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Coping with the Lockdown blues when you have a mental health problem

Coping with lockdown is stressful for most of us, but coping with that plus a mental health problem can be really difficult. I have written my experience of managing my PTSD and lockdown to help others cope.

By Carol TownendPublished 4 years ago 10 min read
'Some times we have to just ride the wave and stay on top.' My own picture of Bournemouth sea and my own quote.

It is very quite on my street at the moment, and it has been like that for a while now. Normally I am at the beach, out in town or meeting people and helping them with mental health problems. However, like many in this Covid-19 pandemic, I am staying at home, helping to save lives. My world is upside down and my mind is pretty chaotic. Going to the supermarket is stressful because there are markers and social distancing rules. Going outside is suddenly scary again.

In 1998 I spent life on the streets for many weeks. Previously I had been staying somewhere, but I had been abused and raped many times, and I was raped in that place too. I escaped, and despite my repeated cycle of being abused before that and my severely deteriorating mental health, the council in that area refused to help me, and I was no safer on the street. I was attacked, groomed, raped and I miscarried without knowing it until my admission to hospital, where as you may know from my previous article 'I Found Love on a Psychiatric Ward' I was very ill.

During my stay on the ward, I developed a severe fear of going out, and a fear of people. I didn't talk or leave that ward for weeks, and I didn't eat properly either. It was a very difficult position to be in and really hard to work through. Today, I am still battling PTSD and th recent pandemic has left me feeling afraid, brought back some flashbacks and some depression. Usually I manage this by using nature and I wrote an article on 'Mindfulness In Nature' using my experiences on this. I can still experience nature in my garden, however there are times when I struggle and need to be away from home. In fact I have been tempted many times to break the rules, but I know I am safer at home regardless. It is catch 22, I want to leave and stay at the same time, and it can be exhausting finding the strength to manage my mixture of fears.

My biggest fear is getting ill or my other half getting seriously ill himself because he works in nursing. Suddenly my world is frightening again, however I have found ways to help myself through this, despite my fear and I am sharing these below:

FEEL YOUR FEAR: Don't deny it or hide it, it can make things worse. Go with it, feel it, write it down or talk about it on the phone or with a friend on social media. You might feel silly for feeling so scared, but remember many others are scared too. PTSD and other mental health problems can heighten the fear, and it is better to talk about it rather than keep it in. When I am overly scared, I revert back to stammering. It is important you try not to let this frighten you into not talking. Sometimes talking can help to calm the stammering whether on the phone, in writing etc.

DO THINGS THAT CALM YOUR THOUGHTS: If your not too overwhelmed write your thoughts down. However, this can be extremely difficult when your thoughts are loud and overwhelmed, and there are two things that help me with this. Listening to music that matches my thoughts, its the reason I love heavy metal and rock, the sound of thrashing guitars and drums drowns them out while dance music takes me to a disco where I can feel the beat and dance them of. The other thing that helps me is scribbling them out with different colors. Use as many as you like, no matter how silly they are, scribble them down, even if they don't make sense, or you can just scribble with different colours until they are calm.

IN THE FACE OF A FLASHBACK: Help is still available, use it. If they are really bad, you could try calling someone if you can't find a helpline. Any friend or family member you trust on the other end of the phone can talk you through a flashback. If your alone, remember to breathe. I find breathing in slowly for 5 seconds then out for 5 seconds and repeating this a few times really helps me. Try to reach out for something you can squeeze, a stress ball, a teddy, a pillow, anything that gives you comfort and give it a hard squeeze until it has passed. Once the flashback has passed, journal what you remember, then put it away and have a warm milky drink such as a hot chocolate then a bath or shower, follow this with calming music or a calm tv programme.

ANXIETY: Feeling anxious can make you shake and panic, and it can lead to a flashback or a temporary feeling of paranioa. This will pass, if your on medication, be sure to take it as specified by your GP or health professional. I find a smell I like or a warm bath can really help. I also have a 'safe box' which I use in an emergency, and it contains a photo of someone I love, a perfume I enjoy smelling, a notebook for writing notes about feelings, and a small soft teddy for cuddling when I feel lonely or scared. Anxious feelings can be difficult, and again it is important to breathe. Take in everything around you, the noise of birds, the wind, a tv in the background, anything that grounds you back into reality.

FEAR OF THE OUTDOORS: At the moment, the outdoors is a pretty scary place for most of us. However when you have mental health problems, it can be catch 22. One minute you want to be inside, the next outdoors, even though your scared. You don't have to go far for exercise, if you have a garden, use it. A 10 minute yoga session in the fresh air and safety of your garden can really help, as can reading on your doorstep. FOLLOW THE RULES. Only go out for exercise or essentials, however this won't stop you from gardening, exercising in your garden or reading on your doorstep, and at the moment it doesn't stop you going walking or running as long as you stay 2 metres away from others. Many feel awkward with distancing rules, and if your mental arithmetic is like mine, you'll be wandering how to manage. Just try and keep your distance, and if you feel you can't, then work out at home, and walk for essesntials, walking is exercise too. However, it is still important to get some fresh air, so even though you may be scared and we are limited in what we can do, do what you can, even 5 minutes with a cup of tea on the doorstep is better than nothing.

FIND THINGS TO DO INDOORS: Bake, clean, cook, exercise, read, study, play a game, do laundy, solve puzzles anything to make the indoors better. Listen to music while you do these things, watch a programme and even colouring and crafts can help stave the boredom indoors. I call friends or family and chat with them using messenger, especially when my other half is at work, and I use social media to take part in debates or communicate with the outside world. Be cautious with social media, particularly if you are not well. It is ok to talk and debate, but you do not have to put up with abusive comments, so don't be afraid to block those abusing you and report fake accounts. Lego is good fun, you can build literally anything and be as creative as you want. It is just as good for adults as it is for kids, and twister is a fun game while getting exercise. Remember housework can be counted as exercise, so make it fun while dancing to music as you do it.

GET CREATIVE: Do you love poetry, writing stories, art, creating collages with pictures, singing? These things are fantastic when it comes to mental health. Get creative, using your imagination does wonders for your mind. I love looking up old photos on my computer and creating collages with them, and I can color and write stories and poems forever. Create a frame, search the web for ideas, the online world of creativity can be as good as the real world.

During this pandemic, it is important to stay calm and be reassured that it won't last forever. Many are struggling, and that is understandable as it is a very difficult crisis across the globe. However, it is important we take good care of ourselves, our families and each other now more than ever. Many will feel isolated and many are recovering in isolation while others are dying. It is heartbreaking and very painful to go through, but by following the guidance and sticking with it, we will get through this together. So please, even if your panicking and bored, follow the rules set. Find whatever you can to get through it, and hopefully soon this will be over, and we will see the outdoors again, but this will only happen if we stick together. These are dark times, and they are triggerring to our mental health, leading to depression and other mental health problems, but try the things in my list. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, and we can and will get there together.

On the note of depression. There are days when I don't want to get up or do anything, and there are days that feel so dark, my world does not feel worth it anymore. However we are all worth it, so get up, get dressed and just do something, even if it is small. If you have a day where you don't want to get up or get dressed, then remember that is ok too. On days like those, I like to curl up in my bed and watch dvds all day. The main thing is, your still doing something to help yourself, even if it feels unproductive. Just remember to try and eat and drink, as it is still important to stay well and keep your energy up, even if it is just a sandwich and a glass of juice, it is better than nothing. There will be days when you don't want to take a shower or even wash your face, but self-care is really important, so even if you don't want to do this straight away, make sure you do it. Good hygeine helps to keep the virus away, so even if you can't shower, get into the habit of washing your hands and face and brush your teeth. Wash hands in the morning, before and after food and when you go to the toilet, and do it for 20 seconds. Use soap if you can. Soap dries my hands like wild fire, so if you have the same problem, use a moisturiser or hand cream. I like Wet Skin Moisture Miracle by Sanctuary Spa, you wash your hands, rinse them and apply the cream while your hands are wet then dry, it really helps keep my hands soft and free from skin conditions such as excema and other dry skin problems, and it smells lovely. Remember we are all in this together, and even with a mental health problem, it is important to stay safe and that in return will help us stay well, and fight Covid-19.


About the Creator

Carol Townend

Fiction, Horror, Sex, Love, Mental Health, Children's fiction and more. You'll find many stories in my profile. I don't believe in sticking with one Niche! I write, but I also read a lot too.

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