A week prior I had just gotten out of the hospital following a severe mental breakdown. In truth, I have been struggling with depression and anxiety since my late teens but I have never expressed this publicly. I have been diagnosed with all kind of things in my life, among them: Bipolar II and depression, anxiety, and obsessive disorder. Due to my recent discharge from the hospital, Covid-19 was not welcomed in its timing.
When all of this started, I wasn’t too worried about Covid-19, but as time went by I couldn’t escape the headlines about death. So when I got my test results and found out I had tested positive I felt instant dread.
I had contracted the virus following a visit to my closest friends. I knew we were not supposed to hug each other, however after not seeing them for a while I could not help but yearn for that human contact. After that visit, I didn’t want to be alone. I spent three days living with my parents. When I got the call that my friends had developed symptoms and subsequently tested positive, I frantically left my parents house and self quarantined in my apartment. The fear that I had inadvertently put my parents at risk crumbled my mental stability at a time when my own symptoms began appearing. At the same time, my friend’s partner condition deteriorated to the point where he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit.
It was only a matter of time before my anxiety began to re-emerge. I began to experience it’s familiar symptoms of pressure and pain in my chest, shortness of breath, headaches, trembling, and my airways restricting regular breathing. Crying made my nose stuff up, and the thoughts that started racing through my head only compounded my isolated confusion. Was this Coronavirus or anxiety? With symptoms of both characteristically similar, how was I supposed to differentiate them? What if what I was experiencing was due to the virus and I needed to visit the hospital? Would there even be any ICU’s available? I would focus on my breathing and tell myself it was just anxiety. I began to monitor my oxygen levels and heart rate, if my oxygen level did not drop from 90, the numbers would give me some peace of mind.
The interchangeable symptoms went back and forth for seven days and my internal monologue followed each step. I kept my psychiatrist and physician on speed dial. I was still taking my psych prescription from the hospital supplemented by drugs to tackle my coronavirus symptoms. Between the various medications, the sickness, loneliness, the obsessive thoughts and the fears of getting my parents sick, my mental state spiraled toward insanity.
I felt I couldn’t be alone anymore.
I forced myself to take pictures of these days creating a visual journal of my experience, filled with stream of consciousness writings. I have always used photography as a form of cathartic expression. I wondered whether anybody was having a similar experience at the same time, and about how varied underlying conditions and situations create unique experiences of Covid-19.
There needs to be a greater discourse surrounding how the pandemic is affecting, and compounding the symptoms of, people’s mental stability and how contracting coronavirus when you struggle with mental health can be additionally damaging.
With my friend's husband still seriously ill in the hospital due to pulmonary complications. With my doctor’s approval I sought refuge in her house to support both my friend and her five-year old son who were going through their own drama. We decided to ride out the storm together. After three weeks my friend was discharged from the Intensive Care Unit and returned home. His lungs had been damaged by the virus.
The four of us quarantined together until our symptoms passed. Finally, one Tuesday, we received a text confirmation from our doctor that we were free of COVID-19. We laughed and hugged.
I forced myself to take pictures of these days creating a visual journal of my experience, filled with stream of consciousness writings. I wondered whether anybody was having a similar experience at the same time, and about how varied underlying conditions and situations create unique experiences during quarantine. This pandemic is affecting, and compounding people’s mental stability and for people who struggle with their mental health contracting coronavirus can be additionally damaging.