For the past 2 years, we’ve been under the dark cloud of COVID-19. It has changed the way we work, live our daily lives, and interact with each other. As a person living with schizophrenia, I know all too well the struggle of having to adjust to a world that I don’t recognize anymore. In that struggle, it is how we cope that makes us stronger.
It was March 2020, and the world was in a time of drastic change. I had already been struggling weeks before lockdown and was not in a good place mentally. My psych assessment on February 19, 2020, for admission into an intensive outpatient program was the beginning of my struggle back to mental wellness. The fact that I was admitting myself into a program before quarantine had even begun was a sign of things to come.
I was already beginning to assess my life and mortality because I was turning 49 in May 2020. With all my accomplishments and obstacles I had overcome, I still felt like I wasn’t where I should be financially, socially, and physically. As the self-doubt set in, my symptoms became heightened and my auditory hallucination became pronounced, so I was already not in a good place.
My stint in the intensive outpatient program ended the day before my work sent us home to begin quarantining. Even though I had graduated from the program, I was still apprehensive about the future and struggling to keep it together. I had difficulty regulating my sleep, I began comfort eating, and my auditory hallucination made it hard to focus. With the added pressure of being in quarantine and the uncertainty of my job, I was a wreck.
I remember my voice became increasingly negative, and I began to worry that even with all of my coping skills, I would have another bout with full-blown psychosis. The fear of getting COVID and not being able to leave the house paralyzed me. I started to have paranoid thoughts about death and even started to become delusional. I am thankful that I was not alone and living with my mother. Her support and continuing to keep my appointments with my psychiatrist and therapist are what kept me from having another bout with psychosis.
Limiting what I watched on TV helped tremendously. I was relieved that I wasn’t let go from my job, and after adjusting to working from home, I started to relax and be able to manage my symptoms better. Since I was not able to facilitate trainings in-person, I felt lucky that I was able to provide our work over Zoom since everything went virtual. Even though I was unable to leave my home, I still felt connected to my work and our participants in the community virtually.
As time went on, I slowly began to feel better and took comfort knowing that I wasn’t the only person feeling uneasy in such a difficult time. Many of us felt uneasy and afraid of an uncertain future. I made an effort to get back to basics and pull out my coping skills from my wellness toolbox. I went and revised my daily routine to fit my new normal. It took time to adjust, but by the end of 2020, I was beginning to feel like myself again. In 2021, I had my moments where I struggled from time to time, but it was nothing like the first year of the pandemic.
The past 2 years have been difficult, but I count myself lucky that my symptoms didn’t debilitate me to the point of having to be hospitalized. Upon reflection, I’m fortunate that I had my support system, coping skills, and my job. There were some glimmers of hope despite the pandemic, and it made me remember how resilient I am. I had started off the pandemic assessing my life, and through my struggles over the past 2 years, I realized that being alive and mentally and physically healthy are the most important things in life. That my struggle really did make me stronger, and I truly know that I’m not alone in that struggle. We all need care and compassion for ourselves and each other in order to survive.
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