Loren shares how being locked down was more redemptive than destructive whilst living with bipolar disorder.

In 2012, at age 29, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (type 1), following my first ever manic episode with psychosis. I spent the next eight years learning to manage my condition, practice self care, take medication and regularly monitor my moods. I tried a period without meds, but soon realised they helped, so I went back on them. I had a couple of depressive episodes, but I recognised them and sought help.

I had my second ever manic episode in 2019, and to me it felt worse because the recovery time was significantly longer. In 2012, I returned to work after 9 weeks off. Last year, I started a phased return to work after five whole months off.

Imagine: Five months of being at home, relatively isolated, partly because everyone else was at work during the week, and partly because my crippling anxiety prevented me doing so many things I would normally do. I couldn’t travel on public transport, I had to be able to walk anywhere I needed to go. I couldn’t see friends or colleagues during the week, and on weekends, they had to come to me. I had to learn to spend time working on myself, resting, getting involved in community groups and being okay with watching lots of TV, box sets and films. I had to learn to fight my internal demons, of which there were many, and learn to love and accept myself again. When manic you can do or say things that are awful, embarrassing, humiliating, which you later regret intensely.

Fast forward to 2020 and the outbreak of Covid19. My company put me on furlough for 8 weeks, which at first I was really upset by. I thought my mental health would be better if I had focus and structure five days a week. But I came to view this time as part paid sabbatical even though I kind of had this last year!

I feel my resilience in 2020, being stuck at home on lockdown, not working because I’m furloughed, and needing to find things to do with my time. 2019’s manic episode and recovery really did train me for this. I can’t travel, I can only walk for an hour a day, I’m not beating myself up for watching TV, boxsets and films. I can’t see my friends or colleagues in person, although I do love a video chat and quiz. My internal demons are being kept at bay. I am still practicing self care, taking my meds, sleeping well, eating well(ish), monitoring moods daily.

The loveliest thing is, I have been reconnecting with the community groups I was a part of last summer. The Recovery College, WeCoProduce, the Wellbeing Network, and the WhatsApp groups I created of people I met last year. It’s a great time to feel like you belong.

So while my 5 month recovery journey in 2019 was hell to live through, a lot of positives came out of it. And that’s why I feel resilient during Covid19 and furlough. I’ve been here before, I survived, and I will do it again.