Enforced isolation isn’t good for me. It’s probably not good for anyone, but in my case it’s particularly nerve-racking, even dangerous. It means that I’m living alone in my head, and my head is a very cacophonous place. I have severe bipolar disorder, and I fight for sanity every single day.
When the lockdown was announced in California back in March, I didn’t panic right away. You want me to binge-watch Netflix? Done. Order in pizza as a staple? Snap. Live like a desert hermit? No problem. I was used to doing these things during an acute depressive episode, only nobody had ever given me permission before. Instead of being infused with shame, I felt proud of my hard-won experience.
The first few weeks I figured, What an opportunity! I’ll rest and catch up on my reading, maybe watch some of the amazing TV shows my friends keep telling me about. I’ll dig out that sketchbook and easel I bought during an especially ambitious manic episode. Or maybe I’ll do nothing at all, just let myself drift and see if I come up with some inspired ideas for a new story. I never have enough time to daydream, something all good writers need.
A month into the pandemic, I’d finished all the books on my iPad, binge-watched until I was thoroughly over it, and ripped up my self-portrait in a fit of frustrated pique. Worse yet, I could hear the mood goblins whispering—so seductive, so alluring. Come back down to us, they beckoned; you know the way. And they were right: I knew it all too well. I easily stumble into that black crevasse of depression when I’m bored and have nothing to do. Time has no meaning there. An hour is endless. Nothing stops me from falling forever.