So there’s been plenty of blogs/stories out there about coping with the draconian and scary instances in recent life.  Instead of rehashing talking points, I thought I’d just share my personal story for the past two weeks and give a window on my current circumstances.  Besides the honesty involved, it’s an easier task for me and perhaps for you the reader something you can associate with.

 

I am very lucky.  I have no financial worries stemming from the current virus situation.  I feel for the restaurant workers in my community who have been sent home with no financial security.  I empathize with those working the register at my CVS with little to no health protections. I can’t imagine the workload of our nurses and doctors and how that feels knowing that the worst is yet to come.  Lesson #1 from this pandemic crisis is don’t get too wrapped up in your current circumstance.

 

I’m sequestering alone.  My father lives about 25 minutes away but we are not exposing each other….he may lay out some toilet paper on his stoop for me in exchange for a six-pack of Smithwick’s…we’ll wave through his glass door and that’s about it.  No one comes into my apartment. I’m a bit freaked that the super is delivering a new icebox Friday. I make quick forays to my local bodega and CVS…it’s a bit fun…I feel like a trooper behind enemy lines looking for the best ways to avoid people and get in and out as quickly as possible.

 

I live in the suburbs of NYC…basically the USA epicenter of cases.  The first local outbreak came in a city five miles away or so..at work we’d talk about how strange this all was…it took quite a while for us to realize how much it would upset our way of life.  My previous part-time work at public libraries is on hold indefinitely. That part-time work gave me a structure which I miss today very much.  

 

My whole life (not just since my diagnosis) I’ve juggled with an urge to withdraw and a need to engage with others.  So in a sense, the isolation of the past two weeks has fed into that impulse to retreat into my head. As an antidote, I’ve forced myself to be busy and use my time constructively.  I’ve also made email, texting, social media and most importantly phone calls a priority. I’ve never spent so much time on the phone! In this time of difficulty i” ve never had stronger ties to my family.

 

 

Without a sense of routine and schedule imposed on me, some simple tasks have become a bit problematic.  Frequently 2 or 3 in the afternoon rolls around and I can’t think for the life of me if I’ve taken morning meds yet.  Stretching is a daily part of my routine (back issues) and sometimes late-night comes upon me and I realize I haven’t stretched that day.   Too much freedom can be a curse.

 

In recent months I’ve dreamt up a novel I want to write.  Instead of feeling freedom and becoming inspired, I’m dealing with a lot of self-reproach.   Inner thoughts commanding me to write…what’s your excuse? You have all the time in the world.  I’m starting to take baby steps toward writing…writing a paragraph a day to start. It is starting to build a little bit of incentive.  It’s also nice because it takes my internal thoughts and makes them permanent and shareable.

Another shot in the arm has been my return to therapy.  I signed up with Betterhelp two weeks ago and have landed on a great therapist.  For $260/mo we do a video chat once a week and throughout the meantime, I can email any concerns to her and get a response in 24 hours or less.  Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t cover this but that is no worry to me as I’m dealing with crazy Obamacare deductibles. What I’d been looking for was someone positive…almost a cheerleader…no need for some fancy degree…I seem to have found someone very responsive and kind to help me through these crazy times.

My message to those out there with a mental illness during this crisis is to stay strong and reach out if you need help.  There is a sense of solidarity among everyone. Find the routine in your lives. Don’t find yourself drifting into dangerous areas.  Get outside your head….take a long walk…build on your family relations…start something new…help a neighbor.

These times require new strengths.  Keep in mind that nolongerlonely.com is not just for dating but also social connection and support.  We have a chat room that has people there 24 hours a day. Give the site a try. I wish everyone happiness and do let me know if I can help you along the way.

 

Blessings, 

Jim Leftwich

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