Present Day, April 21st, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 18

I feel like I have no voice. Not that it has been taken from me, or there is a direct attempt to stifle me. Just that it is all being said. A hundred times over. Ad nauseam.

Take mental health for example. Now, during a pandemic, everyone is supposed to be taking steps to protect their mental health. Emails, blog postings, websites, from local newspapers to CNN.com there is no place you will turn where you will not run into a message on how to maintain your mental health. And they all largely say the same things. They all largely say the same things that those of us with mental health issues hear on a regular basis during “normal” times. Limit news exposure, practice mindfulness, get enough sleep, do not forget to exercise…you have seen the lists.

So why say it again?

And let’s face it. Unless I myself, or someone I know actually gets sick, there is very little news to communicate. Days are pretty much the same from one day to the next. It is like living the movie Groundhog Day and attempting to stay ahead of the day by making slight modifications that will change the outcome. Sometimes the day ends differently, but then the alarm goes off the next morning and we are right back where we started.

This past week they announced seven benchmarks that will determine when my state will reopen the economy. As my workplace has never indicated that I was furloughed or they largely ceased operation as a non-essential business, I do not even know if these benchmarks apply to my return. One of them is fourteen days straight of decreasing cases reported. We are on day one. Does that mean I am guaranteed at least two more weeks of furlough? I have no idea. Uncertainty remains constant. At least fourteen more Groundhog Days.

Yesterday they announced that our schools will not be reconvening during this school year. They will finish the year out with NTI (non-traditional instruction). Groundhog Day through May 27th. A slight modification to the day, leaving us right back where we started when the alarm went off this morning.

Today we will go for an afternoon hike. A modification to the day. And we will celebrate Taco Tuesday! And when the alarm goes off tomorrow? We will be right back where we started. Groundhog Day.

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, 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!