you believe the memory loss is a function of the mental illness or the medication or both?
  10. Do you feel covid-19 is a factor in your memory loss?

My memory loss issues are largely short-term — where did I put the car keys or the phone? I also might forget going to a certain restaurant a month or two ago. My memory issues tend to exist during and after episodes and are not episode-specific. The memory loss is there whether I am showing signs of bipolar break-through symptoms or not but are worse for example when my anxiety is high. So far, I have not taken this up with my therapist and my doctor since the problem has been on the mild side. But since the memory issues may be getting more prominent I will likely share with my therapist and my doctor at my next appointments. I am not sure whether the memory loss is medication-specific or illness-specific. I use notes and to-do lists all the time to help manage as well as a few reminders on my phone. I use a hand-written calendar to track appointments and dates. I also use my online calendar to manage appointments as well. I have a bulletin board set up in the kitchen as well to post things that need my attention in the short-term or mostly in the long term. I would say covid-19 is a huge impact since all the days do run together one to the next.

Thanks for sharing your insights on memory loss as you are able.

If you had a wish list for your mental health, what would it look like?

Here goes nothing….

  1. I wish for psyche meds to be 100% therapeutic 100% of the time.
  2. I wish for no side effects to meds like drowsiness or weight gain or Type II Diabetes.
  3. I wish to recover all those times when I was emotionally inaccessible to those closest to me due to my bipolar illness condition – this is mostly having to do with family and definitely has to do with my daughter.
  4. I wish for my bipolar condition not to be genetically an issue for my daughter.
  5. I wish to undo any harm / make amends for any harm I have brought to people because of or during my bipolar condition.
  6. I wish for the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction in society to magically disappear.
  7. I wish for the United States to have a healthcare plan that covers everybody at a reasonable cost including pre-existing conditions and including mental health and addiction benefits.
  8. I wish for the covid-19 virus to become a thing of the past as quickly as possible since it has so many emotional components that impact my mental health and the mental health of others.
  9. I wish for a covid-19 vaccine in the next 4 to 6 weeks or better yet now.
  10. I wish for a support team for anyone experiencing any sort of mental health or addiction diagnosis / symptoms and that that support team is always there for you.
  11. I wish for everyone with mental illness or addiction issues to never feel alone or never feel separate from the rest of the world.
  12. I wish the world to embrace and include all people no matter what their diagnosis, skin color, religion, etc.
  13. I wish I could return to the weight I was when I married or close to it…..

What would your wish list look like?

Anybody Experiencing Memory Loss?

This is a question for folks who have a mood disorder including bipolar illness. For the last several years I have been experiencing mild to moderate memory issues. I have chalked it up to strong psyche meds and basically have not worried about it much. What is the most difficult is that sometimes I forget where I put things. It seems worse for short-term items than long-term items and so far is manageable. It seems worse in the age of covid-19 than before March 2020.

I am wondering if memory issues typically accompany mood disorders including bipolar illness? Not big things like forgetting family names and places but where I put the phone or the keys. So far, I have chalked this up to too much brain function due to the bipolar and too much time at home due to covid-19.

Has anyone with mood issues noticed short-term memory impacts? Thanks in advance for sharing.

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Family Then (part two)

As an additional exception to the “normal life” rule, my stepmother and my father died respectively in 1988 and 1989 of cancer.  I did not have the opportunity to work through the bipolar illness with them as their deaths were within a few years of my diagnosis.  I remember feeling secure in the fact that I was able to survive my father’s illness and death without a major hospitalization or illness breakthrough. 

On the other hand, my mother and step-dad were quite present in my life from 1985 forward.  Over the next 30 years until my stepfather’s death in the spring of 2013, I would continue to develop relationships with each of them as individuals and with both of them together as parents.  Granted, they did not always know what to do to help me through my bipolar episodes.  Quite frankly, no one did.  But they never stopped trying both as a couple and as individuals.  In any case, I always felt loved if not understood. 

My sister Jane in particular was a huge help during the early years of my illness and always provided an open door for me when I was ill.  This was when I was in my mini-break period from about 1988 to 1995 and stayed with her and her family for 3 to 7 days at a time about twice a year.  This time with care in a family environment gave me the confidence to begin to seize control of my illness outside of a hospital environment but still taking meds.  

Later throughout the difficulties of the postpartum period and forward, my Mom and Step-Dad played an integral role in supporting me through my illness.  After two years into my daughter’s birth, my parents moved back to Augusta to be present in her life.  Weekly dinners together helped form bonds that were stronger than the bipolar illness itself.  My relationship with my Mom grew and grew as she became more involved as a grandmother and I had the opportunity to witness the development of that relationship.  Since the death of my step-father seven years ago, we continue to get together with my Mom on a weekly basis, sometimes more often.  Covid-19 has changed this frequency some – so we talk by phone at least once a day.

My three most popular posts

My three most popular posts so far since March 2020 have less to do with mental health and mental health symptoms than they do with talking about the general well-being of, well, everybody. Folks have liked a list of suggested things to do on a rainy day. Folks have liked the observation that amidst all this staying at home, the air and water quality may ironically be getting better. This is a small silver lining to the tremendous pain and suffering of covid-19. Folks have liked the idea that those of us with clinical depression or clinical anxiety may be able to help those experiencing these same issues situationally specific to covid-19 by simply telling our stories.

So what are we saying in all this? Is there a pattern? Do we want our sympathy and our empathy to extend to all folks who struggle not just those folks who have clinical diagnoses? Do we want posts that take us away from our own mental health predicaments and lead us to think about the greater good? Do we want posts that encourage us to do things that make us and those around us feel good simultaneously?

To me, what all this is saying (in my opinion) is that as people with mental health challenges (and diagnoses) we want to reach out to others and to our better selves more than we want to isolate. And for many of us, including me, that is simply a big deal – a very big deal.

Do you have posts with a lot more traffic than others? Do you see any patterns in what people “like” or like to “view”?

This has come up today

This has come up today in reviewing and updating comments from an earlier post of mine. It has been suggested that people who are accustomed to mental health and behavioral health issues may be able to empathize not just sympathize with people who are experiencing depression and anxiety for the first time due to covid-19.

Therefore mental health “veterans” like us may be able to help others in some small way. I am very curious to hear what those of us who are familiar with depression or anxiety might say to those who are first encountering symptoms due to covid-19 – likely situational depression and anxiety and uncertainty. These folks may not have clinical depression or clinical anxiety but that does not diminish the impact of what they are experiencing.

What might that look like if we were to reach out to those who are not familiar with or are new to depression or anxiety or uncertainty of all kinds?