Coping With Covid

by Joseph Merlin Bowers

My gym is closed. The golf courses have been closed. We are under stay at home orders with exceptions. I can no longer work out at the gym most days, play basketball on Wednesday mornings or go golfing several times a week like I had been doing. My board meetings are by Zoom as well as Friendly Harbor supervision and community meetings. The Suicide Prevention Coalition hasn’t held at meeting since this started. I can no longer volunteer at the homeless shelter. My communication with my son in New York, his wife and children is by Google Duo. I had never heard of that or Zoom before this started.

I have enough equipment downstairs to work out fairly well three or four times a week. I stretch extensively each morning. While the weather held, I was doing a lot of hiking. walking and bike riding. The weather has been ugly the last two days. My lower back is giving me a lot of trouble. I’m conflicted between getting out of shape and risking type 11 diabetes (a common side effect of the antipsychotic I’ve been taking more than thirty years)  by resting it or continuing my fitness regimen. My wife and I have been spending more time at home together than at any other time in our 44 years of marriage. So far there has been no domestic violence! We have enough food stored up to get by shopping about every ten days. More people are wearing the recommended masks but still not much more than 50% by my observation.

I have decided to use this time to rewrite my book witting about a lot more of my life than just the mental illness stuff and bringing it up to date. It was e published in 2013 and a lot has happened since.

I’ve always known that I’m much more productive when extremely busy than when I have a lot of time. As this goes on, I’m having a harder and harder time staying motivated enough to do anything. I’ve always been pretty active and get bored pretty easily, but I need more variety in my activities to want to do anything. Social isolation is probably the worst thing possible for someone living with a serious mental illness.

Other than my wife, there are only three people I have willingly allowed within six feet. The first is a dear friend who about a year ago was released from the state hospital after 13 years of incarceration due to serious mental illness. I’ve known her about five years now and never seen her exhibit any symptoms. She possesses uncommon organizational skills, leadership and an amazing work ethic. The fact that this young lady gets a second chance at life will prove a real boon to society. She became trained in cosmetics in the hospital and will graduate from college with a degree in welding this semester. She comes over every other Saturday mostly to visit my wife and watch a taped episode of Outlanders. She cut my hair a couple weeks ago and gave me a brief huge Saturday.

Another is a very dear friend I first met at the Friendly Harbor about five years ago. She has been out of the state hospital more than two years now after a five year stay. I’ve heard many sad stories in my time on this earth. Hers is the saddest. Because of serious mental illness, she lost her husband, her child, her home, her friends, her career and her freedom. Still she goes on and has committed her life to helping others. She earned her Masters in psychology while in the hospital. Currently she is pursuing a second masters and was working full time is behavioral health services at a local hospital until this pandemic hit and her hours were cut.

She and I get together to walk and talk about every two weeks. We haven’t maintained six feet between us though we have both started wearing masks.

These two young ladies are major inspirations for me-living proof that anything I can possibly do to help in the field of mental health reform is well worth doing.

The third is a middle aged man I’ve known about five years. He was taken from abusive parents at age five and believes this literally saved his life. He worked for FEMA for fifteen years. He was part of the World Trade Center response, post Katrina New Orleans, a bad hurricane in the Southeast and has done a lot of tornado chasing. Despite many mental health issues, he refused to go on disability insurance until recently trying with limited success to hold down a job.

He has been threatening suicide off and on since early in our relationship. He has made a decision to go on living for the sake of his children that he dearly loves so far. It’s hard to judge how serious a suicide threat he really is, but I decided some time ago that I will always take him seriously. We have a long established relationship and I think I’ve earned his trust. So far whenever possibly suicidal he has always eventually responded to me as I’ve reached out to him. I  have s lot of respect for this badly damaged individual and feel our society owes him much. I’ll always do anything i can for him. His last suicide threat was about two weeks ago. I went to his apartment and we talked. We will talk face to face whenever he wants..

This morning has been pretty productive. I worked on my book over an hour and wrote this, but I had to force myself. Writing is a real chore for me because I’m terrible at keyboarding. I keep reminding myself of someone’s quote that writing is 10% inspiration and 90% percent perspiration and I keep thinking if I keep at it my keyboarding will get better.

Our local golf courses opened to county residents with many restrictions this morning. I’ll have something fun to do so long as people follow the rules well enough to keep them open. That will help. Time is on our side with regard to the weather as well.





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