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?

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.

Hitting Rock Bottom in the Days of Covid-19

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.