Mid-Morning Musings: The Desperate Need for Mental Health Awareness During a Worldwide Pandemic

Content Warning: Discussion of mental health, insanity, & COVID.

Happy Sunday morning, y’all. I just wanted to pop in briefly today and share a mental health update. Even though I’m an introvert, isolation has been taking a negative toll on my mind and emotions. I have certain routines that I practise as a form of self-care and due to the chaos of this pandemic, I haven’t been able to do any of them. What brings me a small sense of comfort is knowing that I’m not alone with my despair and during difficult times, such as these, leaning on one another can be the greatest of coping methods. Luckily, I’ve met a couple of people through the blogging sphere who’ve become dear friends that have been helping me maintain my sanity. My gratitude for them is almost as big as my love of Kheb.

Over the last two weeks, things took somewhat of a negative turn for me. In past Self-Care Sunday posts I’ve chatted about how undergoing extreme stress can sometimes make me check out of reality. My brain escapes into a space that is unique and safe for me, but it’s also a delusion. It’s not healthy, even if it’s a coping technique, and depending on when my brain decides to go into these “Safe Spaces,” it can also be dangerous. There were recent incidents where my brain sort of took over and naturally transitioned into these realms while I was driving. When I finally escaped, I was left feeling wholly anxious, terrified, and very confused. This is just one example of the ways that my mental conditions are manifesting lately.

Now, writing this out and sharing this is an extremely vulnerable act on my part. I had an excruciatingly difficult time admitting that this occurred to my best friend, Madame Gabs, who is also my caretaker. I never know how people are going to treat me if they learn the various sorts of mental disorders that I have. For some reason, it’s a stigma to have depression or other conditions. People lose respect for you and they start to treat you like a fragile and delicate thing that can break easily. Delusional schizophrenia, which is one of my conditions, is one that has received some of the most toxic and harmful viewpoints out there by people who are able-minded. Even so, I have never hidden or shied away from who I am on BiblioNyan and I’m not going to start doing it now, even if I am pretty fucking anxious about it. I shouldn’t be ashamed of my mental health and I’m not going to be ashamed of what’s happening to me because of it.

I think it’s extremely easy for some people to talk about how all of the focus needs to be on fighting this pandemic, and I completely agree. It is supremely vital to find a vaccine for COVID as well as a means to try and slowly transition things back to normal when it’s safe to do so. But we also can’t forget that there is an emotional and mental element to a pandemic. There are people out there who because of self-isolation and quarantine are having their pre-existing conditions being exasperated, physical and psychological. For me, it’s working to speed up the deterioration of my mental capacities and that is something that is so beyond frightening and frustrating that I probably can’t properly express it in words.

I always knew that my mental faculties would slowly degrade over time as I got older. I’ve visited many psychologists and psychiatrists who have all said this, but I certainly didn’t expect certain aspects of that deterioration to start manifesting this soon. When I experienced these symptoms for the first time, I shrivelled up into a corner in my bed and just stayed there for a few days. I also refused to drive my car, particularly alone, because I didn’t want to take the chance that I may hurt myself or others. While I’m not ashamed of what is happening, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t being affected at all.

My goal is to get my Bachelor’s degree and then move on to a Master’s either for Creative Writing (Fine Arts) or Asian Studies. If my mental fortitude starts to unravel, then I may not be able to successfully accomplish these aspirations that I have. For the last two to three days, I have been planning and re-planning my degree paths to compensate for the fact that I may not have as much time left on my plate as I originally anticipated. I also can’t go out there and get help via a psychologist or psychiatrist because a) I can’t fucking afford it with the way healthcare is set up in the United States and b) most professionals that is covered via my healthcare plan is either not seeing people (even virtually) due to COVID, or only seeing people if it’s related to COVID. You’d think that my case would be considered “related to COVID,” but it’s not. I have one more option to attempt with the hopes of getting counselling, however, I don’t have much hope.

I haven’t taken mind-altering drugs in years, which includes antidepressants and other things. It greatly impacts my ability to write, which is literally everything that I have. Being able to write means everything to me. I’ve wanted to be a published author since I was 6-years old. I’m 32 and that dream hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll be fucking damned if I give up now. Nonetheless, if I have to take mind-altering medication to help me get through this very trying time, then I’m willing to do it. I want to survive, and I want to be able to relish the things that mean the most to me. Like getting that first publishing gig or visiting Ireland and Scotland with Madame Gabs and screaming at the giant spiders in the castle. I want to visit Kyoto so I can pray in the original shrines and I want to go to Germany and get inspired to write some more because it’s such a gorgeous fucking country. I have languages I still want to learn and so many books to read. The idea of losing my ability to function on a psychological level is… as traumatising as it is tragic. And the thing that makes it worse is when everyone around me is telling me “to suck it up because at least you don’t have COVID.” Or they tell me “you just need sleep and to relax. Once you do that, you’ll be normal in no time.”

Fuck that. I don’t want to be normal, but having mental disorders isn’t about “sucking it up.” There are worse things out there than physical ailments and people need to stop belittling the fact that mental disorders are just as much of a medical issue as COVID or heart disease or cancer. Some would argue that it’s worse and that’s entirely a person-by-person thing. I’m not here to make that judgement. I’m only here to say that invalidating my illnesses because they’re inconceivable to some people or because they can’t be written off with neat little symptoms like coughing and bleeding doesn’t make them less real or less vital for treatment. It doesn’t make me less of a human being or person.

Taking that power back and being fierce in the face of the negativity and the hatred and the bigotry that people like me are faced with is how I combat my quarantine blues. In spite of everything that is going on, crawling out of bed (usually literally) and building a new blog, or preparing Master’s programme applications is how I combat the bitterness of self-isolation. Chatting with my mum about how her life is going and being able to hear her and my dad laugh and make jokes even though I know they are so sad underneath it all is how I combat the painful loneliness that eats away at me. Signing onto the computer and writing a thousand plus words about how my mind is falling apart because quarantine has taken my access to necessary self-care routines, which is further exasperated by people being fucking selfish in a time of death and suffering, and by owning the fact that mental health illnesses desperately need attention and treatment just as much as COVID during a time of pandemic and uncertainty is how I combat my impending insanity.

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7 thoughts on “Mid-Morning Musings: The Desperate Need for Mental Health Awareness During a Worldwide Pandemic

  1. Pingback: Self-Care Sunday: Sometimes You Just Have to Say “Fuck it.” | BiblioNyan

  2. I know I say it to you in person a lot but I am always here for you, and will support you the best I can to achieve all your dreams, however Kheb filled they may be. I hope you can reach out and grab everything you are wanting to get a hold of and when stuff gets in your way this girl has your back!

  3. You are always so brave, so honest, and so real. It is so vital for people like us to share what we deal with on a daily basis. Mental illness, as Crow points out, is just as real as any physical injury. And while that shattered arm is pretty sure to heal in a specific time frame, with mental illness all we are assured of is that it gets worse with age. Mine is different, but we do share that aspect. And I had a total meltdown myself yesterday, which is something I’ve been fighting off for weeks. There was one little added piece of stress and that was it. Shattered mind, stripped rollercoaster emotions.

    We have the additional stress to deal with of my husbands chronic illness which absolutely requires us to go to his dialysis treatments at a clinic three times a week. Which also entails riding public transit, although they have really made efforts here to changes trips so that you are the only person on the paratransit bus. And then sitting in a waiting room up to an hour with other sick people listening to CNN (or as I call it All Trump All The Time Channel) which makes me quite literally sick to my stomach and furiously agitated as the pumpkin head sits there and lies and lies and lies.

    Mental illness, like dialysis, doesn’t take a vacation because there’s a pandemic. I have seen a lot of advertising here of counselors offering telephone or Skype, but they all cost and if you’re on disability, that ain’t happening. Finally Friday I did see that one of our Health Services is offering free counseling, but I bet they are swamped.

    Because I am physically well, I have been going out to buy groceries and so on. Here in Las Vegas we have literally thousands of homeless people. However, I noticed immeidately on lock down that the numbers suddenly dropped on the street. I know there was at least one positive COVID case in a shelter, and I suspect they were all scooped up and put in what amounts to a big cattle pen in a parking lot that was set up to replace the closed shelters. Shameful as that is, it also seems that the only people not scooped up were those who are simply too mentally ill to deal with in confined spaces. People who are yelling and screaming and beating on things with big sticks – as I witnessed yesterday. Or standing and having screaming arguments with their reflection in a shop window. I can’t help but think, there but for the grace of the Goddess and my hubby, go I. I’m afraid for them – and sometimes also afraid of them. This country is cruel – no matter our outer public face – this system is extremely cruel to the ones who need help the most.

    One of my conditions is PTSD, which features immersive flashbacks. Which have happened when I was driving. I know that terror. The worst of them were during menopause, and now that is over with, I’m not quite as bothered with them. But I know that fear too well. So, I do want to share with you a method I was taught. I don’t know if it will also work on your disassociative state (I have had those, too) but for what it’s worth, here it is.

    To put yourself back into the present moment and the present reality catalog what you are experiencing RIGHT NOW through your senses. What is something you can see. What is something you can smell. What is something you can hear. What is something you taste. What is something you feel. Only answer with things that are right there right now. Go through the exercize as many times as you need to. So far, it’s pulled me out of all but the deepest of states or allowed me to hang on at least long enough to get pulled over..

    Like you, I do not use the drugs. I have extreme and bizarre reactions to pharmacuetical drugs. So I control my illness through controlling my environment and herbals and supplements, meditation, reiki, accupressure. Some days I’m better than others. I’m extremely empathic, so I am picking up tons of upset and disturbing vibes, plus the fury at the person I call The Great PUmpkin who seems determined to kill us all, not to mention the dichotomy of what we say on line, what we say on the public media, and what people are really saying when I get to the pharmacy for husbands medications. This is a long standing old peeve back to 9/11 when “we all pulled together” except for people like my husband who are brown, who were threatened, forced to prove their American origins (he is Native American – more American than the people who were harassing him), asked their religion, and in some cases, beaten (thankfully, not my hubby) and threatened by “all American boys and girls”. To say I’m jittery is putting it nicely.

    It is a really scary time, and some of us just don’t deal with it as well as others. Let me also say, that supposedly “normal” people often act a lot crazier than I do. I didn’t run out and buy a years worth of toilet paper, nor have I swallowed a bottle full of algae treatment because the PumpkinHead said the main ingredient in it would cure COVID.

    Bless you. Stay strong. Have compassion for yourself. Blessedbe.

  4. I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through such a tough time and that some people have treated your condition dismissively. It’s terrible how unempathetic people can be sometimes. I hope you’re able to get the help that you need soon.

  5. Thanks for sharing all of this. I know it’s really hard to talk about mental illness so openly even on the internet. I was diagnosed with depressive psychosis and I tend to dissociate or melt down when I’m anxious, so I think I understand at least a little bit of what you’re going through. People can be shitty about it because they don’t understand, but I think people with mental illnesses are some of the kindest, most intelligent, most beautiful people I’ve ever met.

    I hope that you can get the help you need and pursue your goals, because they sound awesome. I also want to go to England (and of course Japan) someday. Just know that you’re not alone in this, and having a mental illness is not mutually exclusive from having a happy and fulfilling life. You deserve to be happy <3

  6. “I think it’s extremely easy for some people to talk about how all of the focus needs to be on fighting this pandemic, and I completely agree.”

    I think it’s great you’re trying to be magnanimous here. I also think you’re right that we can’t lose sight of other conditions that still exist and are still dangerous — including mental health conditions. Psychiatrists and psychologists are not well-positioned to treat COVID-19. I think it’d be great if they remain focused on what they do treat: mental illnesses.

    “I haven’t taken mind-altering drugs in years, which includes antidepressants and other things. It greatly impacts my ability to write, which is literally everything that I have.”

    I have some experience with that, too. I’ve seen situations where psychoactive medicines literally give patients a new lease on life. I’ve also seen it do the complete opposite. Our ability pharmacologically treat these conditions is still in its infancy. I really wish we had better tools, for your sake, for the sake of my family, and for the sake of everyone else. But we are where we are.

    I’ve also seen some of the older medicines becoming legal again with some really encouraging results. I’ve seen situations where medical cannabis, in doses low enough not to affect cognition, give patients a new path forward. With zero addiction and limited or no side effects, I’ve yet to see a downside. Of course, it doesn’t work for all conditions. And it may not be legal in your location. Plus, not all doctors are willing to prescribe it.

    “And the thing that makes it worse is when everyone around me is telling me ‘to suck it up because at least you don’t have COVID.’ Or they tell me ‘you just need sleep and to relax. Once you do that, you’ll be normal in no time.'”

    You don’t need me to say this — you already know it — but just in case it helps, you’re absolutely right. If I broke my left arm, and the jagged radius and ulna was protruding from my skin, would anyone say, “Well, at least you don’t have COVID?”

    A shattered arm is the physical equivalent to a serious mental illness. There is no difference in urgency or impact to life. No difference in the need to seek — and receive — immediate treatment.

    “Signing onto the computer and writing a thousand plus words about how my mind is falling apart because quarantine has taken my access to necessary self-care routines…”

    You know, by making that effort, you’re also giving some hope to other folks in the same position. You’ve fought to become educated, and sometimes it’s easy to forget just how much power that gives you. You have the mental tools to set aside the comments and advice based on willful ignorance and stupidity. Instead, you keep your focus on articulating what you really need, which helps others do the same.

    That’s a powerful coping skill.

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