Being Bipolar in a Time of Quarantine

Mental illness is already hard to navigate but add a pandemic into the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.

My Bipolar diagnosis came about two months after the pandemic began, and it has not been easy since. The high and lows I experience daily have been challenging, and being in quarantine has not helped.

Mental illness causes a sort of detachment from the rest of the world. Being Bipolar, I already feel mentally secluded, but now that there’s a physical component, I feel completely isolated.

Most days, simply getting out of bed is hard. Willing myself to get up, have my coffee, brush my teeth, and get ready for the day ahead is a challenge. I have to force myself to function.

You wake up with the clear objective of getting from point A to point B, craving the end of the day where you can roll back up into your blanket burrito and shut out the rest of the world.

Most days, you aren’t living; you’re surviving.

You’re holding on to the smallest moments of happiness in hopes it’ll motivate you to get through the day. You’re left waiting for an ounce of normalcy to return. You crave routine because when your mental health is in decline, a routine is so important. It provides stability in the midst of chaos.

When Covid-19 hit back in March, my introverted self was excited at the prospect of working from home. I thought the time to myself would deem beneficial, and in a few weeks, when all of this was said and done, I’d come out feeling rejuvenated. But a few weeks turned into a month, and a month turned into three, and suddenly we’re almost at the one-year mark.

I miss going into the office, seeing my coworkers, and chatting with people while getting my morning cup of coffee. I miss the commute and the energy of New York City. I miss being able to hang out with friends and family without fearing for their safety. I miss the simple things.

But here we are, in the middle of a pandemic with no clear end in sight. So what do we do? I have absolutely no idea. I could say meditate, do yoga, practice gratitude, and every other cliché in the book, but will that help? In the beginning, all of those things were powerful tools I kept in my belt, but as the months dragged on, hopelessness began to outweigh any positives that came from them.

It’s a scary feeling, hopelessness. It’s a powerful emotion that can derail any progress made; it’s the antidote to success. And that’s why this pandemic hit everyone so hard; it’s left us all with a feeling of hopelessness.

So how do we cope? That’s a hard question to answer, as even I am unsure how to cope with the lack of normalcy Covid-19 has left us with.

So I write. I write about my experience in hopes someone relates to it because you’re not alone in your feelings. For many of us, this pandemic has wholly derailed the progress we’ve made. It derailed me completely.

Before the pandemic, I was on track to success. I got a new job, worked out five days a week, went on adventures with my boyfriend, and finally felt as if I found my groove. But things change, and you either evolve with it or fight against it.

So I ask what you’ve found helpful during this strange, unprecedented time because I’m tired of fighting and could use all of the advice I can get.


Guilt. It’s a powerful emotion that can often stop us in our tracks. Guilt has a lot to do with self-reflection, making it incredibly paralyzing at times. We have to first analyze ourselves to analyze our guilt, which can mean looking deep into the good, the bad, and the ugly. Things we’ve repressed will resurface, sometimes in the most aggressive ways.

So what happens when our guilt is linked directly to our mental illness? I have a lot of guilt surrounding my Bipolar disorder. Consistently going from tumultuous highs to devastating lows can bring a tremendous sense of uncertainty, making it hard to enjoy everyday life.

The times where I’m up, I can’t help but linger on the fact that this feeling is only temporary. This uncertainty then seeps into my personal life, making it hard for me to function day to day without immense feelings of anxiety. Unfortunately, that anxiety turns to irritability, and my loved ones end up being at the forefront of my snippy nature.

And while I’ve put in the work necessary to gain back some of that control, I still find my guilt overtaking me. I cannot help but feel as if I am not doing enough. That feeling translates into me thinking that I am doing nothing but hurting those around me. Any slip-up, any ounce of irritability, even when justified, is met with an immense feeling of guilt.

Your mental illness can often feel like a weight, holding you and those around you down. You can end up feeling inadequate, broken. And while I can logically comprehend that is not the case, I still find myself drifting into that sea of uncertainty.

My family, friends, and boyfriend would be better off if I could get it together. The panic attacks, the mood swings, the depression, it’s holding them all back. And even when they reassure you that isn’t the case, guilt rears its ugly head. It shoves you deep into a hole with no way of digging yourself out.

So how do we break that cycle? How do we get out of the never-ending loop that is guilt? I genuinely believe guilt related to having a mental illness stems from our own insecurities. So to me, developing a sense of security and power is the key.

The first step in removing that guilt is building up your sense of self-worth. Understanding you are a person, and therefore, you are worthy of good is incredibly important. You are not your mental illness. Your mental illness is something you have. Stop saying, “I am depressed” or “I am bipolar.”Too often, we identify ourselves with our mental illness, forgetting there’s so much more to us.

Hi, my name is Katelyn, and I have Bipolar Disorder. But that is not who I am. I am a writer, a good friend, trustworthy, loyal, and I love unconditionally. Those are the traits that make me who I AM as a person.

My Bipolar is only a small part of me; it does not define my entire being. This sense of security gives you your power back. It enables you to acknowledge, process, and move on from all those parts of yourself you may not love. Regaining that power can help silence those intense feelings of guilt.

Of course, anything I write on this blog will be easier said than done, and this idea of regaining your security, your power is something I am still working on. But the more you work on it, the harder you train that muscle, the easier it’ll become to shut down your guilt.

Always remember, you are more than your mental illness.

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