As part of The Occidental’s COVID-19 coverage, we are running a series titled “Letters from” written by staff writers, editors and Occidental students. These letters aim to document the experience and insights of Occidental students as they adjust to new circumstances.
For me, this extended period of being home with family and away from friends, eliminating any sense of adventure or exterior purpose, was not unexpected. I was going to be in Pennsylvania for the rest of the month of March, April, May and so on without the shared laughs and smiles with friends, the spontaneous trips to Santa Monica or the everlasting sunshine of LA. There’s a reason people write love songs about California.
I withdrew from Oxy for me. For me and me only.
One cloudy spring morning, waking up in Chino Hills under the roof of the million-dollar brain mansion that kept me hostage (not really) until my bipolar disorder was stabilized, I was whacked with the reality that everything was about to be different.
When my therapist greeted me that morning with a wholesome “Tom Hanks has coronavirus,” I knew everything was changing. And fast — although it was hard to tell from the bubble I existed in, where the only fears my peers and I had were of the angry stallions at equine therapy.
Being hospitalized again was a choice: a stern one, an intentional one and one that happened to coincide with a global pandemic. My mental health treatment was cut short because of the virus, although I like to think it was my powers of persuasion, and I left the brain mansion “against counselor advisement.” In my terms, dishonorably discharged.
Back home I went and packed up shop, stable enough to myself but not to others. I was led back home like a camel on a rope by my older brother, a California native (as much as a USC student can call himself). I had no idea the havoc I was coming home to.
My mom sprayed me down with Lysol as soon as I walked in the door, when I thought I was fresh and clean off the plane coming from LAX. She made me and my brother throw our clothes in the washer and threw robes on us.
I now realized that my stay at a residential behavioral hospital was a preamble to my (expected) months of quarantine. And here was my change in location.
I fell asleep on my first Zoom call with my new Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). Most of you’ve been Zooming your professors. I Zoom therapists. The ups and downs and trials and errors and fallacies and blooming flowers of online school (BlueJeans University, whatever the kids are calling it), equate perfectly to how I felt about being in IOP. Every day was a journey and I had to work.
I know that even though I have it not-so-good, there are thousands of people who have it really not so good; they have it really bad. My brain stays pumping the iron, trying to rebuild those little brain muscles so I can call myself whole again. So I can go back to normal after months of living in a state of mania, depression and panic.
I can feel myself getting better, just as I hope every single COVID-19 patient eventually feels better too.
And I’m here painting a picture. Maybe it’s for you, who knows. All I know is that I’m breathing and I’m living and I’m thankful for life and I’m thankful to be here and although it’s not good right now it will get better. Because even in the darkest times it always does. And we do have laughs. We smile. We take care…
Coming to you from my head, thanks for tuning in.
McKenna Matus is an outside contributor and undeclared first-year.