for better mental health

How I’m coping with the pandemic

Wednesday, 01 April 2020 Leah

Leah blogs that while the coronavirus crisis has caused her anxiety, it has also made her realise how lucky she is.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit I have experienced a huge amount of emotions. There has been a lot of anxiety, particularly surrounding my parents and grandparents who are all high risk due to health problems and age, but also surrounding my own health as I have asthma. I have, alongside the rest of the country, felt a huge amount of uncertainty and stress. It has ranged from where am I going to be able to get my essential items from, to what is happening with my therapy and my son's nursery. A surprising and consistent emotion I have felt though has been gratitude and it has also been one of the things that I think is helping me most through this.

I can lose sight of what I have and get caught up with the stresses of day to day living.

Despite having bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and severe social and generalised anxiety, I consider myself to be very lucky. I have a wonderful and supportive family, my son is a constant source of love and light and I have a nice, safe home. Like anyone else, as day-to-day life goes on, I can lose sight of what I have and get caught up with the stresses of day to day living.

Over the period of social distancing, and now lockdown, I have found myself looking more closely and more mindfully at my life and my relationships with my friends and family. I have had the time to sit with myself without distractions of normal day-to-day things, like getting my son to nursery or doing the weekly shop.

I have spent time thinking about people in this country and also this world who are currently suffering far more hardship than I am. Children who are not cared for properly who are now unable to use school as a place of sanctuary, the elderly who are now isolated in their homes. I have friends of mine whose businesses are currently in jeopardy, and others whose income has just drastically changed. Then, of course there are those all over the world who have lost people they love from this deadly and merciless virus. My younger brother died at the age of 12 from a severe asthma attack, and so I am able to empathise with the agony of losing someone you love. While we still have those we love and care about we remain lucky.

We have used resources online to do music classes and exercising.

Reminding myself of the worldwide struggles going on at the moment enables me to gain a helpful perspective that for me has been grounding when I have felt my anxiety spiralling out of control. I am able to use this time to immerse myself in my family. We have used resources online to do music classes and exercising. We have spent time baking and cooking, and being creative. We are making sure we use our daily exercise to get out and walk as a family, and we have even used skype to take my Mum with us as she is not allowed out of the house at all due to being extremely high risk.

Although I wish this situation was different for the entire world, I am choosing to be grateful for the time we have. It has felt different, almost like a microscope has been placed on how I am using my time, how much I am noticing about my life and what I could be doing differently.  Of course it has also been of paramount importance that I prioritise the things that help my mental health. For me self-care includes journaling, reading, a hot bath and getting enough sleep.

It is early days in our lockdown, and I will remain incredibly anxious about my family until I know we are all safely through the other side. My therapy that helps me deal with my trauma has stopped until further notice. My mental health support has not stopped, but has been taken down to the bare minimum and everything will be over the phone unless there is an emergency. I do not know if anyone I love will get coronavirus, and nobody knows how long this lockdown will continue on for.

I am going to try to remind myself that we are all in this together.

I know all these things are going to prove more and more of a challenge for me the longer this continues. I do not think being positive all the time is possible. Amongst all of this I am still dealing with the normal struggles I have with my mental illness, some of which certainly feel exasperated because of everything going on, but I am going to try on the days when it feels hardest to remind myself that we are all in this together; to remind myself of the wonderful people who are working hard within the NHS and essential services who are putting themselves at risk to support us all; to remind myself of all the reasons I am lucky and all the things I am grateful for.

I know for sure when all this is over I am going to go and see my family and we will all truly appreciate the time together like we never have before, and I cannot help but think that is a gift. Until then, let's all stay safe and stay home.

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Anxiety and panic attacks

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