Chloe from Merthyr Tydfil blogs about how she's coping with the strain on her mental health during coronavirus.
It's hard to stay focused on anything that isn't your own anxiety at a time like this. Every attempt to disengage or take a break from the all-consuming panic and anxiety of not knowing feels like a leap, but one that drops me even further. Some days are manageable. I fill my day by watching a film I've always wanted to watch, or reading a new book, or even just listening to music. Those are okay days – it's safe to say a good day isn't really a possibility at the moment. Living with depression and anxiety will, on the best of days, leave me with pains in my chest as I worry about what will happen if I go outside. So now? It feels like a minefield.
Every night I've said, "I'll go for a walk tomorrow, clear my head", but then the day comes and I feel an onslaught of emotions – guilt for going out when we should be in, as well as for going out when I should be in work. Fear, over what I will see – what will I do if I see a group of four or five people together on my walk? The before constant fear of four or five people together, that they would laugh at me or look at me and confirm how I feel – nothing, a faux person in the shell of a t-shirt and leggings, with too much make up on for a half hour walk – has morphed to something new, alien. The new fear is that they aren't following guidelines, that they don't care what their actions may cause, and that they feel the same about me. It's a struggle to not want to rush the time spent on a walk. The calming aim of the walk to clear my head completely missed because I am power walking to avoid anyone, anything, and all the fears that come with it.
At the moment, my mental health is doing the opposite of what we are all doing.
The essential shop each week is much the same. The anxieties of being out in public are multiplied, and I've found myself so angry at people for not following the procedures and the rules in place – when the man in front of me stopped abruptly to look at a tin of chickpeas, I swelled with rage, how dare he put my life at risk, so abruptly, so selfishly? I've left every shop near tears and trying my best to explain to my boyfriend how they just don't care about people and their safety. The anxiety has been magnified to new levels through something out of our hands.
At the moment, my mental health is doing the opposite of what we are all doing. It's not on lockdown and isn't working quietly from home. It's bashing symbols and kicking down doors and wandering out freely. Granted, some days, it will sit quietly and only when the news comes on or the daily death figures are reported will it return, but other days it's constantly there. I wake up and worry, feel empty with the waste of the day in front of me, the routine of nothingness.
I tell myself each morning, "today, I will"
But I've been trying to combat this, day by day. I try to take deep breaths and remind myself I'm doing things as I should be, and that I'm following guidance. When I go for my walk, or do my essential shop, all I can do is remind myself that I'm doing the best I can. At home, I try to manage my mental health on a day to day basis. While my boyfriend works from home, I try to plan my day with similar timings to his. I plan freely and don't set times for tasks, because that would be too much, but I tell myself each morning, "today, I will". Such a small sentence, but so full of possibilities.
"Today, I will put on clothes that make me happy, make me feel as free flowing as I want to be now." "Today, I will start that show I've always wanted to start and instead of feeling guilty about the time wasted."
"Today, I will enjoy and revel in the amount of time I've spent in this new world."
"Today, I will revisit music that I love, or find something new."
"Today, I will sit in the garden and not get annoyed that the wind is blowing my hair across my eyes, but marvel that while the majority of us are sat still right now, the world is still moving, still there."
"Today, I will apply for jobs, because maybe being sat at home is the best time to figure out my strengths."
"Today, I will not beat myself up for not going outside, sometimes it just can't be helped."
"Today, I will enjoy my coffee, and allow myself to laugh at the stupid jokes my boyfriend makes because he is trying to make me smile."
"Today, I will not allow myself to feel guilty for other people, or for my choices, as I am making the best ones for me."
"Today, I will not punish myself for something that is helping save lives."
As we progress through this changing and scary time, I am trying to focus on each day, and what I can achieve in one day. It can be as simple and empowering as waking up in the morning, opening the curtains, washing my face, then going straight back to into bed to watch my favourite shows, read a new book or keep in touch with people online. Day by day is the only way I have found I can work through this period of our lives, through making choices for myself and following through on them. I hope today, you will also do this for yourselves.
Chloe lives in Cardiff and spends most of her time with her boyfriend's chunky cat named Macy Gray. She likes watching far too many films, true crime podcasts, and winning pub quizzes with all the useless trivia she knows.
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