There are many factors related to the coronavirus pandemic affecting the mental health of people, with social isolation and fear of the virus being at the top of the list. Based on other pandemics and natural disasters, as many as 50% of people may experience anxiety, depression, and some post-traumatic stress symptoms.
If those without mental illness are having a difficult time right now, you can bet those of us with mental illness, particularly anxiety, mood disorders, substance abuse, and obsessional or phobic disorders are having an exacerbation of symptoms due to the current situation.
If you begin to feel anxious, irritable, worried, or are unable to concentrate or sleep, or find yourself abusing drugs or alcohol, you may want to reach out to your healthcare professional. If you’re questioning whether you should reach out or not, go ahead and reach out. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you do not have a healthcare professional, call a hotline or a supportive friend to help you find one. Mental health issues are treatable and do not last forever. You can and will get better if you seek the help you need.
So tell me, how are you doing? I’m hanging in there. Where’s your head right now? Are you having an exacerbation of symptoms? What are you going through? As always, comments are open for questions and for sharing your experience.
Bipolar disorder usually consists of moods alternating between extreme highs, or semi-highs in the case of hypomania, and extreme lows, with stabilized moods in between. The highs can include symptoms such as:
- Having lots of energy
- Feeling high or wired
- Having racing thoughts
- Talking fast
- Taking more risks
- Needing less sleep than usual to feel rested
- Having more distractions than usual
- Having intense senses, such as smell and touch (Source: WebMD)
The lows can include symptoms such as:
- Feeling sad, anxious, or empty
- Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Not enjoying things you used to enjoy
- Trouble with concentration, memory, or making decisions
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Appetite changes
- Gaining or losing weight
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Thoughts of suicide or death (Source: WebMD)
A person experiencing a mixed episode is having symptoms from the highs and the lows at the same time or in rapid succession with no break in between. This is a very disturbing type of episode to have and can cause much confusion and anxiety for the person. The person can, for example, feel depressed and tired most of the day with no motivation or hope, but still feel compelled to act out impulsively with regards to sex or spending money at times. They can be crying uncontrollably one minute and extremely happy the next. This can go on for days, weeks, or months.
Treatment usually includes some form of medication. Treatment by a doctor is definitely required as this is something that will not go away on its own and if left untreated carries an extremely high risk of ending in self-harm or suicide. Mixed episodes in particular are even more at risk of suicide than straight bipolar mania or depressive episodes alone.
The good news is with medication management by a qualified doctor these episodes can be arrested and a safe, healthy, happy life can be attained even with a life-time diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I am living proof of that.
Comments are always open for questions regarding my experience with bipolar disorder and how I’ve learned to manage and live positively with it after being diagnosed almost 15 years ago.
How do you know if you are depressed besides the fact that you feel depressed? I’m talking “clinical depression.” The kind for which you need to seek professional help. The kind that if you let it go you may end up hurting yourself.
The kind that leaves you laying in bed most of the day wondering what the point of life is and how the hell you’re going to make it through another never ending insufferable day. A day that was just like yesterday; that will be just like tomorrow. One running into another like one long slow song playing in slow motion through quick sand under water on repeat.
According to the medical people there are several symptoms you need to have almost every day for two consecutive weeks to meet the criteria of being depressed. These include:
- “Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
- Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
- Restlessness or feeling slowed down
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
- Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)” (source WedMD)
If you have any of these symptoms please talk to your doctor about it. Depression is treatable. Many people take medication for it and many do not. Some go to therapy. Often people do both. You and your doctor will decide what the best course of action is for you.
Personally, I do both. I figure hit it with all we’ve got. What have I got to lose except some nasty symptoms that lead me to thinking about my own death. I can’t have that. I have a family. A life. A purpose for being here. We all do. You do!
Get the help you need if you think you have depression. You deserve it.
Unprecedented times can sky-rocket anxiety that is already high for those of us with mental illness. Let’s not be too hard on ourselves if we are feeling particularly out of sorts during this craziness. Let’s remind ourselves that it will not last forever and that life will go back to the way it use to be relatively soon. In the mean time, let’s make a plan of ways we can cope with our anxiety and get through each day, moment by moment, knowing that there is no shame in merely doing the best we can no matter what that may look like.
Make sure to get plenty of sleep. Eat healthy. Get exercise. All the usually advice. Take time each day to do something you enjoy. A hobby or special interest. Watch relaxing or funny videos or movies or shows. Read uplifting or positive material. Create a soothing environment in your home with soft lighting, pleasant aromas, de-cluttered rooms, and quiet or calming sounds.
When you are in the midst of an anxiety attack, try the following coping statements, suggested by http://www.healthyplace.com:
- I’m going to be all right. My feeling are not always rational.
- Anxiety is not dangerous. It’s just uncomfortable.
- Right now I have feelings I don’t like. They will be over with soon and I will be fine.
- That picture or image in my head is not a healthy or rational picture.
- I’ve stopped my negative thoughts before and I’m going to do it again now.
- It’s not the first time I feel anxiety. I am going to take some deep breaths and keep on going.
Finally, remember this: “You have survived everything you’ve gone through up to this point. The best day of your life is still yet to come. There are still people you haven’t met and things you haven’t experienced. YOU CAN DO THIS.” (Source unknown)
Let’s face it. Holidays are stressful. No matter how many years of experience we have going through them, no matter how far we plan ahead, and no matter how hard we try to cut back, the stress is there.
But, it doesn’t have to be an all in, freaking out kind of stress. Or a overwhelming, panicking, losing sleep kind of stress.
How about we shoot for the slightly uncomfortable feeling of having a few extra things on our to-do list for a few weeks and leave it at that kind of stress?
The following list may help you do just that. Good luck and happy holidays!
12 Ways to Decrease Holiday Stress
1. Make space for difficult feelings like grief.
2. Create your own holiday traditions.
3. Set realistic expectations for yourself and the holiday.
4. Stick to your self-care routine.
5. Give yourself permission to let it be a normal day.
6. Make a plan and try to stick to it. Staying organized is key.
7. Learn to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty.
8. Shop online and stick to a budget.
9. Set boundaries with family and friends.
10. Avoid excess alcohol.
11. Stay active with exercise.
12. Ask for help.
Resources: Eli’s Place, Health Point, Blessing Manifesting
With the holidays bearing down on us I thought this would be a good time to talk about things we could do to lower our stress levels. Here are just several ideas.
- Breathe deeply
- Go for a walk
- Smell pleasant aromas
- Close your eyes and think of a happy moment
- Rub fingers together to take attention away from a negative thought
- Be in nature
- Call a drama-free person
- Drink chamomile tea
- Be grateful for life
What are some more ways you use to lower your stress?
Resource: no longer available
Depression can present itself in many different ways. Some common signs of depression include the following.
- sadness, loneliness, or emptiness
- loss of interest in things normally enjoyed
- tiredness and chronic low energy
- difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating, making decisions or remembering
- feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- irritability, frustration or anger
- restlessness and agitation
- sleep disturbances
- change of appetite
- recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
There is also something called hidden depression or “functional depression” where the individual with depression may not experience the common signs of depression, but the depression manifests itself it other, less obvious, ways, such as the following.
- perfectionism with a constant, critical inner voice
- heightened or excessive sense of responsibility
- difficulty with accepting and expressing painful emotions
- worry or need for control over self and environment
- intense focus on tasks, using accomplishments as a way to feel valuable
- active concern about the well-being of others, while not allowing anyone into his inner world
- discounts or dismisses hurt or abuse from the past, or the present
- accompanying mental health issues involving control or escape from anxiety
- a strong belief in “counting your blessings” as the foundation of well-being
- intimate relationships may be difficult, but are accompanied by professional success.
If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself lasting more than a few weeks, please talk to your doctor about them. Depression is a real illness and is not something we can wish away or control by will power alone. Get the help you need so you can live the life you were meant to have.