Three nights ago, I sent an e-mail to my psychiatrist. The e-mail went this way…
Hi, Dra. Belle. How are you? I hope you’re doing well and good and most of all healthy. I’m doing OK, with all the Covid 19 things happening. I just had 1 breakdown so far which I would really like to discuss with you on our next consult if there’s any slot available. I was scheduled for April 6 appointment, but if there’s any slot left for May, I would gladly take it. I’m not that anxious at the moment as I’ve been trying to avoid stressful news. Over all, I’m OK, except that I find it really hard to sleep again. Probably because I’m just at home, and I don’t have that much activities compared to my usual routine. I do cardio exercises, I write a lot for my blog, but because there’s longer time to rest, I really find it hard to sleep at night. I keep waking up with the body twitches again, and because of lack of sleep I’m usually irritable. I badly need to take Clonotril again. However, I can’t seem to find your latest prescription of Clonazepam (Clonotril), I’m not sure if there was one issued last March. I tried to show Mercury Drug the Feb 3 prescription which has been unused, but they said it’s already expired. They said, they will accept E-Prescription, so I have to ask my doctor for it. May I please request another copy of the prescription for Clonazepam? I still have my Quetiapine prescription and I was able to use it, I just dunno where I placed the Clonazepam. I know you always hand me 2 prescriptions every time. 1 for Quetiapine and 1 for Clonazepam. I’m just not sure if I misplaced the other one, or if I forgot to get a prescription for it last time. If it’s possible, please send it here on my e-mail. I only have 1 left in my stash and I’m a bit panicking because I can’t find the latest prescription. I attached here the photo of the February prescription. Thank you so much. Hope to hear from you soonest. Keep safe and God Bless.
I stood in front of the counter at my local pharmacy. It took them around half an hour before they were able to dispense my medication. Though my psychiatrist have issued the latest prescription, the pharmacist had to call the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to verify how legit my papers were. Yes, it’s a usual practice. One of my medications is a controlled drug, and it is heavily regulated by PDEA. So I waited for the pharmacist until someone from PDEA answered their call. I kept calm. There was nothing I could do anyway.
SURVIVING THE QUARANTINE
It has been a month since the government decided to put the entire Luzon (northern part of the Philippines which includes Manila) on a community quarantine. All movements are limited. Mass transportation has been stopped. There are checkpoints everywhere. People from the private sector were asked to work from home. The government is badly trying to flatten the curve. Covid-19 has been winning for the last months. It has taken over the major economic centers of the world, USA, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, China, Japan, it did not spare anyone. It took the rich and the poor, the old and the young. As of this writing, there are 2,215,167 Cases in the world, 149,676 Deaths, and about 560,672 has recovered according to Worldometers Info. It does not look good, wherever angle you would look at it.
I honestly don’t know where I stand, but I have a lot of things in mind. It’s 2:15 AM. If you would notice, most of my articles are posted at wee hours like this. Why? BECAUSE I HATE SLEEPING. I have recently discovered this during the time of this pandemic. I hate it when the clock strikes at around 12 midnight, that means I have to put myself to sleep again. Sleep is essential I know, but for someone like me who has a massive trouble sleeping, it’s not a pleasurable process. It comes with my disorder. My brain is hyperactive (manic) at this time. I am not like a normal person, who simply lies down in bed, tuck themselves comfortably in, and instantly falls asleep. I have to take heavy medications to put my relentless active brain cells to shut down. I have to wait for hours until they take effect. If sleeping is a dilemma for me, the same goes with waking up. It takes the same amount of effort to put me to sleep to be able to get me up to function.
But conversely, I am somehow liking the quarantine. It gives me so much time to be away from my tiresome daily hustle. I don’t have to go out everyday for work. I don’t have to wake up early to get multiple things done in a day. I don’t have to force myself to deal with people. I wake up, prepare breakfast, watch Netflix, prepare food for lunch and dinner, take photos of the food I make, maybe write for my blog, watch more movies, send some replies to client inquiries, and then prepare to sleep again. It has been my routine. Sometimes, I do the laundry, clean the house parts by parts, insert some cardio exercises every other day, give my dog a bath, run through our supplies and make a list of what needs to be restocked. It’s on repeat, sometimes I even lose track of what day it is. Some days I go on a grocery run to buy stocks for 2 weeks. The long queues had never been my problem as I have a disability ID allowing me to go on the priority lane. Then again, I have always thought about the people around me. Some, computing their budgets while they read-through their grocery lists. Some, fidgeting on their phones, maybe posting rants about the unbelievable lines they had to go through just to get inside the supermarket. I never experienced any of it, and for the first time, I say thanks to my disability. My PWD ID itself is a powerful immunity. I am thankful that I wouldn’t have to wait in line, as it would definitely increase my exposure to the virus. I am at high-risk, I am asthmatic, with so many deficiencies (according to my last lab results) and I’m taking medications for my brain. There is little chance for me to survive it, so I am taking extra precautions. But because of Covid, I became thankful for a lot of things. Things that never mattered before the pandemic. I am thankful that supermarkets are always restocked with supplies. People wouldn’t have to worry about scarcity. After all, that’s what the President promised. “We have enough food and supplies.” I am thankful I could drive my car. I wouldn’t have to carry heavy supplies from Point A to Point B with the absence of public transport. I am thankful for God’s grace and that we have enough. I am thankful that I can share and I wouldn’t have to cry for help and rely on the government. This pandemic has made me grateful for so many things more than ever.
Somehow, I am surviving the quarantine. I managed to endure with only 1 anxiety breakdown. I cried my constant worries away all my what-ifs. I was angry, I was worried, I was stressed. But at that time, my anxiety was less of a concern. There was a bigger predicament lingering throughout the globe and that was to stay at home to avoid the virus. I know I have to cope by myself, mainly because a trip to my psychiatrist would potentially expose me to the virus. My medications kept me stable and I am functioning well (so far, so good). When boredom strikes, I turn to writing and cooking. I have known my disorder for more than a year now, and it is clearly triggered by stress. A pandemic like this is an obvious trigger. I know I have to carefully eliminate things that would cause me to react.
REACTING TO SOCIAL DISTANCING AND ISOLATION
But there’s always a downside to every situation like this. As I walk inside the supermarket, I watched how people behaved like dormant zombies slowly pushing their carts. Except, they don’t have any human triggers that would make them agitated. With the quarantine going on, only one person per household is allowed to go out. They become the “tributes” as they brave the great outdoors to restock their supplies. Social distancing has been implemented. No one is talking to each other as they keep a safe distance from one another. Everyone wore their “gears” of protection. Wearing a face mask is the new norm.
10 minutes of this for someone with a major anxiety disorder can easily trigger a meltdown. Isolation stimulates sadness and depression and reduces the feeling of optimism. That is a fact. How do I know? Because I have experienced this first-hand. I always thank the people who take their time to read what’s on my Disability ID. “Mental and Psycho-social”, meaning I can go from zero to maximum breakdown at any given time. Bipolar Disorder (depressed or manic) can sometimes be activated without any clear external factors. Therefore, I cannot be left alone for a long time.
GREATER DANGERS ASIDE FROM THE VIRUS
I am lucky because somehow, I can still control my thoughts and my moods. Fortunately, I have not gone hysterical in public (yet and I hope not). My history of breakdowns have been in the corners of my house or within the walls of my room. Crying on the train or in the bus in Sydney does not count. I wasn’t hysterical. I have been applying everything from my therapies, from breathing exercises on how to calm down and talking to the people around me. I air out every feeling and emotion whether it’s happiness, sadness, excitement, fear, or whatever that comes in between. I still have a full-stock of my medications. Also, reading and writing has been my outlet. My extremely active mind has been converting somewhat manic thoughts to productivity, hence my multiple blog entries. I have a lot of things to say, so much in my mind, but I was taught in therapy that not everything needs a reaction.
Having a look around, there is no lucid conclusion with what lies ahead. Everything is not as stable as it seemed to be. No one was prepared. Everybody, including the most powerful are being challenged. It has become inevitable. But you know what greatly affects the world that seems to be unforeseen? People like me, diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, are facing additional challenges. According to Psychology Today, only 2.5 % of the population share these challenges: MOOD ELEVATION AND FULL BLOWN MENTAL BREAKDOWNS. 2.5 % of the world is Bipolar, and God knows what kind of cognitive and behavioral efforts for stress management we undertake amidst a crisis like this. Let’s take everything into consideration, not only Bipolar Disorder, but the list of other Mental Disorders can go on and on.
What is equally concerning is the amount of people suffering from anxiety even without having a proper diagnosis. The pandemic has brought this upon us. More people have become anxious. For some reason, I find myself very lucky. I was already geared with coping mechanisms before this happened. What happens to those who cannot manage?
Looking into the vast expanse of uncertainty and seclusion leaves people to mull over things that could possibly transpire in the future, at the mercy of their confused train of thoughts. The world feels further away, with everyone having their own sets of worries. Fears become louder. It has become a very unhealthy environment.
General access to uninterrupted screen time increases the pressure on the mental health even more. Social media, the news, anything that frequently suggest or conveys to your conscious or unconscious mind that you might be in danger are considered “threats” to your sanity and causes more fear. Leaving our vulnerable minds bare to a steady stream of these keep us all in an anxious mode. The accumulation of stress-triggers to our brain can develop more pessimistic thought patterns, and unnecessary emotions towards our current circumstances.
I am reaching out to all my fellow Mental Health Advocates, and to everyone who can possibly read this post. These are indeed out of the ordinary times for us. As we come to the point that we impose measures to protect our physical health, how about we do the same for our mental health? Try to listen to ourselves in a deeper context. Remember, we don’t have to go through this alone. Seek help if you must. You might be required to keep a safe distance from people, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to disconnect.
KEEP CALM, KEEP SAFE AND MOST OF ALL HEALTHY, NOT JUST PHYSICAL, BUT MENTAL TOO. YOU ARE ALL IN MY MIND AND PRAYERS.
With Love From Quarantine,