mental health in a pandemic – 6 months on

2020, mental health

Hello!

Writing about mental health is always incredibly subjective – there’s such a broad spectrum of symptoms and each person who lives with mental illness handles it in incredibly different ways that often contradict each other, so bear in mind that when I write about mental health I’m writing about my experiences of mental health and cannot speak on behalf of anyone else.

Lockdown has been a ride, hasn’t it? In the UK more and more places are going into local lockdown, thousands of new cases are being diagnosed every day and ‘young people’ are getting the blame for eating out to help out, going back to work and supporting the economy. Amongst so much uncertainty, it’s not surprise that the anxiety that craves control is going haywire.

At the beginning of lockdown, personally I flourished – all of my uni assignments got pushed back and adjusted so I had plenty of time to work on them, my boyfriend was home from work for the longest time since he started and I felt so in control of everything that was going on.

Then the first ‘three weeks’ of lockdown turned into months, I had less assignments to work on and the ones that were left feel big and intimidating and overwhelming, my boyfriend being home meant that he just played video games all day and gazing out the window felt too much like wishing for a life we couldn’t have anymore.

Normal has changed. The uncertainty of not knowing what ‘normal’ is anymore is the worst feeling. And we have no idea how life could ever get back to a ‘normal’ where we don’t wear masks and we don’t sanitise at every opportunity and glare at people who don’t understand the concept of 2m apart or following arrows on the floor in public places, especially in a world where there are people who ‘don’t believe’ in vaccines (which will never cease to baffle me); ‘normal’ feels like a very far away concept.

On the surface, I’m doing okay – my boyfriend (fiancé? He’s put a ring on it now so I should really get used to calling him that) has gone back to work and whilst at first I was nervous to be on my own, I now make the most of being as productive as I can whilst I don’t have the background noise of video game commentary and too many 5 minute crafts videos (he has an obsession). But underneath, I’ve been getting these ‘nausea attacks’ (I don’t know how else to describe them) and there’s this tight feeling in my stomach and I don’t know if it’s anxiety or a bug or a new intolerance and it keeps me up at night and wakes me up at ridiculous times in the morning. I’ve had more panic attacks in these moments in the last few weeks than I’ve ever experienced in such a short time frame before and it’s really hard, to be honest.

But assuming it is subconscious anxiety and not anything physical, I’m doing all I can to keep my mind occupied – I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental music to fill in the silence without distracting me from whatever I need to be focusing on, I’ve been making more of an effort to meditate using the Headspace app and trying to make a sense of routine with my daily to do lists and regular meal times.

With no end in sight to this pandemic and a looming second wave in the UK, coping mechanisms are always changing and however much it goes against everything I know, we just have to ride the wave. The waves are going to wash over us anyway, resisting them won’t change the tide.

Well that was potentially a bit deep for a random Tuesday in September, but I’m a bit pretentious like that – I love a water related motivational quote!

Whether or not you suffer with mental illness, living through a pandemic that has touched every single one of our lives was never going to be easy. I hope that you are feeling okay, because okay is enough! It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s okay to just be okay too.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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aspects of ‘normal’

2020, lifestyle

Hello!

Having been on a little family holiday with my Dad last week, visiting local attractions like my favourite indie bookstore (book haul post here), a manmade reservoir which is beautiful on a sunny day (not when it’s raining and half shut down, but the cafe was lovely) and browsing round all the little shops in the town, I let myself get too settled in what could be considered ‘normal life’.

‘Normal’ as we knew it before the pandemic didn’t include using different hand sanitisers in every shop we went into, wearing a mask and mastering breathing without fogging up my glasses (which is not an excuse not to wear a mask!) and having to try and count how many customers were in the shop before we went in. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining about any of this. In fact, I think the town we visited on our holiday was incredibly well prepared and respectful considering all the conditions. What I’m saying is that despite all these additional measures, it didn’t really have any impact on my shopping experience and it wasn’t difficult to adapt to in any way; it still felt normal.

My weekly Asda trip still makes me cross because an announcement comes over the tannoy to ‘stay 2m away from staff and follow the arrows in a one way system’ to then have three members of staff within a foot of each other (and me) having a natter with no PPE walking the wrong way down the pasta aisle! Most of the town I live in appears to be the same which is frustrating. But some of the shops have precautions and screens at checkouts and I feel way more comfortable nipping into town for anything I need (which isn’t much because I’m on a spending ban so if anyone wants to hold me accountable for that please feel free).

Now that we’re allowed to go see friends and family and businesses are doing everything they can to encourage custom and lots of entertainment streams are doing everything they can to stay alive (theatres are planning to open again in 2021 and I’m eyeballing tickets for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella…), it’s easy to forget that we’re still at a Level 3 of 5 on the government’s scale of the UK’s position on the pandemic – it’s still a very real and literal threat!

I think it’s ridiculous that shops are opening, let alone theme parks and zoos, but I somewhat relied on human sensibility in that it doesn’t matter if places open if people aren’t going to use them.

But then people used them. People flocked to Disneyland and pubs and are boarding planes to get their summer tan and I lose all my faith in humanity all over again. This virus isn’t just about our personal safety, it’s about considering the danger we pose as individuals to those who don’t have the immune system to survive an illness like this. It baffles me how anyone can be so ignorant and self-centred to think that wearing a mask is about ‘taking their freedom away’ (what freedom? It’s allowing you to do the things you want to do without being a risk to other people’s lives??). It makes me angry so I have to think about something else because my anger is never going to convince these people that we can’t take the mindset that we’re going to combat this virus as individuals.

This definitely isn’t what I intended to write about today. My favourite blog posts to write are the ones where I just ramble and the words come out of my quickly typing fingers before I can really process it (which is why I also thoroughly proofread all my blog posts).

I keep thinking about what I would be doing now if we weren’t in lockdown; I know I’m craving some sort of change but I don’t know what because in ‘normal’ life I’d probably be doing much the same, staying at home trying to convince myself to work on my dissertation project and struggling, but my partner would still be away at work and I’d still be able to go procrastinate with my friends on campus with an array of snacks. Maybe I’d be a bit further along with my diss project, because I’d have the facilities, the support of my lecturers and the motivation from my friends but I don’t know how much would really be that different.

This week I’ve arranged to view a wedding venue with my partner. It’s the first real step in planning our wedding, which is still over two years away, but I know that when we get there it’ll be masks on, much of the venue may be closed off and that lingering sense of uncertainty that we’ll be able to have 80 guests in one place in 841 days time.

‘Normal’ may be on its way back, but I don’t want to let myself get too comfortable with it whilst we’re still at Level 3. I can only hope that there isn’t a second wave and we’re really on our way out of this pandemic.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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