Sharing personal experiences of life in lockdown
I turned 40 just before lockdown began, an age I always thought I would never reach, I certainly didn’t think that if I did life would change quite so quickly. Having lived since my teens with anxiety and depression, it’s not an understatement to say I don’t always find life easy and some days are a real struggle. For a long time I buried my head in the sand and avoided dealing with my problems, instead developing an unhealthy obsession with work which nearly led me to the point of breakdown. However, over the last four years, and with the help of an amazing therapist, I’ve developed coping mechanisms to help me through the difficult days.
I never feared the coronavirus, but the thought of lockdown terrified me. I rely on three very key things to help me manage my mental health – therapy, swimming and spending quality time with my niece and nephew. The thought of having to cope without all three made me more than a little panicky. And then it happened – my fortnightly visits to my therapist were replaced by FaceTime calls, my exercise regime of swimming 1km at least twice a week had to stop, as did seeing the very special little people in my life – at the risk of sounding dramatic, it felt like my whole support system was collapsing. And yet, somehow, I’ve dealt with it all and probably found a strength that I never thought I would.
As I write this we are at the end of the 8th week of this strange new world and I have to look on the bright side – the transition from working in a busy, noisy office to working from home was always going to be an easy one for me (although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it is now becoming a little monotonous), plus I am fortunate to be one of very few at my workplace that haven’t been furloughed. Having a routine is hugely important to me, being able to rely on the structure of a working day, keeping busy has been a massive help. I know that having worked so hard to develop a more healthy work life balance, I have to be careful not to slip in to old habits, but I believe these days I have more self awareness and better boundaries, I would recognise and take action if it was becoming too much.
Before lockdown began, I joked about offering my services as a government adviser on social distancing – I’m pretty good at being anti social at the best of times! If the last couple of months have taught me anything, it’s that change is a lot different when it’s not on your own terms, but I do believe it’s given those with no experience of mental health illness an idea of just how debilitating it can be – the paralysing fear, the lonely isolation.
I still don’t fear the virus, and even now remain quite blasé about it, I guess that’s hardly surprising when suicidal ideation is almost a way of life, but I do fear the restrictions, the lack of freedom, the loss of control, and coping with the new normal.
Having never been the most optimistic of people, I’ve always struggled to find things to look forward to, but right now I do look forward to the day we can return to something akin to normality – when I can meet with my therapist face to face, return to the swimming pool and have cuddles and fun with my niece and nephew.
I still don’t know whether life really does begin at 40, but maybe one day I will get to find out.