I Think We’re Alone Now

Recovery

Nobody likes to admit when they’re lonely. Especially not now. It’s sort of a cruel joke that there ALREADY exists an epidemic of loneliness overlapping the coronavirus pandemic.  God forbid we have a say in the matter. I think the difference now is that this loneliness epidemic affects people of all ages, not just older individuals in the winter of their lives. All it takes is a few scrolls through my social media accounts to recognize how easy it is to feel alone or deficient.  I know a lot of us can relate; I wonder how many would be willing to do so out loud.

The only way I’ve ever ‘fessed up to feeling alone and blue is when I’m forced to. Loneliness is what kept me ensnared in alcoholism like so much barbed wire. I hated picking up the phone to reach out to friends or family knowing that I needed them to answer. I’d sooner hole up in my apartment for a week drinking my blues away than cop to my need for substantial companionship. What is that about? Is it the fear of appearing needy? Is it a desire for independence? Why is it so hard to admit that keeping one’s own company can be a huge challenge? It’s not like I don’t like myself, it’s just that I reach my threshold for alone time a lot sooner than I can be around other people.

I have never struggled so hard to maintain my sanity than I have in these last 10 months. There are a couple of extraordinary reasons why this is. Both of them are major, and I think keeping the reality of what I’m dealing with quiet isn’t doing me any favors. I’ve said a nauseating amount of prayers asking Bowie to help me find a way to muscle through all of these changes, so let’s imagine me writing is my way of listening to the answers I sought.

Tomorrow (Monday), I will reach my 32-weeks-pregnancy milestone. That’s eight months AND WHO’S COUNTING. A few things: I’m astonished at how many people assume we got pregnant because of the pandemic. It’s more accurate to say the quarantine time together sped along our process, not that it caused it. People really do say some truly ignorant shit to pregnant people, I think because it’s such a mind-bending thing to consider: I’m growing another human.

To be honest with you, pregnancy is kinda gross. I do not glow. I once peed 16 times in a handful of hours. The baby kicks me hard most of the time. I spend literal hours hate-watching YouTube videos of people giving birth without epidural. I fell down the stairs spilling scalding coffee all over myself. Oh, and I got a diagnosis:

I have Bipolar II — whatever the fuck that means.

It explains a lot. Like the time I bought a round-trip ticket to England without telling anyone. Or when I flew to England 24 hours after booking that flight. I now have a reason why my compulsions and promiscuity were so rampant, despite my attempts to control my behavior. I’ve had at least one doctor in the past suspect a Bipolar diagnosis, but I never took them at their word. That kind of diagnosis seemed so serious and otherworldly. It still feels that way now, except I have no choice in the matter. I’ve been under the same psychiatrist’s care for about one year, ever since my OG doctor died. He was the person who finally diagnosed my ADHD. Fun Fact: I had to discontinue taking Strattera for my ADHD as it is not pregnancy-friendly. Something about ethics and certain classes of drugs that might be okay.

The hormonal fluctuations I experienced in the first three months of pregnancy were not normal. I got to a point where getting out of bed was unthinkable. But there I was, thinking it. I have the privilege of working from home, though I find it incredibly loathsome. I value creating my own space, but I just can’t shit where I eat. Also, my coworkers are two dogs who choose to attack the mailman and howl mindlessly during conference calls. I’m not built to work alone. Google Meet helps tremendously, but I can’t gather the same level of energy from my team as I would in person. I feed off of other people, like the good succubus that I am. I am often exhausted by mornings, especially, as my energy is low and my thoughts are disjointed. It takes at least three hours for me to warm up to the day.

By the time I’ve warmed up, the day is almost over.

I think this quarantine is the first time I’ve ever admitted to myself that I am depressed. I always viewed depression as something I could choose rather than something dictated by chemicals in my brain. The stigma I’ve internalized made hearing my diagnosis that much harder to bare. The truth is, I am no more responsible for my Bipolar than I am for my alcoholism. Yet I feel tremendous pride when I introduce myself as an alcoholic in recovery. I wonder if it’s possible to grow in a more intimate relationship to my mental health. What’s harder to admit to myself is that my loneliness could be a symptom of my recent diagnosis. But why would it matter?

We are all collectively experiencing a trauma. I don’t think any of us is handling sheltering in place all that well, assuming we have the luxury of doing so. I wish I could say that the worst is over. And I have to stay in place. We just don’t know how COVID affects unborn babies to the degree it does grown adults. The entire situation is horrifying as an extended trauma unfolding over time. I know there is nothing we can do but listen to the CDC and hold our breath for better news. It’s like staring at an unfinished sentence with a thought on the tip of my tongue. And I just can’t get there.

Because this is my first dance with depression, I’m already waiting for a different tune. The challenge before me is to dive into creative pursuits in the meantime. I’m going to do the same things that keep me sober, hoping they will keep me sane: pray, write, connect, cry, listen to music, practice honesty. These are all habits worth forming for any of us, it’s just that my spiritual life and mental health depends on me doing them.

And when there doesn’t seem to be anyone around,

I’ll (still) be here.


Lucy Hartman

Lucy Hartman

I'm funnier when I'm sober.

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