A few years ago, I went through something no one should ever have to: post traumatic stress. I was always on edge, waiting for some proverbial shoe to drop. My anxiety level was super high. I’d wake up sweating from recurring nightmares. Vivid, frightening flashbacks hit me in the middle of my workday. The reason? I was recovering from a bad breakup.
Last week, something frightening happened to me. I was talking to a friend about Downton Abbey—a TV show we both love—when I couldn’t remember one of the main character’s names. I pictured him clearly, and I could describe everything about his experiences on the show. He’s my favorite character, but I just couldn’t recall his name to save my life. I racked my brain, but I was stuck. The harder I tried to focus, the blanker my mind became. Before you say to yourself “Oh, I’ve done that, it’s not so scary,” consider this: I usually have a perfect memory for things like movie titles, and actor and character names. This was way out of the ordinary for me. I don’t know about you, but because I live with bipolar disorder, any potential disruption in my thought patterns worries me. It could be an indication of an impending episode, and that’s not something I take lightly.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been used for everything from psychological assessment to career guidance. My mom is a psychotherapist who has access to the full Myers-Briggs personality test. When I was in high school, I begged her to let me take it. I was dying to find out who I was, and how I fit into the world. The instructions said to answer without analyzing or thinking too much, so I excitedly responded to each question based on my gut instinct of who I knew myself to be—at least at that point in my life. Once the score was tallied, I was designated ENFJ—short for extrovert, intuitive, feeling judging. I came out not just as an extrovert, but on the extreme end of the scale between I (introvert) and E. Of course, it made sense on paper. I had a lot of friends. I was a happy, fun-loving person who adored attention. I was one of those people who could walk up to strangers at a party and introduce myself. And—no joke—my first word wasn’t “mama” or “dada,” it was “hi.” The more time I spent around others, the more invigorated I felt. My personality test solidified my self-confidence.
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and hopeless in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. My life has changed so dramatically, it’s been hard to see a way out. Are we ever going to get back to the way things used to be? If so, when? Will things change forever? If so, what will this new world look like? Will it be better or worse than before? Sometimes, the idea that society could ever get back to normal seems like a pipe dream.
I have bipolar disorder. Even before the coronavirus, I struggled with negative, intrusive thoughts and all-or-nothing thinking. I’ve been a victim of my own black and white view of the world. The words “always” and “never” have been firmly cemented in my vocabulary for a long time.