The day before Mother’s Day, 2020, I was released from inpatient psych.
My journey to breakdown began on March 13, the first day of what would become 364 days of unemployment. I couldn’t stand that I was suddenly unemployed, trapped at home, and I had a burning ache in my chest.
That burning ache wasn’t COVID-19, but I thought it was for nearly five weeks. By the time I’d “failed” steroid treatments and convinced my team to triage me for COVID-19, an X-ray found concerning dots all over my lungs. While my COVID-19 test came back negative, I was referred to pulmonary on a rush basis. Ultimately, it was “just” walking pneumonia — a pneumonia I’d likely lived with for 14 months.
Sadly, steroids are a trigger for anxiety and mania for me. It turns out that I could not balance medical anxiety, financial anxiety, pandemic anxiety, and my seasonal predisposition towards bipolar mania.
This wasn’t my first time inpatient, but my last stay had taught me some very important things:
1) If at all possible, make it voluntary. This makes it days and weeks easier to get out.
2) Be compliant and charming. This will make the difference between being given a complimentary chapstick and being transferred to a more restrictive unit.
3) Advocate hard for what you want. I wanted medication management, and an outpatient day program. I had to ask at least three times to see a doctor, but seeing that doctor was the key to getting what I needed.
4) Be very very kind to the other patients. There’s very little within my control during an inpatient stay, but kindness is.
The day program I attended was spectacular. While it was very hard to adjust to wearing masks all day during those two weeks, I learned lifelong skills: meditating twice a day, keeping structure in my days, and avoiding perfectionism. There would be no way to be perfect during the pandemic, and I’m glad I learned to let that one go.
I remained unemployed until work reopened on March 12, 2021. I’m now back full time and things are going well.
It was a weird and lonely and difficult year. I hated it. I am so so glad, however, that I had the strength to break down. I needed to learn how to advocate for myself, how to achieve long term stability, and how to build resilience.
Fuck 2020 and fuck COVID19, but long live living.