I choose to focus on the good and think positively—even when it comes to all that we have collectively endured this past year. Let’s consider a different perspective on our uncertain and disruptive times: How has 2020 has benefited those of us who live with bipolar?
Whoo, this year is one for the record books, isn’t it?
We began 2020 full of hope, and here we are at the end of the year … in a place no one expected to be. So—congrats! Let’s all just take a moment to pat ourselves on the back for surviving this historic global health crisis.
It hasn’t been easy, but we are still here.
… As you can see, I’m a real silver-lining seeker. Add that to my realist nature, and it’s a win-win, as far as I’m concerned. When I can look at things realistically, I can see the negative and the positive—and choose to focus on the positive. It’s more productive!
I’d like to share some of the “silver lines” I’ve found in navigating these strange times. Here are ten ways that the crisis-response environment has benefited those of us with bipolar:
#1 Society is primed for big change on many fronts—including greater mental health awareness.
During this past year, we’ve learned how to live our lives in a different environment. Almost everyone is isolated from their typical circles of people, and this affects us in many ways. One concept I’ve heard repeatedly is, “Check on your single friends.” I love this—because I see it as an acknowledgment by the general public that isolation can lead to dangerous loneliness, and worse. My hope is that this more-widespread enlightenment and concern about depressive feelings will continue after we are free to do away with physical distancing.
#3 Life is upside-down for just about everyone, so people allow for more patience and caution.
I’ve found myself moving pretty slowly through life outside the house during this pandemic. When running essential errands, I wait patiently on my sticker (a safe six feet away from anyone else). And when it’s time for my turn, I nervously hesitate until I get eye contact with the clerk/cashier. I see lots of other people acting this way, too. All of us are confused out in public because stores and entities are implementing new processes to safeguard against illness. To the non-bipolar community, I’d like to say: Welcome to a world of confusion and intense feelings! It’s nothing new to people with bipolar.
#4 There’s greater work-schedule flexibility (for those who are employed, have understanding employers, and/or are able to work from home).
This one is a bit of a tough argument because there is an overwhelming number of people who are unable to work due to business closures or layoffs, and therefore are unable to generate income; I do not mean to diminish that experience in any way. I know this time has been devastating for many.
This silver lining actually came to me when I was pondering, What if this crisis had happened a few years ago, when I was working eleven hours a day? And the answer is I would have been thrilled to switch to a work-from-home lifestyle. So much of the work stress I experienced was related to being in the office—pressure from the Big Boss, the expectations surrounding attire and scheduling, the interruptions from coworkers—and I really coulda used some social distance and work-from-home time back then.
Even if this silver lining doesn’t apply to you directly, I think it paves the way for a more flexible future in the business world. That can only help us!
Before physical distancing, I loved meeting up with my friends for a drink or a meal, but there were also times when I felt too frenzied and unprepared to attend. I look forward to the day when we’ll get to do those things again, but for now I’m trying to appreciate the break from those chaotic and confused moments. Likewise, when I eventually do get to schedule catch-up time with friends, I’ll try to remember to think back to this time—and not to worry so much about preparation.
One thing I’ve really noticed during this time under stay-at-home orders is the absence of the agitating sounds and sights of the outside world. The elevator dings, a person shouts at their kid, a near-collision happens, the lights on a building are very bright … all of these things happen every single day, in typical circumstances. And although they don’t amount to much individually, when you take them all away at once, it has a noticeable, relieving impact on our cognition and our propensity for hypo/manic episodes. Turns out “dopamine fasting” is de rigueur in more than one way.
#8 There are many new opportunities to connect with talk therapists from home.
Although telehealth predates the spring of 2020, it has really taken off since then, encouraged by legislation that removed or lessened barriers of access and provision. Many doctors are offering virtual visits for the first time, a variety of new video-conference platforms are becoming available, and people are able to attend appointments in a comfortable place of their own choosing. Research has shown that telehealth can be as effective as in-person visits—and I hope (and believe) this service will continue to grow!
#9 My personal favorite: Having everything delivered is now considered normal.
I’m infamous for going to Target for a couple of specific things … and then emerging with two carts full of impulse purchases. We need new towels, don’t we? Ooo, and look at that lamp. It’s adorable. It would look so cute on my nightstand. I need to remember to go to the other side of the store and get potat— Oh! Is that a label maker? I’ve been needing one of these !…
… Two hours later, I emerge with all of the above, plus a new pajama wardrobe, a sun hat, a stack of construction paper, five bottles of shampoo, and a partridge in a pear tree—but no potatoes.
There’s definitely an argument that online shopping gets out of control as well; but I’ve found it much easier (and cheaper!) to make a list, search for only the items on the list, and buy only those items. And the amazing thing is that they will bring it right to my doorstep. No hauling of bags into and out of the car, no bundling up to face the elements, and no bright, shiny store displays to tempt me into frivolous spending.
#10 We have time to prepare for the next phase of our journeys with bipolar (there’s always a next phase).
Let’s face it—we’re cooped up at home. We look forward to the day when we can “get back to normal,” and we understand that things won’t be this way forever. I think that having this forced timeout nudges us to think long-term. It gives us the space to review and/or reconsider our social behavior and sense of self—with reflection, exploration, and mindfulness.
Let’s look forward to 2021 by accepting the gifts above. Let’s learn what we can from the difficulties and challenges we’ve faced—and use that knowledge to make things better. We can do it!
We’re #bipolarstrong, so, basically, there isn’t anything we can’t do (…well, maybe only a few things!).
Brooke Baron has a BA in English, a minor in philosophy, and a lifelong obsession with language. She is the author of A Beginner's Guide to Being Bipolar.
Although born and raised in Alabama, she has been a proud California resident for 10+ years. During a professional stint in Silicon Valley—in both the corporate and private business sectors—she handled internal and external communications, office design and construction, photography and graphic design, executive assistance, and functioning on very little sleep.
Brooke now specializes in "New Human Orientation" from her home in the suburbs. She has a young, loving, growing family of five and is fueled by that love and coffee.
In addition to caring for the rest of Team Baron, she enjoys writing, reading, researching miscellaneous topics, and funneling manic energy into creative projects. With so many balls in the air—including bipolar II disorder—balancing her life is like balancing two kangaroos on a see-saw. She offers consulting services for the bipolar community at Better Bipolar Balance.
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