Staying Alive

I feel like I should have started a kind of Coronavorus isolation diary, but that would have required a commitment to doing something EVERY DAY and I’m not really in that place right now.

I’ve had a shitty couple of days.

I guess we’re all in the same boat.  Even those ‘glass half full people’ who manage to find good in all things would struggle to remain unaffected by this.  People are dying all over the World and in our own towns and we’re stuck in our houses.  Houses we may lose along with jobs and loved ones.  It’s really shit.

I came off anti depressants in February.  I had planned to write a post about it.  It was a long process to wean off them and I was looking forward to proudly announcing my recovery – once I was sure I had indeed recovered.

Four years.  Three of them painfully numb years, with chunks of precious memories missing.  Smudged away by chemicals to keep me from doing myself harm.  I wanted to be thrilled about it, but then the sheer scale of the Covid-19 crisis hit and I couldn’t be.

Part of me regrets stopping medication.  I knew the first few months would be especially difficult but I never imagined I’d spend them navigating my way through a pandemic.  On the other hand I’m glad I can be here and present for my family, in a way that I feel I wasn’t quite able when I was taking tablets every day.  Anti depressants stopped me from feeling extreme lows, but they took away the highs too.

During my recovery, I created a daily, weekly and monthly timetable of distractions.  I threw myself in to anything that gave me purpose and helped me feel in control.  The idea was that I could carry on doing those things post-medication and hopefully continue in the same positive direction.  I volunteered in a book shop/community centre (now closed until further notice), I supported people with learning difficulties (they’re now isolated until further notice), I took sewing lessons (cancelled until further notice), attended craft groups (cancelled until further notice), I learned about foraging (considered unsafe until further notice), I walked Dottie to nursery each morning (now closed until further notice), I joined a political party (all meetings cancelled until further notice) and developed my own small business (all bookings canceled until further notice).

You know when a child has a favourite teddy that they can’t sleep without and they lose it and it’s a complete tragedy and they cry themselves to sleep.  I feel like that right now.

I don’t really care if that sounds pathetic, it’s the truth.  I’ve lost my crutch and without it I’m struggling.

Today someone (a stranger) told me that being concerned about mental health was ‘the luxury of the living’.  Sadly that’s not always true.  Life is full of loss caused by poor mental health.  Earlier I had proposed that despite the lock-down, if a person felt that they wanted to pick up paint or seeds or books for example, to try to continue with an activity that had served as a coping mechanism, then that was as valid as a trip as one to the chemist.

I wasn’t suggesting that people should be regrouting their bathrooms or converting their lofts.  Or that activity could serve in place of medication.   I suggested that if there was something that a person can do to maintain their mental health, within the confines of lock-down rules, then they should.  And that most craft, gardening and redecorating items could be collected from the same places that sell milk and bread.

The ‘someone’ called me a troll and said I was being ‘reductive to the point of insulting’ with regards mental health concerns, another joined her and then later another referred to me as a c*nt.

It’s not ok to treat people this way.  Especially not now.  I know emotions are high and we’re all under stress, but far from that being an excuse for bullying, it should be a reason to be more mindful of our interactions with others.  Interactions which are now magnified due to the fact that they’re mainly online.

Covid-19 is deadly of course, but some of those who will die during this pandemic won’t ever have the virus.  However necessary these measures are, they will cause unbearable suffering for some people.  Rather than dismiss this issue as a ‘luxury’ and hang my head in shame for wanting to stay mentally well, to stay alive, I’d rather face it head on.

I am struggling.  My husband says I could cope with the end of the world as long as I knew what time it was going to happen – so not even having an end date for isolation is really effecting me.  So far I’ve found the following useful.

Maintaining normalcy – There are a couple of ways I can feel connected to my normal life.  I volunteer in a book shop/community centre and so I read a children’s book live every day at lunchtime.  I’ve sorted through my patterns and I’ll be sewing WITHOUT my sewing teacher 😩.  I walk my dog every day and once I’m over the fear of being told off, I’ll try to do that regularly again too.

Routine – Again reading the stories is helping already.  Even if only because it forces me to brush my hair by 12 noon!  I bought a magnetic weekly planner and I’ve been using it to plan meals, chores and topics to teach Dorothy.

Go outside – Until this week I don’t think I ever really appreciated how lucky I was to have a garden.   We’ve been spending a lot of time out there, getting a dose of vitamin D and fresh air.  In the next few weeks, noticing the changes in the plants and trees will help me to stay grounded in the here and now.  The seasons, the weather etc rather than allowing weeks to merge into each other.

Even if you only have a yard or a balcony, even if the closest you can get to outside is opening all the windows, it has a huge impact.

Create – When I first started blogging, it was during a time in my life when I felt like everything was out of my control.  Building a website and filling it with beautiful things, became one small thing that I could manage and it really helped.  I find the same is true of all creativity.  Sewing, painting, baking etc creating something nowhere there was nothing before.  Creating something- controlling that small thing is really powerful.

Not all creativity is artistic.  My friend Jenny curates amazing overviews of the global Coronavirus news.  She researches and dissects information and then presents it in a way that’s manageable for everyone.  She creates order out of chaos. Read it here

Contact – even if you have to set an alarm to remind (make) yourself to do it, even if it’s just a wave to the neighbour over your garden fence, you must speak to other people.

Manage your socials – I have terrible FOMO (fear of missing out), so it pains me to leave a social circle or a Facebook group.  But if what you’re seeing or hearing is making you feel bad, it’s not good!  Leave the group, unfriend, unfollow.  Do what you need to do to stay positive.  If people aren’t for you, if they don’t care about you or consider you important, then they aren’t the people for you.   Since I’ve started cleansing my social feeds I’m finally seeing what I want to see…like puppies and babies 😂

Benefits – I’m trying to remind myself of the benefits of being stuck inside.  I’ve never seen my teenager so much in years!  I love the bones of her – it’s amazing.  My husband has no commute, he even made my lunch today and I think he’s understanding what I do all day – it’s amazing.  We have a 4 year old and a dog who give us more entertainment than Netflix could ever hope to.

Also I’m realising how much junk we have around here, and how much I no longer want it!

Future – making plans might seem impossible right now but you can do it.  Buy some seeds when you go to get your loo roll and apples.  Plant a garden.  By the time it grows, we’ll know so much more.  Commit to picking fruit trees, to seeing them blossom next Spring.  This is very helpful if you’re struggling with your mental health.  It certainly has been for me.

I’m not being flippant about loss of life, nor am I suggesting that you should flout the lock-down rules to pursue a hobby.   Quite the opposite.  Stay in.  I’m staying in, but I also plan to stay well, stay alive.

Take care of yourselves and wash your hands 😁

Love Rachel