What a year! And I figured that if my mental health is still a mess right now, then I’m sure some of you might be in the same boat.
Before you get too concerned about me though and start telling me that I need to talk to someone… I’m fine. I’m just a lot more off-balance than usual.
I feel like I’m exhausted all the time and just plain anxious. Anxiety is something new to me. I’m used to being in control or just riding the wave without much worry. But the ride we’ve been on lately seems to be knocking my mental health into a whole different direction.
What’s the anxiety about? I don’t know for sure, but I have a pretty good guess that it’s just the uncertainty of things. Not only does the pandemic affect us like so many others in one way or another, but we have that unique facet of being ex-pats who were living in Panama.
Even though the status of my mental health isn’t something high on my list to share with the world, I kind of like you guys and thought it would be helpful to share. Maybe my anxiety might be reassuring to others struggling as well right now.
What’s the mental health wrench in the works?
Some of you might remember that I tend to have some pretty good highs and lows. I’m probably bipolar though I’ve never been formally diagnosed. My dad suffered similar problems and killed himself when I was only 6, right before my brother’s 4th birthday.
I’m far from that fate – I made the decision never to end things that way decades ago… but I do still have my periodic share of swings.
Anyway, right now, I think I’m in one of those pretty good slumps. I’m not depressed, but just out of whack. I’m just anxious like something’s not right and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Trying to break things down a little more, I think the uneasiness I’m having can be attributed to a number of factors including:
- Not having the freedom we’re used to, particularly in spending time together with others
- The ridiculousness of the small percentage of self-entitled loud-mouths in the U.S. throwing whiny tantrums
- The uncertainty of where we’re going to be living a few months from now
- The political state of the U.S.
- My own struggle of trying to figure out my next path in life
Again, I’m not really depressed… I’m just off. A little wrinkle in the mental health cloud, if you will.
Let’s break some of these issues down a little further, shall we?
The pandemic is smothering
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but this pandemic is smothering the @#$% out of everyone.
Look, this thing is what it is. No one wanted it but it’s here now so we have to deal with it.
I’ll flat out tell you that I strongly agree with social distancing and wearing masks. And honestly, I think that’s probably the majority of people.
However, if I see another one of these goofballs yelling at a store employee or a receptionist at a dentist office bitching about how wearing a mask is taking away their freedom, I’m gonna freak. Stop being an @#$hole. Wear your mask or stay away from the private businesses requiring you to do so. It might be your right to not wear a mask (even though that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard), but it’s also their right to refuse to serve you.
I’m sure (or at least hoping) that there aren’t that many idiots like this in the country, but they’re the stories that the media, of course, loves to focus on.
Anyway, I’m not one of these yahoos and we’ll continue to do our best to keep our distance until this all subsides. And I’m ok with that – it’s not a lot to ask of anyone right now. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not getting old.
We made the hard decision to come back to the U.S. a couple of weeks ago. And we’ve served our time staying in quarantine waiting for any symptoms to appear from our travels. None did, thank God.
But I’ll tell you what – being back isn’t that exciting. I keep thinking of all the people, both friends and family, who I want to reach out to so we can make plans. But then I remember that it’s not like we can just get a big group together to meet at a bar somewhere… and that sucks.
We’re probably going to be here for months (unless Panama decides to open their borders sometime soon) and we still likely won’t be able to see too many people. Sure, we’ll have some nights spread out around fire pits and we’re even planning some camping with close friends and those days will be fantastic.
However, there’s still that looming limit of the freedom we’re used to having. Again, that’s ok with me – we’re doing what’s necessary right now and we’re lucky to be as healthy and safe as we are. It’s still tough on the old mental health though.
This virus sucks. Eventually, it’ll be something we all look back on and wonder why we were such wusses about just hunkering down for a while. But that time ain’t now and it’s just lousy.
We’re going to live where?
No seriously – where are we going to live?
Right now, we’re living in Lisa’s parents’ basement and I couldn’t be more grateful. It’s like we have our own little apartment here. But that’s for the month we planned on being here.
Unfortunately, though, Panama’s borders are closed. We have no idea when the government there will re-open the airports again. And when they do open things back up, will they let U.S. citizens back in? Probably pretty unlikely for the time being.
Imagine the uncertainty of having a home in another country and not knowing if you’ll ever be able to get to it… that’s the kind of #$% messing with my mental health!
Luckily, it’s a condo we’re renting in Panama and it’s a furnished place so we don’t have a lot of stuff there. We do have some stuff though. We tried to be picky about what we packed when we came back to the U.S. knowing we might not get back there anytime soon, but we do have at least a few suitcases worth of stuff there.
Our lease ends in mid-September and we paid up our rent through that time. But if we’re not able to get back into Panama by then, do we renew our lease? Do we continue to pay for a place we don’t live in? Or do we let it go and see if our neighbor can ship us a few of our possessions before the landlord rents it out to someone else? Do we ever go back there?
I don’t know the answer. And I’m sure we’ll figure it out with time. Thank God we have the flexibility in life to kind of go with the flow, but these are the needle pricks poking at my mental health.
Just so you know, the tentative game plan for now is to stay at my in-laws for the time being. If we can get back to Panama in the next month or two, perfect.
If we find out that it’s going to be a handful of months before we can get back, we’ll renew our lease in Panama and figure out something to do in the meantime. Lisa and I talked about the idea of getting a car and taking a road trip across the country for fun. We could visit people we rarely get a chance to see, too. Maybe that’ll happen or maybe not.
If we find out that it’s going to be a long time (like 2021) before we can get back, we might just say “forget it” and get an apartment here. Then we’d have to figure out if we’d go back eventually or just start a new life here.
Life’s a dance, right?!
Time to make the donuts…
Now, before I continue on, it’s important to understand that we’re extremely blessed to be in the position we’re in. The unemployment rate for the U.S. for the month of June was 11.1%. Some folks have to worry about finding a job to feed themselves and their families and it’s horrible to see that.
So nothing I have on my plate can come close to comparing to that and I’m more than thankful for how we’re doing. But it doesn’t mean that my anxiety isn’t still there.
And right now, I have a slight feeling of claustrophobia. It’s not from living in a basement – there’s no lack of love over here!
But between not having a place of our own and the pandemic restricting us from really doing much, I have my moments of feeling like time is slipping away. Does that sound weird or does that make sense at all?
Every day it’s like I’m just going through the motions:
- Wake up
- Practice my Spanish
- Work out using the Fitbod app
- Maybe write a little for Route to Retire
- Hang out with the family / Play a board game or some cards
- Have a beer… sometimes two or three
- Maybe watch a movie or some TV with Lisa and Faith
- Read a little
- Go to sleep
Doesn’t sound too bad, right? It’s not, but it seems like I’m in a rut and not moving forward with anything. I have this curse where I feel like I need to be accomplishing something or I’m not doing things right.
Mental health break
Even though I’m sitting here whining about my anxiety, life is good.
We’ve wrapped up our time in quarantine and we’re planning on a little bit of fun. We’ll be meeting my cousin and his family at his cottage at Kelleys Island this weekend. His family will stay in his cottage and we’ll stay in the bunkhouse to give us a little distance. That’ll be great to hang out, play in the lake with the kids, and possibly do some fishing.
We’re also hoping to go camping with some friends next week. They actually coordinated their vacation from work around the time they knew we’d be back in Ohio… how great are those friends?!
One worry we don’t have is how schooling is going to work, which is weighing on a lot of parents’ minds right now. We had already planned on homeschooling Faith again for this coming school year. Lisa spent time homeschooling Faith during our first year in Panama and we decided to do one more year of it. That’s another stress factor off the table for us.
Other than that, it’s all about going on more walks, continuing to work out, and trying to keep the drinking from becoming a habit.
I have more to be grateful than you could ever imagine. Being healthy around loving friends and family is obviously huge. And having the flexibility of being financially independent and early retired make life more than wonderful.
Right now, my state of mind is just a little wrinkle in the space-time continuum – nothing to get excited about. No need to send sympathy – this isn’t a cry out for help. I’ll be just fine but I think it’s important to share what’s going on in my head. If you’re in a similar position with your mental health, I hope it’s comforting to know that it’s not just you.
How’s your mental health lately?
Thanks for reading – just writing about this is making feel better already! Stay safe, everyone!