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.
I believe in my personal journey through bipolar illness that I hit rock bottom about in 2008. This does not mean I have not had issues with my health during this time – to the contrary. But in large part I have been therapeutic on my meds during this time with adjustments here and there. I believe that mental illness recovery requires a hitting of rock bottom much as addictions do. I don’t know if others with mental illness agree with that premise. If you do, please keep reading.
While my regular mental health rock bottom may have been in 2008, during these days of covid-19 a new rock bottom may be needed for myself. I am not talking about those folks who have loved ones taken by this terrible disease. I cannot even begin to speak to that loss. The grieving of others hit hard so hard by this pandemic with deaths is not what I am getting at. What I am trying to express is that the every day person (not with loved ones lost) with every day concerns may need to hit a rock bottom with covid-19 before coming out of it less anxious, less isolated, less depressed, less alone.
What does that rock bottom look like for me? I am not completely sure. Much of it requires me to be honest how I am feeling from day to day. I have been feeling more depressed that usual and I am tying to be honest with myself about that. This honesty is slowly allowing me to come back on the other side of my depression to a more balanced position. I have not yet gotten a great schedule together to orient my days. This is under development but not 100% there. I am trying to reach out to my elderly Mom once a day to chat since social distancing keeps us apart. I am trying to be honest with my psyche doctor and my therapist where I am with my health. I have raised my meds by a slight degree in order to combat the depression. I am trying to have as much meaningful dialogue and contact with my daughter who is 16 and my husband. This includes watching our favorite TV show after dinner and maybe playing a board game. On the non-mental health side of things, I am keeping a temperature log for myself and my family every day and insisting everyone drink lots of water and get a little exercise.
Also, I am trying to be forgiving of myself if there are times that I just can’t get it together to get something done off my todo list. Or if I am a little late in getting something done. I try to count my accomplishments for the day (baby steps mostly) with forgiveness of self in mind.
I am not certain if I am about to hit rock bottom with covid-19 era depression and anxiety, but I believe I am close. Does any body else think rock bottom for mental illness/mental health is relevant in the time of covid-19? If so, how are you doing with that? Well I hope.