Present Day, April 3rd, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 6

It had been scheduled weeks ago. Maybe months. I do not really remember. Just like the plans of so many others. A Spring Break get-away. For us, one of the family favorite activities: camping. Reservations in place. A great break in the weather. Three days away from “it all.”

Then, as it has for everyone, everything changed. Not actually until the last minute for us. It was just last night that the governor closed the state park campgrounds for overnight stays. We almost made it. Nevertheless, the order came down, the campgrounds were closed, and vacation plans had to be altered. It is just the new normal.

In this case, for this time, it meant pulling the camper into the yard and setting it up for a staycation. Same dinner, just cooked inside and then eaten outside on camping chairs. Same games of ladder ball. And for my wife and the girls, the same sleeping accommodations. I just cannot be this close to my bed and pass up the opportunity to sleep in it.

You really have to go with the flow during this time. That is not my specialty. I am easily derailed and frustrated. I am trying to be less rushed and more patient. Trying.

I took our dog for a walk this afternoon. The usual route that I typically hope to navigate in about 35 to 45 minutes time. I took a different approach today. It was sunny and mid-60s outside. So I just let the pooch set the pace. She tends to stop and sniff…a lot. Normally I give a tug on the leash and encourage her to keep moving. Not today. Today I just let her sniff. I kept telling myself, “What’s the hurry?” “What do you have to get back to?” “What else do you have to do?” The end result was a walk that took about an hour, and still get me home in plenty of time for…well, nothing.

Truth be told, I continue to struggle. Struggle with depression. Struggle with anxiety. Struggle with getting my head around this whole situation we are in. The old saying says “One day at a time”, but I cannot think of another time in my life that I was living more hour to hour. Activity to activity. Just trying to pass time, make it to the next activity, complete another day.

It is terrible thinking that there are months of this still to come. And that even with that, literally hundreds of people may die! How are we not supposed to be afraid? How are we supposed to “feel” healthy or normal? How is someone with a mental illness supposed to manage their condition in the midst of this?

The family is in the backyard cooking s’mores. I should just join them and act like everything is okay. At least for tonight. At least for the next few hours of this staycation. But that is so hard for me. I just want to meltdown and scream. I just want to crawl into bed and weep. I just want to find a new way to get away from “it all”.

Present Day, April 2nd, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 5

Today I got an unexpected call. It came from my place of employment. Or is it former employment. Really not sure how I am supposed to look at it. Nevertheless, they were calling to let me know they were ready for me to come back. One week from tomorrow, they would like me to return to work. Full-time. Permanently.

I was really quite surprised for a few reasons. One, we are not life-sustaining or essential as a business per the governor of our state’s guidelines. So I have been surprised we are still open and operating, to begin with. Two, I figured when I was furloughed it would likely match up with the rest of the state’s shutdowns and would last for quite some time, not just two weeks. Three, they furloughed a number of us and I guessed I would be one of the last ones called back. However, it looks like I am one of the first, and that they are going to be furloughing more people even after I return. What sense does that make?

Of course, a huge question to wrestle with at this point is how do I feel about all this. First, there is my personal safety and the wellbeing of my family. When I was furloughed, the workplace was not doing a good job of social distancing, wearing masks, disinfecting and all the other measures that are supposed to be a part of keeping this thing from spreading. I am not comfortable exposing myself to that environment again, but I do not know if I have the option of just saying “No” and still retaining my job down the line.

Second…well, hell, I do not know if there is a second, third, fourth or whatever. There is just a huge question mark of uncertainty over this. It is not a job I enjoy. In fact, my time there has compounded my depression at times and made my journey with my mental illness even more challenging. I have been looking for work for more than a year, but just cannot land anything outside of this. And of course, now is not exactly the prime time to be interviewing for a job.

On the other hand, I have not adjusted well to the time allotted me being home all day. I do not think my presence is helpful to the family, nor am I finding mental health in the small semblance of a routine that I have tried to establish. So if I manage to stay healthy, maybe getting back in the flow of a regular work routine is all for the best.

It is the proverbial rock and a hard place. I know returning to work is a great concern for my wife and my children. They reasonably see us in a pandemic and figure the prudent course of action is the safe course of action that is staying home. On the other hand, coming out of this without permanent employment is a highly daunting proposition in and of itself.

I have some time on my hands between now and then, and really need to brainstorm any questions or concerns I might have related to returning to work. It does seem reasonable for them to have to provide me a basic assurance of safety…at least, as much assurance as can be provided during this time.

Then again, if there is anything that we are learning right now it is that nothing is assured.

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.