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November 9, 2021

From Kubrick Films & a Country Song, Escaping my Mental Illness during COVID-19: “Ready for the Times to Get Better.”

*Editor’s Note: Elephant is not your doctor or hospital. Our lawyers would say “this web site is not designed to, and should not be construed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment. Always consult a health professional.” But we can’t afford lawyers, and you knew all that. ~ Ed

I have always drawn great inspiration from music and film.

At least I did until early 2020 when I entered a psychotic phase and felt my life actually was a terrifying movie interspersed with snippets of many songs that I both love and loathe.

I started to get the uneasy feeling that I was in a movie and the plot was apocalyptic as the pandemic raged around the world infecting millions. My mind grew sick. My thoughts were infected by more and more paranoid and dark thoughts.

I felt the pandemic was sent to torture me, and me alone—a sort of karmic punishment for being such a weak and useless person. As the news spewed out, conflicted and conflicting stories of COVID-19 and all the horrors it promised, my mind crumbled like a castle made of sand.

I felt I was the central character and it was my job to save us all from the hideousness that ensued.

I spent hours and hours obsessively reading journals and scientific papers on the origin and potential cures or therapeutics there were. I took huge amounts of strange vitamins I had procured online and made sure we had the best possible masks to avoid infection. I virtually barricaded myself in the house. Every time someone knocked or delivered a parcel, my anxiety would skyrocket. It resulted in me almost taking a baseball bat to a rude and unsafe Amazon driver one morning. This act was completely out of character as I am normally a nonviolent and placating pacifist. Luckily, it went no further as my psychotic rantings scared him off. I then phoned up to complain to his employers and suggest he be sacked for not wearing a mask. It was all truly psychotic behaviour.

Each morning, I would excitedly wake up at 5 a.m. and make my way downstairs to watch the morning news and breakfast TV programmes—all the while incensed at how stupid everyone was. I, and I alone, knew what we had to do. None of it concerted with what I witnessed.

This frustration grew and grew to a massive height that no one else could reach. As the pandemic raged, my brain started to put a story together, a movie of my own making. I was the central character and the ending was not going to be good for me. I just knew it, felt it, and sensed it.

Songs I heard would hold special relevance and taunt my ineptitude at being able to explain to people the importance of what I knew and had read in the small hours. I could see so clearly what needed to be done.

It was black and white in my mind. This black or white thinking will be familiar to anyone suffering from Bipolar—an inability to see the nuance or grey. It gives supreme confidence and makes it impossible to reason any other explanation.

I argued online with strangers and raged face-to-face at the idiocy of loved ones. All the while, this made me more and more sure I was in a film and I had no control of the direction it was heading.

I would play the song “Ready for the Times to Get Better” by Crystal Gale over and over, much to the irritation of my partner and son. It’s a beautiful song—but not when played 500 times a day.

“I’ve got to tell you I’ve been racking my brain,

Hoping to find a way out,

I’ve had enough of this continual rain,

Changes are coming no doubt,

It’s been a too long time

With no peace of mind,

And I’m ready for the times

To get better,

You seem to want from me what I cannot give,

I feel so lonesome at times,

I have a dream that I wish I could live,

It’s burnin’ holes in my mind.”

This song, it felt, was about me and my predicament. It both comforted and tortured me.

I was ready for the times to get better before the pandemic, and now in the pandemic, I needed it to get better—and quickly—before I completely went insane.

I was tired of the continual rain of miserable and paranoid thoughts, but all the while fairly excited at the pandemic plot unfolding. There was no peace of mind in anything. Everything seemed to be sent to torture me—and torture me they did.

The song would make me maniacally laugh and cry as I listened to it. It was as if it had been written about me for this exact scene or scenario. The continual rain of bad news and death burned holes in my psyche and I could feel reality slipping away.

Life was asking for things I could not give. I couldn’t focus, or sleep, or eat. The enormity of both the pandemic and my mental collapse was passing me by as I had no energy nor context anymore. I watched Kubrick films obsessively and felt he had spent his entire career making films to both taunt and comfort me in my madness.

I was Jack in “The Shining.” And like him, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

The patterns and scenery I could see were mirrored in my house. I informed my partner that the clothes she was making were Kubrick clothes and I knew what she was doing.

The paranoid nightmare fantasies of my mind were spilling out from the screen and into my own life.

I sat in the bath and worried my skin would fall off in the water. I would read the bathroom tiles and the hidden code that had always been there jumped out in 3D. I could now clearly see messages and wondered why no one else could see them. I became sure hot baths were the cause of my mania, and of course, would have a piping hot bath daily.

It’s addictive, the feeling of mania, you just want to see where it will take you and where the horrific plot will go.

The inspiration I once gained from film and music twisted and turned into a taunting and haunting feeling of paranoia, I became convinced that reality wasn’t real and was instead constructed to cause me pain and to mock me. The films and music were literally burning holes in my mind, my grip on what we agreed upon as a shared reality was almost gone.

I was at the point where someone or something was going to get me arrested or put in a hospital against my will.

In the haze of all this, I knew I was sick—or hoped I was sick, as that was far better than what I believed to be true.

I managed to get an online psychiatrist appointment in the summer of 2020. She tentatively suggested that I was bipolar and in need of mood stabilisers. What did I say? “Rubbish,” of course.

I knew far better than she did and it was the pandemic that was the problem. I needed the pandemic to end. I would be fine and dandy. She prescribed Risperidone; I instantly worked out the word was an anagram of “prisoner die.”

Who did she think she was fooling? I was the prisoner and she wanted me dead! There was no way that I was going to quietly take the “prisoner-killing” drug she had prescribed.

Luckily for me, I have a patient and supportive partner and through weeks of coaxing, she managed to get me to agree to take half the dose to start with. I would take it as agreed, and as she handed it to me I would open my mouth to show it was gone and say, ‘Thank you, Nurse Ratched!” I stuck with half the dose for about a week and slowly started to cycle down. As I did, I agreed to the full dose and began to realise how sick I truly was.

The cuckoo had flown the nest and my mind settled into some sort of normal.

So, my advice is this:

>> The times will get better.
>> For god’s sake do not judge your life against movies and country songs!

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