Bipolar Mother Makes the Best of It During COVID-19

by Laura Yeager

I am a parent with a disability, but my disability is hidden. I’m a 57-year-old woman who has had bipolar disorder since 1991. In years gone by, I had severe symptoms, but for the past five years, I have been mostly asymptomatic. This is due to a good psychotropic cocktail consisting mostly of Depakote and years of experience that have mellowed me, as they mellow most folks pushing 60. 

For those of you who don’t know, bipolar disorder is often characterized by a fluctuation between mania and depression. During a manic episode, the individual has a great deal of energy, happiness and a feeling that she is “on top of the world” and can accomplish anything. During a depressed episode, the person feels sad, hopeless and devoid of any energy.

I don’t need to remind you that we are in a pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis, of 2020. We have been under a “lockdown” in Ohio since March 10.  This means we’ve been housebound and have only left our home to go out to exercise (walk around the block) and go to the local store. I’ve been working at home as a university writing teacher. I’ve been functioning, but not up to my usual standards. 

My son is 15. He’s been doing online schooling and has been faring pretty well. His mood is high and he’s basically a joy to have around because he’s funny, smart and spontaneous. 

This is helpful when you’re a little depressed. I have to say that this COVID-19 crisis is making me down. Becoming depressed during the coronavirus crisis could happen to anyone, but when you’re prone to depression, it makes it much worse.

 My current depression is characterized by wanting to sleep. I could stay in bed 24/7. I’ve also been feeling fearful, wondering when this is all over if I’ll have the wherewithal to leave my house. I’m afraid that I’ll be stuck in “hermit-mode.”

But life goes on; it has to, so I’ve been doing things to undercut my depression. 

One thing I’ve been enjoying is coffee. This may sound trivial, but hot, steaming coffee is one of my saving graces. My husband purchased a huge bag of vanilla-flavored coffee, and I’ve been sure to have a cup or two every morning. This wakes me up a little, takes the grogginess out of my system. Honestly, I feel less depressed after my morning coffee ritual.

Another thing that’s been helping me stay “undepressed” is taking a shower every day. Again, this may sound trivial, but because I don’t have to leave the house, it’s not imperative that I keep up my grooming schedule. My family will forgive any untidiness or slight body odor. But I’ve been noticing that I feel a slight boost of energy after I shower. The water is stimulating, much like the coffee. Of course, my hair, like many folks’, is unruly and showing a lot of grey, but it is, at least, clean. 

A third thing that helps with depression is exercise. I’m not walking every day, but I do go out about three-four times a week. Two days ago, it was 35 degrees, and I ambled along without a hat. My ears froze and my cheeks tingled. But I wasn’t depressed. I was energized. Now, today, it’s going to be 60 degrees. I’ll be sure to try to walk today.  (Those temperature fluctuations are typical of Ohio weather. We Ohioans like to say, “That’s Ohio for you.”)

But what is really keeping my depression in check is the fact that I have a child who needs me. My son is on the autism spectrum and needs extra attention.  

Today is Monday, the day the school work for the week is posted. I made it a point to give him a lesson in time management. I stressed the importance of signing into google classroom and reviewing all the work he had to do for the week.  Then, I told him to prioritize the assignments and decide what he’d do today and for the rest of the days of the week. And my lesson was successful. Currently, he’s reading his American History assignment.

The act of focusing on someone else is the real key to overcoming my COVID-19 depression. I thank God for my child every day, but these days, more so. It is during times of crisis that family becomes so important. We take care of ourselves, but we also take care of each other. It would be much harder to be alone during this pandemic.

In conclusion, the coronavirus is aggravating my disability, but I’m finding ways to get through it.

My son is my salvation.

 God, I love him.

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