Bipolar Disorder and the Coronavirus: How to Cope with Self-Isolation?
Published 21 Apr 2020 • Updated 22 Apr 2020 • By Candice Salomé
Stéphane, a member of Carenity's French platform, decided to share how he manages his bipolar disorder during self-isolation. His state of mind, habits, activities and concerns: he tells us everything about his daily life during the pandemic.
How does your bipolar disorder usually manifest itself?
80% of the time, I feel fairly depressed, I feel like I'm "broken", with the impression that I'm treading water, that I have few desires and little motivation. When I'm like this, everything is an ordeal, I have to force myself to even do things that should be pleasurable.
The rest of the time, I feel better but sometimes I have spikes of restlessness, excitement, and the feeling like I'm surging with excess energy.
During these phases, I am more productive. I have lots of ideas, some of which I start, but always with the fear that at some point I will not be able to keep up, because my mood will change and I will lose motivation and my physical and mental energy.
In short, I feel that I constantly have a force that is pulling me down. I'm fighting against it all the time. Sometimes I win, sometimes it wins.
Have your symptoms changed due to self-isolation and the current health crisis? Are you feeling more anxious?
Ironically, with the world at a standstill, I actually feel more in tune with my current environment. When I do the shopping, for example, I feel less stressed because there are fewer people and less need to hurry.
Sometimes I feel moments of emptiness, but not really anxiety. On the other hand, as things are going pretty well at the moment, I sometimes feel like a lion in a cage with an excess of energy that I don't know what to do with, until I've found a goal to channel it.
Are you still seeing your doctor(s)?
Yes, I see my psychiatrist by teleconsultation every fortnight on average, which is a breath of fresh air for me. However, I no longer see my nurse at the outpatient medical and psychological consultation centre.
Are you on medication? Have you had to change your treatment because of the current health crisis?
We've had a lot of trouble finding a treatment that works well, so there's no question of changing it at the moment. The current health situation hasn't impacted it either.
Have you been keeping in touch with your loved ones? Has the decrease in social interactions (especially face-to-face meetings) had a negative impact on your life and your condition?
Certainly I miss the lack of real social interaction. I've kept some contacts through social media and messaging, but it's not the same. The only place I see people is at the supermarket. Luckily, I don't live alone, so I can communicate with the people around me.
How do you spend your days during this self-isolation? Do you have a routine to manage your condition?
My routine is to watch an opera every night through daily streams by the Metropolitan Opera in New York. It's brilliant. Otherwise, I've revived my blog and I do volunteer work for different charities, which keeps me busy and makes me feel useful. And I've come back on Carenity.
Do you have any advice for other people with bipolar disorder during this time of isolation?
We're all different. I wrote a little piece that I posted on Carenity that apparently speaks to some people. I think that we should not give in to the isolation, take advantage of the authorised one form of physical activity outdoors per day (which I don't do, unfortunately, but I'm lucky enough to have a fairly large living space with lots of greenery around), don't veg out too much in front of screens, read, listen to music and take the time to daydream a bit. But hey, it's up to each of us to find a balance that suits us and, above all, to enjoy ourselves. Posting on forums like Carenity can be a good way to share your experience. I also think that we can learn from this experience in many ways to live differently in the future.
And finally, what's the first thing you'd like to do when self-isolation is over?
Grab a drink at the pub with friends.
How about you? What's your state of mind right now? Is the isolation weighing on you? Have your symptoms evolved or changed? Are you keeping in touch with your doctors?
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