Present Day, April 1st, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 4

Today was my first “teletherapy”. Having been about a month since my last therapy appointment, and with no face-to-face therapy in sight for the foreseeable future, it was time to bite the bullet and delve into the world of technological therapy. I suppose this can take on a number of different appearances. For me, it was entering a video chat room similar to Zoom but through a physician certified site for confidentiality purposes. Both my therapist and I were on webcams, so there was visual to go along with the audio.

It felt awkward, but it should be known that for me therapy always feels awkward. It always feels like I am supposed to have some more specific agenda than surviving my mental illness when that is typically the only agenda I arrive with. It is also practically by definition a time in which I am supposed to share my feelings. This is something I am not good at, am not comfortable with, and rarely know how to even put into words.

Most of today’s session focused on the general lack of motivation I have to do anything during this time. Literally…anything. I have about the first two or three hours of the day down. I have set a time limit of 8 o’clock to be out of bed on the weekdays. Otherwise, I could easily sleep and/or lie there until noon. I either exercise first thing or have my coffee first thing. Whichever the case, Coffee, waking up, exercise, showering, checking up on the latest news and social media updates, and a household chore or such tend to get me up to about 10 a.m.

Aside from that, I have got nothing. I know there are household projects to be working on. I know there are things I could clean. I know I have a hobby I enjoy working on. Hell, even on the relaxation side there are movies I have been wanting to watch and books that I could read. But I am pretty much uninspired and paralyzed. So we talked about setting out a daily plan and trying to find the motivation to stick to it. That’s just the thing. I have no idea where this motivation is supposed to come from.

I have not found this to be an unusual challenge in my bipolar journey. It really should not be all that surprising. This is a mental illness that often lacks the desire to even be alive, let alone being productive with that life. Baby steps literally can be great accomplishments.

Take today for instance. I had set out to take a bike ride as my form of exercise. I put it off for about four hours hoping the weather would warm-up and the sun would come out. Finally, it reached the time where it was going to happen, or it was not. So I set out. A baby step. But it was a pitiful effort. Oh, I climbed the hills I intended to climb and accomplished the route I intended to accomplish but I could have ridden so much harder. But I didn’t. In fact, at one point I almost broke down in tears and had to stop. Just feeling so overwhelmed. So helpless. So hopeless.

There were other things on my agenda for today that I accomplished. All of them in fact. And yet still so much time spent just feeling lost. Unmotivated. Uninspired.

I’ll try again tomorrow. A new agenda. A new list. A new attempt to find the motivation to get out of bed, get active and get productive. It will be a struggle. Not just for me, but for so many others. A struggle we have to face one little step at a time.

Present Day, March 31st, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 3

The weather has been in our favor. Right up to today. Today the temperatures have dropped 20 to 30 degrees, and the rain has moved in. I had actually been doing a pretty good job of getting outside and getting some fresh air. Not so much today. Things are more gloomy. Things are more homebound. Things are more challenging.

But nothing like what my daughter is experiencing. My daughter is really my greatest concern at this point in my life. That is because she is a senior at NYU. As in New York University. She lives in Brooklyn and is pretty much locked up like the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, she is in many ways all alone. Hundreds of miles from home. Maybe not what she considers home anymore at 21 years of age, but what I still consider her home. And now she is trapped in the epicenter of it all.

She is smart and cautious. So I do not have to worry about that. In fact, she has not left her apartment for about five days now. No stepping outside. No fresh air for her. Totally penned up. Groceries are delivered, and needs are taken care of…for now. All of her classes have gone to remote learning, giving her something to work on and occupy her mind. At the same time, all of her classes have gone remote giving her something to mourn the loss of. Per her own words, her classes were not designed to be handled on-line. They are seminar-based classes and she misses seeing the other students and professors for interaction. She misses dreaming of a graduation that has been postponed (which may just be a fancy word for canceled). She misses the excitement of four years of college culminating in a family celebration that she has now been robbed of. In other words, she has plenty of unhealthy things to occupy her mind.

Meanwhile, I have my fears. They may not be rational, but they are real. I read the headlines, though I keep myself from reading too many of them, and read about the situation in her very city. In fact, the situation in her very hospital. It is not good. As long as she stays locked up and healthy, everything is fine. Yet if she somehow contracts this virus, things could go downhill fast. And that worries me. That gets my racing mind going. What if she is sick and all alone? What if she does not know when to get help? What if she does not get help in time?

It is a terrible thought to think of your child dying. Even worse to think of a child dying at such a young age. Even worse to think of a child dying in a hospital hallway all alone. Or on a ventilator. Or in an apartment. All incredibly morbid thoughts, but all thoughts that find their way into my somewhat paranoid cranium.

It is part of mental illness at a time like this. Part of the bipolar mind. It exasperates the worst of emotions. The fear. The fatalistic thoughts. The restlessness. Feelings of worry. And of course, all of these things lead to irritability, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, change in eating habits, and more.

So I struggle on. Hoping that she will be alright. Hoping that she will stay patient and stay smart. Hoping that this insidious disease will pass her door.

Present Day, March 30th, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 2

Today is our day! It is World Bipolar Day!!!

I may sound enthusiastic about that, but the reality is that I had no idea it was until about 4:45 this afternoon. That is when it popped up in my Instagram feed and I discovered that there even was such a thing. The link above (by clicking on “World Bipolar Day”) will do it more justice than I ever could. However, it is nice to know there is a day set aside for recognizing the reality of this illness and receiving encouragement in the battle.

Instead of reading my ramblings, take a few moments to click over to BPHope.com, and find some true inspiration. And of course, stay safe and stay home.

Present Day, March 29th, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 1B

Today started and ended the same way: a long walk with the dog. Time to think. Time to sort through thoughts. Time to try and still the mind.

However, not a lot in between. I can really struggle with motivation when I have a considerable amount of time on my hands, and I fear this furlough will not be any different.

To be honest about things, I am really quite depressed. Today the President announced a recommendation that current social distancing suggestions remain in place until April 30th. This was not so much of a surprise as a reality check. I have known that this is going to be a longer rather than shorter ordeal. But when it is put in formal terms, it can really cause it to set in with more weight and disturbance. That is an entire month more, with no guarantees that it will be the end. That is a lot of dog walks. A lot of time to think. A lot of time to try and still the mind.

One of the things I will need to sort out is one of the three keys to my mental health. Since returning from my breakdown and hospitalization I have attributed proper sleep, taking my meds, and therapy as three essentials to keeping the ship on an even keel. I currently have more than enough time available for proper sleep, have everything in line for the foreseeable future on medication refills, but have seen my relationship with my therapist fall off the map.  My latest appointment that was scheduled for yesterday was cancelled, and rescheduled for late April. That will have been almost 10 weeks between appointments. If that one is even maintained.

I am not sure if on-line appointments are an option he is offering. I kind of hoped he would be getting in touch with his clients and offering some insight into options for continuing regular therapy, but that has not happened. I am not much of an initiator, but it looks like I will have to be in this instance. And I am not sure I am even comfortable with the idea of virtual therapy, or remote therapy, or whatever the proper label for that would be. It is hard enough for me to talk in an office environment, I think my struggle would be compounded in some of these other platforms. Not to mention there is no way to clear the house, and I would be very self-conscious of others listening in. So yes, I have all kinds of excuses lined up to keep me from pursuing this, even though I know I need to.

Anyway, I know this is not inspirational or entertaining, but it is kind of where I am at this evening. Just in sort of a “blah” place of being. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe I will be more productive and inspired. Or maybe I am in for a very long April.

 

Present Day, March 28th, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 1A

It does not seem right to refer to this as furlough Day 2. It is Saturday. So I would not be going to work even if I had a job to go to. So we will call it day 1A. Tomorrow day 1B. Then back to the count on Monday.

Spring in my hometown is a bit of a weather roller coaster. Temperatures from day-to-day can vary by as much as 30 or more degrees making you unsure of what time of year you are truly experiencing. However, the past two days have definitely been spring. Mid-70s for highs. Sleeping with the windows open at night thanks to seasonably warm lows. Which makes for good opportunities to get out and enjoy some sunshine. Especially since snow is in the forecast for next week. I told you things could vary!

Today we, the housebound family, decided to go out for a hike. We took about a 30-minute drive to one of our traditional hiking spots, one of the few still open to the public in the midst of this chaos. It was reasonably crowded, as was to be expected, but maintaining our social distancing was not an issue as we would simply step off the trail to let others pass or the same courtesy was extended to us. Unbeknownst to us, there is a new parking lot for this trail. We parked at our usual spot unaware of the new lot. This would subsequently become a problem.

As we passed the midway point of our hike and made the turn for home, we discovered that there were new signs along the trail that referenced the direction to the parking lot. Of course, unaware that there is a new parking lot, we simply took it as new signage routing us through a new trail back to our old lot. Well, that’s what we thought for about 30 to 45 minutes. That is about how long it took us to become fairly convinced and conduct our own GPS check to realize that we were not heading anywhere near our lot. At this point, the options were pretty simple. Either double back the way we came or use our GPS to navigate ourselves to a place that we thought would likely be our parking lot. So off we set through the overgrowth and trees in hopes of finding our way back home.

My wife directed this entire part of our adventure. I simply tried to remain calm, quiet, and not become a stressor in the midst of a stressful situation. At one point we all had to climb through a barbed-wire fence, which was really no problem for anyone other than my fat self. And in the end, we might have picked up a tick or two. Other than that, we were none the worse for wear. Some extra hiking. Some extra time. Some extra sweat.

All-in-all, the pace of Covid-19 life suits me. There is no reason to get into a hurry because all we are all doing is heading back home anyway. Time is in abundance. As long as I can occupy my mind and keep it from racing away, this is how I prefer to live. Slow and steady. No rush. No urgency.

As long as I have to be furloughed…which I am…then I want to enjoy the pace. I know it cannot stay this way forever. But at least for now, it is a chance to find a place of peace. A place of ease. A place of comfort. A place that I have often dreamed of, and now seem to be living in.

Present Day, March 27th, 2020

 

FURLOUGH – day 1

Yesterday my workplace presented me with a furlough letter. I was officially laid off. Another financial victim of Covid-19. The company hopes to bring us all back and hopes that happens in three or so weeks. Time will tell. I think that is quite optimistic, but I am fairly heavy on the pessimistic side of the teeter-totter, so that is not saying much. 

For the immediate future what that means is that I have time on my hands. Like an amount which I have not had in quite a long time. This morning I woke up, did an exercise video, enjoyed a cup of coffee, tackled a couple of home projects, filed for unemployment, showered, and realized it was barely 10 a.m. I need goals. Daily goals. Maybe getting back to blogging should be one of those. It seems to be worth a try anyway, though I hardly remember how to do this. If it is supposed to be like riding a bike…I’m pretty sure I’m about to crash. 

As one might guess, a pandemic is difficult for everyone. And not to act like we are somehow more special than the rest of the world, but this is only exponentially compounded for people with mental illness. It is one thing to have the concerns of a disease (Coronavirus…not the Bipolar), but then on top of that, you have the concerns of a disease (Bipolar…not the Coronavirus). It is like having cancer, and then getting the flu. And if you do not think so, it is just because you are likely one of those who have yet to grasp the correlation between mental illness and physical illnesses. Yes, it is a real thing. 

I do not know where you live, but my state is currently a “stay-at-home” state. Probably would have shut down my place of employment in the immediate future anyway. At least this way I have access to income assistance. Such an order is in and of itself not totally devastating as I am not the most social of beings to begin with. Though that was a part of my 2020 goals that I was working fairly aggressively on. Well, aggressively for me. I do already miss my bi-weekly coffee gatherings with my best friend, and might even find myself missing the banter of the office before too long. 

I will not unload all of my stressors and concerns in this initial post, but I have a daughter living all alone in one of the epicenters of this whole thing. A son who lives with his girlfriend in another city. Of course I worry about them. I have a wife and two step-daughters joining me in this house for our “stay-at-home” experiment, and I think all three of them are concerned that I’m the wild card in this whole thing. A legitimate concern. Hell, I’m pretty sure that I’m the wild card in this whole thing. 

So here is what this will and will not be. It will continue to be what it has always been…a look inside the mind of someone struggling with bipolar in the midst of day-to-day life. Granted, a day-to-day life which has been radically altered over the past few days and weeks. It will not be an update on Covid-19 (well…unless I actually come down with it). There are more reliable places to obtain information on that and you are probably overloaded with it anyway. However, if you struggle with a mental illness or know someone who does, you may find this insightful. 
 
If nothing else, what else do you have to do? It seems like we all have plenty of time on our hands!
 

Present Day, March 13th, 2019

Last night I attended a Munford and Sons concert with my wife. The tickets were a Christmas/Birthday gift that I had anticipated enjoying for almost three months. The concert far exceeded my expectations, and that is saying a lot. At today’s ticket prices, I set the bar very high. However, the point of this post is not a concert review, so I’ll get to the point.

I cried. A lot. Pretty much from the moment they entered the arena to the crashing crescendo of applause until the final exit. Not an all-out bawling. Just a steady welling of tears and overflowing down my cheeks.

There are a number of reasons for this. One of which relates to the aforementioned applause. But that is an explanation for another post on another day. I promise to get back to it soon.

In a collective sense, the tears were generated by the reality and presence of music. Music has always played an important part in my life. It was prominent in my childhood as my mom taught myself and all my siblings piano. We were each expected to try another instrument as well, and I choose the trumpet. I was moderately successful through high school and into college (and greatly enjoyed the horns incorporated into Munford’s music!).

The tradition continues to build today as my son just completed his Master’s recital in classical guitar, one daughter just performed on the flute in a high school All-District Honor Band and the youngest continues to develop as a percussionist. So music stirs my emotions. It has a past and present in my life. It is an active piece of my life.

Then there are the lyrics. I know they are purposefully written to strike a personal note with us. But for me, Munford’s do on a very deep, emotional level. More so than ever would Kanye or Two Chains.

“I really fucked it up this time.” (Little Lion Man)

“I will wait, I will wait for you.” (I Will Wait)

“Cause even when there is no star in sight, you’ll always be my only guiding light.” (Guiding Light)

“This is never going to go our way, if I’m gonna have to guess what’s on your mind.” (Believe)

“I will hold on hope, and I won’t let you choke on that noose around your neck.” (The Cave)

These tie to my story. My personal story. Maybe in a way that is emotionally overstretched, but it is what it is. And that stirs a passion. A feeling. Something that expresses itself through tears.

Because crying is feeling. And I haven’t felt much in recent years. Everything has been so drugged and numbed. It has been so difficult to be stirred. Moved. To feel.

But last night everything was so alive. I cried a lot because I felt a lot. And feeling is life. And last night I loved being alive.