So how does someone with chronic paranoid schizophrenia and generalized anxiety disorder cope with the possibility of a pandemic? I am going to write at least a little bit every day during the outbreak of the Covid-19 (the latest coronavirus infecting people across the globe). I am going to blog about this, so people will understand what I am thinking and what actions I am taking.
The type of paranoia associated with schizophrenia is, for me, different than a real threat presented by the spread of a virus. If I thought, which I don’t, that this was a conspiracy to impact the world, that might be a symptom of schizophrenia. However, that is not what I think. I think it is like any other illness that spreads in the human population for the first time and results in widespread infection because we don’t have defenses against it. In other words, I trust science.
What am I doing that others may not be doing? I can’t gauge how worried other people are, so I’m not even going to try to say that I am within a normal range of concern/worry/anxiety. I can tell you what I have done so far and what I will continue to do.
I watch the news every day to keep up with the statistics. Uncertainty makes me more anxious than facts. If the virus is spreading (and it is), I want to know this. I don’t want to ignore what is happening. That won’t alleviate my concerns. I want to know the percentage of mild cases versus the percentage of people who require hospitalization or die.
Just so you know, I keep a backpack at my door with cash, radio, extra medications, and other items my husband and I might need in an emergency. We live in Southern California, where it is possible to have an earthquake at any time. There is no way to be ready for an earthquake, but we are as prepared as we can be. With the knowledge that I am already a person who prepares for possible emergencies, you can imagine that I have taken steps to avoid what problems that I can anticipate the virus might cause.
I have prepared for possible supply disruptions from China and the possibility of a quarantine. Meaning, I ordered an extra thirty days of my antipsychotic drugs (I had to pay out of pocket for this, but the pharmacy saved me over two hundred dollars by suggesting I use GoodRX. That was serious, must know tip! The cost without the coupon was almost four hundred dollars. There were some coupons for pharmacies that offered the drug for twenty-five. I didn’t want to change pharmacies, but you can bet if I didn’t have a few extra bucks, I would have changed pharmacies to get the added discount).
For health reasons (to try and avoid some of the side effects of antipsychotic medications and because I have issues with diverticulitis), I eat a minimum of five fruits and vegetables every day. I was worried about fresh food getting in low supply or not being allowed to go grocery shopping, so I bought some canned green beans, canned peas, applesauce, frozen cauliflower, packaged beets, and frozen yams. I didn’t stockpile any of these things. I bought a few of them to get me by in case we are required to stay in our houses (which I doubt will happen but it is happening in other countries).
I bought two medium-sized containers of hand sanitizers before the shelves were empty (I went to buy one more today and couldn’t find them anywhere, so planning paid off in this case). I also bought two bottles of Tylenol (actually, I bought a generic fever reducer) in case my husband or I get a fever, and can’t get to a store or the stores are sold out. We have a prescription for Ibuprofen (for back pain), which I checked on because I heard about ninety percent of it is made in China.
So, this is how someone with chronic paranoid schizophrenia is reacting in the early days of the community-based spread of the virus. I worry deeply about people with schizophrenia who are on the streets and don’t have access or a way to prepare. I read a quote recently that said something like we are only as healthy as our most vulnerable. Of course, this means that the poor and homeless will be less likely to seek medical attention and continue to spread the virus. Beyond empathy and compassion, this is a great reason to provide all people with adequate care.
Do what is right for you. Try to stay in the present because that is all we have. Take care of each other, and I will keep you posted on my mental health in the time of fear.