Has The Lockdown Saved My Mental Health? Are People With A Diagnosed Mental Illness Riding This Out Better Than Those Without?

This lockdown has been incredibly stressful for me. Especially at the beginning. I was

preparing to do one anyway and pull my daughter from school as I didn’t think the government

was responding quickly enough but a week before the official closure of everything, she caught

the Coronavirus. Luckily I was prepared.

            I wasn’t terribly worried for her initially as her symptoms were quite mild at first.

 Rather I was filled with terror at the thought of catching it and leaving her without parents.

            I adopted excessive cleansing practises, practised all the distancing possible and due to

the excessive fatigue she was suffering she was only up for about 5-6 hours per day in any case.

But her symptoms were varied and prolonged. We had paramedics out, a trip to A n E. I packed

a hospital bag twice and the G.P visited us at home.

            Fortunately her most debilitating symptom was the fatigue. Temperature fluctuations

settled, breathing issues minimal and other aches and stomach cramps were passing.

            I was filled with anxiety for about 3 weeks. I survived the time using strategies I would

use if I was in an acute mental illness episode. Trying to balance my time between tasks of

pleasure and mastery, making sure there was food on the table and getting rest when I needed

it.

In addition to this using simple affirmations and breathing and visualising the forest I

could no longer visit as I could not leave the house. I did need to use sleeping tablets and

Diazepam from time to time but when I realised there was no end in sight for this situation I

cut it out and relied on strategies only-I didn’t want to emerge from the lockdown reliant on

prescription drugs.

The last 3.5 weeks have been easier. My anxiety has reduced. I have settled into this

new normality and have a little routine within it. I’ve found new joys, engaging with the writing

community on Twitter. I’m part way through a Poetry writing course and have realised I can

 write reasonable poems. I’m excited about what else I might be able to write.

I’m accustomed to the silence. The isolation. I’m comfortable with it. The days pass,

my achievement level varies. I’ve been a little lazy of late, I could do with stepping it up a bit,

pleasure has definitely taken over mastery.

But my mental health is intact. That is the important thing.

My daughter is very slowly improving. She has post viral fatigue. She is now up for 8

hours per day but not well enough to engage in the on line classroom. It runs from 9am-3pm.

She’s up from 2pm-9pm and has to eat, wash, exercise, relax, have some stimulation. It’s too

much right now. She gets really exhausted. We’ve built up to a 15 minute slow walk and she’ll read

for a little bit. I see a light at the end of the tunnel at last but it is a long tunnel and I still have

 worries about her.

So despite everything, I feel we are surviving and it’s not that bad although I think my

 daughter would disagree. But for me, it’s no longer too bad.

Going back to the title which is two-fold. How has it saved me and why is it not too bad?

Well, for 30 years I have suffered a major depression in Spring. I was determined this

year for it not to happen. I am desperate to get a years remission. My remission rate has been

extremely poor since my husband died. I have been doing many things to assist with this goal,

walking in the forest, using affirmations, writing has helped. I mustn’t also underestimate that

in November I started a new medication which has the key purpose of reducing remission rate.

But I wonder if being locked in has protected me in some kind of way. Protected me

from interacting with the environment and hence protecting me from triggers which could

worsen my mental health. At first I thought this lockdown, the stress around Covid19, my sick

child would be triggers but I do have coping skills for crisis. I wonder if day to day life is more

triggering.

Being in lockdown is a bit like being in a Psychiatric ward with no staff. You can’t go

anywhere. There are limited things to do. You have a lot of time to think. Whatever you have

to eat is what you have. You are cut off but at the same time protected from the outside world

and the people and things in it. Sometimes you feel trapped and sometimes you feel safe.

I read a tweet yesterday and the person commented that people with a mental illness

were doing better than those without as they had better skills for this. I don’t know if it’s true

 in reality but it makes good sense to me. This is what we are trained for! Living indoors in an

acute episode and trying to occupy the day. Perhaps it’s easier for someone with a mental illness

to accept this restriction and then get on employing the copying strategies they have used

previously. Afterall many of us have been in lockdown with no other choice before.

The wonderful difference for me in this is that doing it when well I have been able to

 execute and practise my self management skills with ease as I have not had the additional

weight of being unwell to deal with.  As such it is possible perhaps I have more gratitude for

what occurs during the day and miss less day to day life.  I am an extrovert. I do miss the

opportunity for a face to face conversation as I always prefer that than any other mode. But I

think complaining about what you miss in a situation like this is a bit distasteful.

I am not complacent about my Spring episode. The Spring is not over yet and there will

be a huge change when the lockdown ends that could trigger an episode in itself. But I have

passed the markers of the first Daffodils and that of my birthday. Those are oftentimes when

my mood is low. Occasionally it comes later but for now I am hopeful. If vigilant.

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