Lockdown has been good and bad for my mental health. Why?
This post is a harder one for me to write. Talking about my mental health these days feels trickier. Partly because I am aware that people reading this space don’t always feel comfortable about what I share and also because to be honest, I am doing ok, and it feels weird to share that when I know other people are NOT doing ok. I don’t want this to be me telling other people they should be coping better because I am.
In March, our country shut and locked down. I went home. We have been at home for nearly 10 weeks now and with a husband working from home, my job not workable right now, due to it being public facing, my teenager distance learning until September and my son already homeschooled, for us life, is lockdown, for the next while longer at least.
For the first two weeks it was brutal on all of us. The boy and I struggling the most. Change for him is hard to process and the total curtailment of his busy life hit him very hard. He’s ok now, although he has struggled regulating his emotions and frustrations and we continue to work with him on that.
I thought I might fall apart. Fear of loosing my job, fear that my more vulnerable health wise teen would get Covid, fear that although the husband is healthy now, that Covid would make him ill and after last year’s time in hosptial that I could face loosing him again. Fear that I would get Covid and leave my family (my mother died when she was my age, that I am now, fear of loss, and fear of dying and leaving my children as I experienced is a huge trigger area for me and my anxiety) PTSD from what happened last year still looms for me, and panic attacks and nights where I lie awake in a state of almost paralysed fear at the “what if” are still there. I was in weekly therapy before lockdown hit, and that was heavily curtailed to e mail contact then nothing.
Also fear of the unknown. Being at home 24/7. Not working as I usually do. Having my children with me all the time. Not being able to see friends in person. Lots of fear and anxiety that many people have faced. I am not alone. At one point my anxiety was so high, even checking an e mail would trigger a violent reaction in my brain, and I had to remove myself from social media for a period of time, in certain places, because the emotions, feelings and thoughts of others was just too much for me to handle.
I have been on the verge of what might be called a mental breakdown since the end of last year. A repeat of 2013 when I realised I was very unwell and needed help.
This time however, there was no keep calm and carry on, pretending to be ok, whilst trying to avoid medication and cramming in as much therapy as I could to get me out from under the gaze of my pyschiatrist and therapist. That was hard. It was hard on my children, it was hard on my hsuband. I was angry, shouty, frightened, frustration, emotional, and then depressed to the point where getting out of bed to face the day felt like as much as I could do, let alone homeschool my children, keep a house running, blog, do work admin, prop up a few people in my life, and deal with normal. It was pretty awful. Phone calls with my GP and the local mental health nurse helped, but I honestly wasn’t sure if I would be able to tackle the grip of anxiety that had hold of me and cope with life ahead but there was nowhere to hide.
This time. I had to stop.
And it’s been good for me. I have had no choice but to step back, step away. No work, no rushing around, no dealing with all the plates that I juggle. In fact, most of the plates have been dropped and smashed and cleared up by someone else and the relief of that has been tremendous. But it took a while for me to let go.
I can’t say for sure when I realied that I was going to be ok and that I could do this. I don’t think it was one thing or a lot of things. I think slowly settling into a routine, and getting on with the life that we now are in, and trying to practice some self care helped.
This time has given me space to face myself. Not really much time for myself (because we are all under one roof all the time, I think I have had about an hour alone since the 17th March) but lots of time to realize what changes I need and have to make, for my mental health and wellbeing. The realization that for so long trying to prove myself to the world and also myself doing what I thought everyone else thought was best was what was going to break me. It almost did.
So now, I face a few more months of life as we know it like this, and normal life will slowly come back. It won’t be normal as we knew it for a while, but it will also not be normal for me as I knew it. I am not cured, I am not better, I still need therapy, and there’s a lot of broken in my head that needs gluing back together but also a lot of pressure has been lifted and I now think I might have space to finally start to fix me.
Don’t get me wrong. Lockdown is tough. This life we live and what we have faced as other people have has been and continues to be hard. I have days where getting out of bed is still a decision I have to make, to get up and be present for my kids and husband. I still have days where I want to shout and scream and run away (but now I am trying to talk about those feelings as they come, rather than suppressing them and sending myself further into the anxiety spiral I fight) and there are days when I just want my old life to come back, despite the fact that it was trying to break me.
But I am doing ok. Lockdown has been good and bad for my mental health and I am a work in progress. Who knows, maybe this is what I needed?
If you are struggling at all and need mental health support, please contact Mind. I have found them an excellent source of support, and am entirely grateful to the local team who have supported me via phone and e mail in the past few months.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)