It’s a concerning time for everyone right now, with Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading across the world. Many countries are going into lockdown and confining people to their homes. In the UK people are panic-buying toilet roll, hand gel and paracetamol, and leaving the shelves bare of many other things too.
Many events are being cancelled. Social distancing means appointments are being cancelled as well as groups. People are working from home. Social gatherings are being banned. Restaurants are closing their seating areas and becoming takeaways. Schools are closing until further notice. Pubs, clubs, theatres, zoos are closing. We are now effectively in lockdown and can only leave our homes for essential shopping, medical reasons, work or exercise. Groups will be dispersed. People may be fined for ignoring these rules. Initially this is three weeks, but will be much longer no doubt. It’s worrying times.
I want to tell you about my own personal worries and how this is impacting my mental health. I really feel for everyone out there right now, who has a mental health condition and is facing the prospect of months of isolation, with no support. I’m with you.
Last Tuesday my peer support group got cancelled for the foreseeable future. It hit me really hard for so many reasons. I don’t have friends anymore. That group was the only support I had… socially. They were my only contact with actual human beings outside of my house.
In the year or two prior to attending the Wellbeing Centre, I had isolated myself. I didn’t leave the house. I didn’t talk to anyone, besides family. I didn’t have hobbies. I didn’t have goals. Things were incredibly bleak and black. I was on the verge of ending my life. I obsessed about it daily. I felt certain it would happen in the next six months or so. So attending the Centre has helped me tremendously….
I felt human again, after being out of contact with other humans for so long. The journals we keep in the sessions helped me to look at things more positively. I found more gratitude. I recognised my achievements. I started wanting to achieve more. This year I’ve signed up each month to walk 25 miles… trying to collect medals for my efforts. I’ve also got back into hobbies such as drawing and poetry. I’ve taken up new ones, like crochet – that’s helped me so much. I love learning all about it. I looked forward to seeing everyone and being able to talk about things with someone. So losing all of that now, it’s really upsetting.
It’s made worse by the feelings and I guess a form of attachment I have to one of those taking the group. I’ve battled so hard with that this year, secretly (other than writing about it on here). I’ve talked to the Centre about it. Unfortunately things weren’t left on a great note, as after the last session I had a conversation that sent me backwards in my recovery. I also think I upset the person I have the attachment to, and so didn’t get a chance to apologise for it. (This has changed since writing this – he’s reassured me he wasn’t offended and I’d just misinterpreted his comment…. so that’s okay, even though I wasn’t basing my belief on what he said but rather his body language… so I don’t believe him, but at least that’s ‘resolved’).
But now I don’t know if / when I might see him again. I already dreaded losing him one day down the line. But I knew it wouldn’t be just yet. I wanted to focus on the time I had with him rather than thinking about the inevitable loss… but with everything closing down for God knows how long, I’m forced into a ‘loss’ situation with him. I have a sense of grief for being without him. And worse than that I fear for him… I worry something might happen to him. And I worry I won’t get to see him again. I feel silly for caring about him. He’s not mine to worry about. But I do. And I can’t keep him safe. I have no control over if he’ll be okay or not. I won’t even know if he’s not okay. And I miss him already. The thought of weeks or months without him feels unbearable. I wasn’t ready for this. It feels like a darkness that will never end. It takes me to a place I’m scared of.
He brought the light back into my life. Even a three week break was too much for me. The light faded. It’s gone again. I fear it won’t ever return. At least I knew after three weeks I’d see him again… now I don’t know when it’ll be. This will be longer than three weeks, I’m sure of it. Without seeing him, having contact with others, or having any friends to talk to during isolation… I don’t see how to survive it. I won’t be the same person at the other end. I know that for sure.
I had just started making progress, which unfortunately got ruined a bit last time, but this is going to take me back to square one. It’s the not knowing when it’ll end or what life will be like afterwards… who’ll still be standing. It’s terrifying.
Not only that but the three year anniversary of losing my granddad was this weekend just gone, and I needed that support from the group. I needed to go last week and this week. Because nobody supports me online. I’m invisible to everyone online. And I have no friends. So that’s all I had. Also in a couple of months it’ll be the first anniversary of my friend’s suicide. Again, I have no support with that. Nobody talks to me. I needed to know I had the group to hear me. I’ll be all alone with these difficult dates. I’m highly aware of all the loss I’ve faced in the last few years…. and now there’s more loss, of the group and the person I care for.
It’s highly likely that every event I had booked up last year, to keep me alive this year will also be cancelled. I’ve got the theatre next month…. was going to see Queen in June and Westlife in July and August – was going to actually see them on my birthday this year – it would’ve been the best birthday ever….. but as usual it was too good to be true… just like last year getting front row seats – that was too good to be true, so my friend who was going with me took her own life five weeks before… turned a dream come true into something to just get through and grieve. I can never have a good experience. It’s true. Something always, ALWAYS ruins it. Every single time. So this takes me to a depressing place where I just think ‘what’s the point?’… Life was hard enough without all this.
Add to that the anxiety I feel. Before, my anxiety symptoms tended to happen outside the house – my blinking tic, my palpitations were associated with leaving the house. Now I’m having them at home. The fear of the unknown, the sheer scale of this and all the drama of it, it’s too much to cope with. To someone with anxiety it feels like the apocalypse… for real. I actually said the other day, this is pretty much like an asteroid situation isn’t it….. to which I was told it isn’t – because in an asteroid situation you’d just have to accept that’s it and you wouldn’t survive, whereas with this at least there’s hope and we will survive it. But it still feels ‘end of the world’ sort of stuff. Maybe because of my depression and that it is kind of the end of my world right now.
I’m also seriously concerned for loved ones. All of my family would fall into at least one of the vulnerable categories. I seem to be the only one who doesn’t. I’d say at least that’s something. But the thing is I’m not concerned about me getting it. I hate life at the moment. If something happens to me so be it. But losing someone I care about to it? That I can’t do. I can’t lose anything else. I have a very small family. I can’t lose any of them. I would gladly sacrifice myself, catch it and die if it could spare them all. Some of those family members I won’t get to see now. All I can do is worry about them from afar… again not knowing if / when I’ll see them next. What if something happens to them and I never got to see them again? I hope to speak on the phone to the people I care about. I have an older colleague / friend who lives alone. I really feel for her being isolated. I know she will hate it. So I will try and stay in touch with her too. I wish I could do more for them all, but I can’t risk carrying and passing anything on to them. So I have to keep my distance and not go out.
I’m used to isolation. Before I went to the Wellbeing Centre I’d stay in my room most of the time, with the curtains closed. I’m not one who typically gets bored. The only reason I’m struggling with the idea is the lack of support and social interaction with real human beings, beyond these four walls. It’s the fact that I had stopped totally isolating myself for about four months…. and now I have to go back to isolating again. It’s demoralising. It makes me wonder if I’ll ever be able to break back out of my shell again one day. I’m not sure I will. It took a lot of effort to get where I did. If I hadn’t been shown the light for a few weeks then I wouldn’t miss it. I would find isolation an absolute breeze, as it was my reality for at least two years! It’s being given something and having it taken away that I struggle to cope with. But I will do my best to cope nonetheless.
I’ve decided to make a list of things I can do with my time. I plan to avoid the news, forget the reason why this is happening, and just treat it as an enforced holiday. I will do things I enjoy. I will look after myself and see it as a period of recuperation. Here are some of my ideas:
- Catching up on sleep!! Anxiety is affecting my sleep cycle at the moment, so I’ll try and get extra sleep and find a routine.
- Binge-watching boxsets…. from things like LOST, to Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, even Dawson’s Creek – many episodes of old shows to watch.
- Exercise – if a time comes when I can’t even go out for walks, I can still do exercise – either DVDs or online workouts, or the exercise bike.
- Trying to improve my drawing skills.
- Get back into painting again.
- Keep learning more about crochet and creating lovely designs. I bought another batch of colours the other day to keep me busy.
- Playing guitar.
- Listening to music.
- Playing old Wii games.
- Playing online games – on Facebook, Royal Games, Sporcle, or doing all the Escape The Room Games online. There’s lots to be played!
- Tidying and cleaning. Necessary stuff.
- Playing board games with family. If none of us are going out then we can’t pass anything on to each other.
- As long as I’m able to leave the house and go to the postbox down the road, I’ll write to those I care about, living alone, and keep them in the loop. Otherwise I’ll just phone them.
- Writing poetry.
- Blogging – on this blog and on my poetry blog. I can find old poems I’ve written and design the banners for each of them, which is fun.
- Keeping a journal about all of this so that one day when we look back, I can talk about how we got through it.
- Learning new skills. I taught myself crochet by watching YouTube videos. I could learn other things too.
- Brushing up on shorthand now I’ve found my shorthand dictionary.
- Losing weight. So that by the time I next see other people I’ll be a whole different person. They won’t even recognise me!
- Jigsaw puzzles.
- Puzzle books.
There’s SO much I can do with my time. I certainly won’t get bored of that. I might just feel a bit lonely. I’ll miss people. I’ll worry for people. But I can keep myself busy. Or not. I can equally just rest and do guided meditations to relax. We do what we must to get through this. And then hope that life can continue afterwards as it was before.
Staying at home is no problem for me. That was my life last year and most of the year before. I only went out for appointments or to volunteer. I didn’t see anyone socially. I didn’t go to the shops. I hardly left the house. So in a way it’s no different for me. The way I’m struggling, already, is the thought I might not see people from the Wellbeing Centre for months on end. The light at the end of the tunnel has been snuffed out. Also while I was going out to the Centre and meeting with people, I placed less focus on people online. Now I have no contact and have no friends to chat to, I find myself noticing how invisible I am again. I post and nobody notices. Nobody talks to me. I liked not caring about that for a while. Now I feel very isolated again. It has turned my mind back to things I’d pushed out of my mind – the friend who abandoned me, and the friend who took her own life. Wishing I had both, or either of them right now. I feel very lonely already. It’s forcing me to face all that again when I really don’t want to. I had started moving on.
Having experienced a change to the isolation I knew, I now feel it more to have to return to such isolation. It’s like being shown love, to have it cruelly ripped away moments later. With mental illness I find that hope can be dangerous… despair is my life. If all you know is despair then it doesn’t feel as bad as things improving and then getting worse again…. the despair then feels so much worse and like something you can’t survive. It makes you think it’s better to stay down in that pit and never see the sunlight for a moment. You start to fear happiness or hope. The darkness feels even darker after the light.
Anytime I’ve looked forward to something, something has ruined it. And just as I started to try and turn my life around this year, this has happened. What’s the point? By the time this is over, most if not all of that work will have been undone.
Nothing can replace what I feel I’ve lost at this moment in time. I fear losing more. But I’ve decided that every Tuesday I will blog about the things I’d normally write in my recovery journal at the Centre. I will list three things or so that I’m grateful for, one thing I struggled with in the week, what I learnt from it, and three things I’ve achieved. It won’t be the same. But it’ll keep my mindset on recovery, gratitude and achievements.
It’s taken a while to get this post done. I’ve felt a bit under the weather the last few days. Was worried I had this Coronavirus thing, as I’ve felt breathless and been coughing ust a little bit. But probably just anxiety. I feel better today.
Anyway I hope everyone stays safe, follows the advice and rules and you can all find your way through this difficult time. We’ll come through this together. But I fully understand how hard it is for people like us. Stay strong and take care.