The world is filled with uncertainty at present.
Fear of leaving the house. Fear of social contact. Fear of the world as we know it coming to an end.
But for people who suffer from mental illness, anxiety or depression… it’s nothing new. For once, it’s quite a relief to be worried about something real.
Unknowingly, I’ve been in training for the coronavirus outbreak for years. Social distancing is my forte, not leaving the house is a walk in the park and an entire month without seeing another human being is just February.
Month-long bouts of depression have caused me to develop a particular set of skills that may prove rather useful during a lockdown situation.
My digestive system is already attuned to non-perishables and one-way conversations with radio presenters is all the social contact I can handle when I’m at a low ebb. People with depression have been self-isolating long before it was fashionable.
Now the whole country is facing a mental health pandemic, as well as a viral one.
Those of you who have suffered from anxiety or depression in the past will know how hard it is to feel like you can’t face the world. Now we’re under instruction NOT to face the outside world, we are all more vulnerable to mental illness, or sadness, or both.
If, like me, you’ve suffered with your mental health over the years, one silver lining to all of this is that you can now help those around you for whom this is new territory
I haven’t really noticed a change in my anxiety levels in the Covid-era because I naturally operate at 100 per cent nervous wreck.
What I have noticed, however, is the people around me, people who I perceived as being emotionally and mentally robust, are beginning to show signs of mental struggles.
If, like me, you’ve suffered with your mental health over the years, one silver lining to all of this is that you can now help those around you for whom this is new territory.
You have the tools and empathy to understand what they are going through; the uncertainty, the panic, the despair. So, in an attempt to put a positive spin on the tragedy of world events and mental illness, perhaps now is the time to put our experience to good use.
I have a little black book of coping mechanisms to help me fight the blues, and although going to the cinema or taking myself out to dinner are strictly off the cards, there are other options that fall within government guidelines.
Having a shower every day is simple, but key. As is maintaining a decent sleeping pattern.
The temptation to have late nights and lie ins will be strong for those who are working from home, but once you get into that habit, it’s difficult to break.
Some semblance of routine is imperative to stop you going stir-crazy, especially if you’re going to be holed-up with your children for the foreseeable. They’re darlings, but you’re bound to find yourself longing for Sandra from accounts by the end of the Easter holidays.
When I was a kid, my main concern was that King Kong would smash his fist through my bedroom window and take me away from my family. I had panic attacks about dinosaurs eating my brother and that if I didn’t tell my mum and dad I loved them every night they would die in their sleep.
Fast forward to 2020 and I’m just as worried about my parents dying from the absence of my superstitious ritual as I am about them dying from an actual disease – because in the mind of an anxious person, every worry is real.
All sense of rationale is tossed out of the window like my 10 year-old self in King Kong’s grasp.
To anyone reading this who hasn’t really suffered from anxiety before, and who is experiencing new levels of angst: Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Weird thoughts will pass through your mind and that’s OK. Emotions will feel heightened but allow yourself to feel them.
I’m even worried about not being worried enough
It’s OK to be angry, confused, sad and hopeless for a while, but if it starts to take over your sanity then please reach out. You’ll soon discover that other people are feeling the same.
Strange concerns will keep you awake at night, but if it’s any comfort, know you’re not alone. Don’t deny yourself those emotions, but try not to let them linger too long.
As a consummate loner and professional singleton my life won’t be affected too much over the coming weeks.
As a youngish, relatively fit person, I have no real concerns for my own health. But I am worried. I’m worried about people dying. I’m worried about the economy dying and I’m worried about entire industries being brought to their knees.
I’m even worried about not being worried enough.
Dealing with anxiety is hard, especially if you’re not quite sure what you’re anxious about.
But the key to dealing with it is to accept the things you cannot change, motivate yourself to do something about the things you can, and try to understand the difference.
The world as we know it is changing around us, and that’s scary, but try to find some solace in the knowledge that it’s happening to all of us in a myriad of ways and we’re all figuring it out as we go along.
None of us are immune to coronavirus and no one is immune to mental illness either.
Whilst we wait patiently for a vaccine, we can at least prescribe some empathy and understanding to those suffering from the psychological impact of the pandemic.
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