Coping with the Pandemic

I believe that the 5 Stages of Grief align with a lot of our responses to living indoors through the pandemic.

The stages are denial anger bargaining depression acceptance.

I’ve seen or heard no one else talk about these responses to grief.

For one the coronavirus is not a person. Yet it’s okay to have anger that the pandemic has disrupted your life.

A trouper like I am can be in denial about the effect sheltering in place has had on you.

Even while not in a clinical depression it’s also tempting to wear your pajamas all day during this extraordinary time when you’re home.

So like I said the 5 Stages of Grief could come into play.

I live in New York City which is the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S.

My city will not reopen until June and this might be in late June.

I have empathy for anyone whose recovery has been impacted while living through the coronavirus outbreak.

It isn’t easy–to know that you are not alone can help you feel better about how you’re coping.

In coming blog entries I’ll give some tactics I’ve been using to power through.

Stirring the Sauce

Experiencing a plateau can be likened to stirring the sauce for Sunday macaroni supper. It will take time to heat up.

Sometimes engaging in a repetitive act is necessary. It can seem like you are not getting anywhere. What is the purpose of doing the same thing over and over?

It is to get in the groove of a healthy habit. The secret sauce you are simmering is your recovery. It could take years to get to where you want to be.

The Changeology book goal-setting method is a 90-day action plan comprised of 5 Steps:

Psych

Prep

Perspire

Persevere

Persist

Committing to executing the plan for 90 days can set in motion a healthy habit that lasts.

In coming blog entries I will talk about a couple goals I set that have stuck.

In fact living through the pandemic has made it easier for me to achieve these goals.

Soon it will be coming up on one year since I first started making these changes.

My own experience with setting these goals might empower you to go after your own goals with gusto.

Asking What If? and Why Not?

I turn 55 this spring. As I roll towards 60 and in light of the ongoing pandemic I’ve been thinking about my life and my goals. I’m not a person who expects most outsiders and even some family members to understand how hard it can be living in recovery.

Disability rights advocates frown on using the word “courageous” to describe how a person negotiates living with an illness.

I think courageous is the right word to use. It’s brave to demand equity in society when you have a mental health condition. The alternative is giving up hope and believing the lies we’re told about recovery not being possible.

I understand the need to fight to be taken seriously when you have an emotional illness.

I understand what it’s like to be given crumbs from the table passed off as nutritious food.

I understand that making your voice heard can be scary.

It’s only scary if you seek other people’s approval. It’s frightening to live in a world where you’re not given compassion.

Thus my claim years ago that people living in recovery deserve a Nobel Prize for the efforts we make to live life whole and well.

As an Author and Advocate I frame any premise for what I write in terms of asking these two questions:

“What if?” and “Why Not?”

Each of us should be asking ourselves “What if?” and “Why not?” as we start to set goals and embark on achieving them.

In the next blog entry I’ll begin talking about goal setting.

Awarding a Nobel Prize for Recovery

In September 2015 I ended my job as the Health Guide for a mental health website.

While I had been there easily over 9 years ago I wrote in a news article that there should be some kind of Nobel Prize given out for people living in recovery.

At that time the editorial team of the website posted this gem of advice:

“The only real failure is the failure to try.”

I think they might have stolen that from something I wrote.

How audacious it was to tell people diagnosed with schizophrenia this.

I riffed on this premise in a news article there.

I wrote that trying can be as simple as getting out of bed.

Or cooking yourself a meal. Or taking a shower.

That’s when I lauded the courage it takes readers living in recovery to set goals and to try to reach them.

In a world where outsiders and haters to this day persist in claiming that no one can recover.

I would like to start a carnival of blog entries here on the topic of recovery.

It’s more imperative than ever in the time of living through this pandemic to support those of us who are in recovery.

For some of us every day is a struggle. For others the war has been won.

In the spirit of spreading joy, love, peace, and understanding I will talk in coming blog entries about the beauty and benefit of choosing recovery as a life goal to shoot for.

And remember: you do not have to be in remission to recover.

Having a “Normal” Life

I want to riff on where I left off in the last blog entry.

I always thought recovery must be self-defined.

In the 1990s I had a “normal” life with a corporate office job and an apartment. So on paper it looked like I had recovered.

Only I don’t think I had a better life until I turned 35 and started working as a librarian.

Proof that you can be in remission yet not have the kind of life you wanted to have until later on.

In this regard I don’t view recovery as the return to having a so-called “normal” life.

The Merriam-Webster definition of normal is:

Of or having ordinary or average intelligence; conforming to a standard or type; free of mental defect.

Does being average and conforming appeal to you? More power to you should it float you to be normal.

I always wanted to have “an artist’s life in the city.” That was my one true goal when I was in college

Often those of us with broken brains take a detour before coming to be where we want to be.

Thus I’m not keen to accept returning to having a “normal” life as the hallmark of whether a person has recovered.

Isn’t it a relief to know this?

Isn’t it more hopeful to know that you don’t have to fit a mold of what constitutes success?

That you and I can go our merry way having a life of our own design.

As the saying goes:

Sometimes the best raspberries come late in the season.

Recovery and Remission

My stance is that you must decide for yourself with your own psychiatrist how you feel about where you are in your life.

Refrain from letting a so-called expert who hasn’t met you dare presume to diagnose a person from afar.

In this regard I’ve always taken E. Fuller Torrey, MD to task. This author of Surviving Schizophrenia claims a person who has a job or a spouse hasn’t recovered.

In his eyes you haven’t recovered unless you don’t need medication. I fear he is using the term recovery interchangeably with remission.

In his book he lists the statistics for what percentage of people recover. This is where E. Fuller Torrey claims a person hasn’t recovered even when they have a job or a spouse.

The fact is you can be in recovery and still have symptoms. People who have symptoms can hold a job or be married.

Does this mean you haven’t recovered simply because you still take medication?

I beg to differ for one strong reason: a significant number of people go without treatment before they get help.

We should not discourage such a person from making recovery a life goal worth shooting for. Even if they cannot get to being in remission.

I’ll end here by reiterating that you have the right to set goals with your psychiatrist and other treatment team members.

Only you and the mental health staff that you employ to serve you should be deciding whether you’ve recovered or not.

Making the Case for Recovery

It can be hard post-diagnosis to believe that things can get better.

In a time of living through this pandemic it can be doubly hard to manage your recovery and have hope.

I make the case for having hope coupled with taking action.

To do what is safe while the COVID-19 outbreak is upon us.

Again I recommend staying in contact with friends and family and any neighbors you can count on via the telephone or on ZOOM on the computer.

This is a time that everyone will benefit from having compassion for ourselves and others.

The world has changed. We cannot go on the way it was before.

It’s more imperative than ever to work together to champion recovery as the goal after a person gets a diagnosis.

It’s time to find solutions to be able to fix the broken mental health system once and for all.

The day has come to recognize just how hard it can be living in recovery.

To act in the spirit of wanting to lighten this load.

The pandemic will end. It might not end soon.

This is all the more reason to renew our efforts to champion recovery for everyone post-diagnosis.

Love Must Win

Having an Attitude of Gratitude makes all the difference in a time of crisis.

My refrigerator is more stocked with food now than it was before the COVID-19 outbreak.

I’m grateful for my good fortune.

In this time of hardship a friend told me to remember all that I’m doing to give joy to people who read my writing.

Life is bigger than your pain. Find what your purpose is for being here. Going and doing that can help you transmute your pain into something positive.

Early on in my recovery I wanted to turn my pain into a thing of beauty for other people.

Even though a lot of us and most likely a significant number of us are sheltering in place we are all together in this changed world.

It’s time to think of how we want to live and what we want to do after each of us returns to going outdoors.

Egotism and bigotry must not prevail.

It’s 2020.

Too late in the history of humankind to continue to engage in hate, killing, violence, and war.

War is not the solution.

Won’t you join me in committing to shifting the needle to the left of the dial after the pandemic has ended?

Today is the day to think of the day we’re going to return outside.

We can each of us decide to love.

Love wins. It always does.

Engaging Your Mind in a Time of Crisis

While I’m no fan of the president who I’ve taken to calling Mr. Toupee over the years I’m impressed with one thing he said in a speech concerning life in the time of the CO-VID19 outbreak:

“All Americans including the young and healthy should engage in learning from home.”

It impresses me that a president who rules the country via Twitter fiats urged us to flex your mental muscles as a way to cope.

Not only did Staples deliver my ink and paper so I could continue my writing projects at home:

Amazon is set to deliver a book to my house.

Reading books and magazines would be in my estimation a productive use of our mental energy when we’re sheltering in place.

For you watching TV might be a pleasant way to pass the time when you’re sheltering in place. By all means continue to watch TV should this give you great joy.

Watching TV sitcoms all day on a good day is my version of a great way to dull my mind if not outright damage my mental health.

To keep my mind sharp and alert I’m reading a book one of my friends published last year.

Talking on the telephone to my family also helps me ride out this crisis.

Like I said the number-one act of healing for me has been to use the creative process to express myself.

So when the ink and paper runs out I’ll fire up the credit card and order new ink and toner from Staples.

We’ll get through this together.

Americans have always been resilient in the face of hardship.

Flexing your mental muscles?

I’m all for this as a game plan.