On Managing Stress During a Pandemic When You Have a Mental Illness

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Most of the people who read my blogs know by now that I live with schizophrenia, and that on the whole I’m doing pretty well, but last night a number of factors caused me to feel angst about the current situation.

Like a lot of people in North America I’m now in-shelter confinement, which means that, apart from necessary errands, I have to stay home. I end up spending quite a bit of time on social media and watching the news, where I see how low human nature can sink when people think they can get away with taking unfair advantage of the situation. This is when we see why humanity needs a Savior to get us out of the mess we have made, and no human alive today fits that description.

One night I was thinking with some despair of all that is going on in North America and in the world and of what the book of Revelations says about the end times, and I felt genuine angst. Some decades ago, under the tenure of a former pastor, I participated in a study of the book of Revelation. At the time, I assumed that the worst would happen after my death, but now I’m not so sure anymore. Things seem to be accelerating, and I don’t like the direction they’re taking. So last night I prayed about that. I told God I was feeling a lot of anxiety and that it kept me awake when I wanted to sleep. I also asked Him for help, because I didn’t know what to do about it at that time of night. It was about the same time as now: half past 11 (23:30).

After my prayer, I felt led to the kitchen cabinet where I keep some of my meds and took a small pill that’s about 25mg of Seroquel, the medication I take to control my positive symptoms, but a smaller dose than usual. That plus a glass of milk, a cupcake, and watching a bit of a Too Cute episode helped lull me to sleep.

People ask me if one can become dependent on medications for psychiatric conditions, and I usually answer that unless you’re taking them to get a buzz, you can’t. I’ve been taking the same dosage for years, and I used to take an even bigger dose that made me feel like a zombie and scaled it back down. Since then that dose has not increased one bit. I didn’t take the 25mg pill the next night, because I didn’t feel the need for it. 

Outsiders—those who don’t live with a mental illness—need to know that the purpose of medications for psychiatric conditions (such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other problems that are controlled by medications) is not to provide a buzz. They just prevent people who need them from sinking into absolute despair—when they work. Unfortunately, they don’t work for everybody, but that is a topic for another blog. 

My point here is that there is relief for people who get anxious about this catastrophe. In fact, the premier of the province where I live encourages people who have mental illnesses or other disorders to seek help, whether through counseling or medication, if the stress becomes overwhelming, to prevent breakdown. 

It’s not always easy to find that help even in Canada, despite the fact that the government provides universal coverage for that sort of thing, and people without health insurance in the States cannot get access to a doctor. 

The American system is too complicated for me to give advice about how to proceed. Even the Canadian system varies from province to province, since the implementation of health care in Canada is a provincial jurisdiction. So, from experience I have an idea of how the system works in Québec only. But please DO seek help anyway. Disability Concerns has posted resources on its site for those who don’t know where to look. Feel free to avail yourselves of those resources.

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Amen. I've been on low-dose antidepressants for over a decade. My wife will gladly attest to the difference they have made.