TW: suicide, self-harm, substance abuse
It’s been over a month since my last bipolar blog on friendship. I’ll chalk up my tardiness to trying to survive our new normal. LSE campus has shut down and everyone is scrambling to figure out how new assessments will work, if they should defer and if there’s hope that LSE might enact a no-detriment policy. A secondary effect of this pandemic is the mental health crisis it’s caused. In the midst of this, I’ve already lost someone I really loved to suicide and the lack of socialisation has put me in an unhealthy headspace from time to time. With that in mind, this installment is about taking care of our mental wellbeing during this crisis.
The advice I give is by no means exhaustive, authoritative or even limited to bipolar people, but it’s helped me continue my life with some semblance of normalcy. I hope it can help some of you too.
Lockdown is dystopian, no mincing words. Self-care and caring for others have been my lifelines during this crisis. I’ve baked sourdough bread, chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookies. I’ve made ungodly amounts of veggie lasagne and cooked a delicious chicken suprême. My pantry is stocked with ingredients for future recipes. Just being in the kitchen keeps me from taking depression naps.
You can achieve the same effect with any hobby. You could learn to sew, read for pleasure, start listening to podcasts, start a herb garden, or play some video games. Just choose at least one new thing to do and dive into it. You could even – shudder – start exercising. Otherwise the nothingness that has become our lives will drive you mad.
It’s hardly been a perfect experience. In between baking spells I have had moments of debilitating self-loathing. But doing something enjoyable with my time gives me happy things to reflect on to pull myself out of those moments.
Academia and Productivity
It’s no use berating yourself for a slump in productivity or an inability to complete work. We’re literally in a pandemic that is forcing us to stay home for weeks on end, which is absolutely mind-numbing. Many of us are with family who, bless them, make it difficult to focus on school work. Don’t feel ashamed to ask for extensions on academic deadlines and don’t compare your work ethic to your friends. I find it very stressful to discuss assessments with friends at this time, so I’ve removed myself from those conversations. It might not be the same for you – you might find it comforting to discuss assessments with friends. The point is to remove yourself from anything that makes you uncomfortable as best as you can.
Track the shit out of your moods and sleeping habits, so you can manage an episode before it spirals out of control. Tracking won’t solve your problems but you’ll be able to deal with them more capably if you at least know what they are.
Take your medication consistently – this is not the time to fuck around with your treatment plan. I’ve been avoiding alcohol too because I know it makes me feel shitty in the long run. I would probably also advise against doing drugs in this period, for the same reason. The shitty feelings that accompany afterwards will feel 10 times worse in our current circumstances. Trust yourself to get through this without depending on substances.
Most importantly, don’t cut yourself off from friends – apologise for hurtful things you did when you were manic and move on. I’m going to be bold and say your friends want you alive after this pandemic. Lean on them for support when you feel miserable and be a good friend to them in return. We’re all going through this shit time together.