From the very beginning of the outbreak of Covid-19 here in the UK, I have felt an increasing sense of anxiety and panic. As a person that suffers with anxiety at the best of times this feeling of worry and dread has more than tripled as my emetophobia and fear of being ill decide to join the party.
Some of the biggest challenges I have faced personally have come from the daily issues my autism gives me. Especially the need for specific routine which includes multiple visits each week to my mothers house, and my best self care technique; long drives. As you can guess both of these things have become unachievable due to the quarantine measures. Losing my day to day routine has created a domino effect of heightened anxiety and panic attacks, irritability, and depression. These have then grown stronger and I have had many days which have felt impossible. My autistic stimming has increased and my vocal stimming has returned and is more noticable. Specifically my “tick” is more frequent and defined.
Another big issue is the changes to shopping. I have spent years learning how to go to the shops with my husband and how to function while shopping, something I’ve always been very proud of as I was 24 when I first went shopping without a meltdown and last year I was even able to shop solo (something which may not be hugely impressive, but trust me it was one heck of a milestone) but now I get refused entry to shops with my husband and daughter. This causes me great destress as I try to explain that I cant wait outside and I cant shop alone will all the new rules. I now have very little control over our food shopping as so much is unavailable, and I know this is the same for many people, but due to my autism and sensory processing disorder I have a very limited variety of food I can eat. Even different brands can trigger meltdowns, something I’m trying hard to avoid.
As I mentioned I have a daughter, a 2 year old little girl who had just started preschool before this whole thing started. After a few weeks of getting settled she was finally happy to go to to preschool and play with her teachers now I know in my heart she will struggle to readjust. I worry so much for her, because she is too young to understand why we can’t go to the park, or visit her grandmothers house. Some days I can distract her with some finger paints and a Disney princess movie, other days she cries for hours begging to go out and telling me she’s been good as if the only reason we are stuck in our tiny flat is because of her, and that hurts in a way I can not describe. I’ve exhausted books, board games, puzzles, den building, painting, ball games and baking. I’ve tried to give her my attention, and my creativity but now I feel empty. More than once she has seen me cry and, bless her little heart, she brings me tissues and strokes my hair telling me “it’s ok mummy”
My husband finds it hard to help me, I can tell. He would, at any other time, get us all in the car and drive. He would drive for hours, music playing, knowing that in the car as the motion of the journey took over, I could relax. I know in a heartbeat he would take us out if he was told he could, but without that sure fire technique he is as lost as I am. We sit together after little ones bedtime, the TV playing away, mostly to itself, as we both silently ache over the endless stress; “how will we afford the bills, the food shopping and everything else?” “What can we do tomorrow to keep our little family going?” The arguments have increased, the sudden close quarters have taken their toll and little things that would normally be forgotten or ignored are now sparks waiting to burst into flame. We always end up crying it out and we both know that many things are said out of a deeper hurting and fear, but still, it isn’t nice to fight with someone you love.
I also mentioned my mum earlier, I worry about her all the time. Since we lost my dad she is in their home alone. Now, I should tell you a few things about my mum; 1) She has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. 2) We are constantly telling her to be careful and not to overdo it. 3) she doesn’t listen. I check in with her daily by phone and also text her but it’s not the same as seeing her and truly knowing how she is doing. (Because that woman is an actress over the phone) It is also difficult for my daughter to talk to her, as without seeing her face she doesnt talk on the phone yet. But my mum does not have the internet or a smart phone so video calls are not an option. I have tried to be a bit creative with sending postcards and home made cards as well as a couple of visits to see mum through the window. These visits were both great and hard as my little girl didnt understand why we couldn’t go inside.
It is hard to not to be able to indulge in my self care, even my home based hobbies and self care have become less helpful and harder to engage in. Whilst I have always been on antidepressants and moved from one mental health charity and organisation to another, I’ve found getting professional help at the moment to be even more difficult than normal. I have always found it hard to reach out and say “I need help” but now I feel so much like a burden on over worked drs and nurses I dont want to be a bother. Of course I’m fully aware of how things may end up worse if I don’t seek help, but at the same time I just can’t ask for help as I really don’t know what help I need apart from the lockdown being lifted. (Which should NOT HAPPEN until it is safe to do so.)
Long story short, people are saying we are in the same boat right now. But the truth is, behind closed doors, we are all fighting our own battles and going through our own individual difficulties. It can be hard to reach out, even to friends and family when they feel so much further away. A video call doesn’t always have the same warmth as a face to face chat or a hug and you can write a thousand texts and never really talk. Parents can feel at the end of their tether and still be awake a 5am and trying to fill each day with laughter when they would rather just hide under the covers until the world makes sense again. Children can be climbing the walls going crazy with too much unused energy, or sat in the same spot for hours wondering when its bed time.
We are all human. We all feel uncertain right now, wether we are key workers worrying about wether or not we are bringing something nasty home with us, or we are unable to go about our normal life and job sat on the sofa hoping our paycheck will be enough to cover the basics. None of us are going to be 100% right now and we need to remember that. “”Be kind” isn’t just pretty words, it is something that we a people need to act on. Don’t judge each other, be it in the shops or on Facebook. Lift each other up, and show respect, especially if you disagree.
Hopefully we will come out the other side of this lockdown soon and we will be able to hold those dearest to us again. In the meantime we should be proud, as we haven’t been in this situation before and we are all doing really well. I think most of us with mental health issues are struggling at least a little right now and its nothing to be ashamed of.
If you feel like you need to reach out and talk to someone, dont forget the Samaritans are still operating and their number is: 116 123.
Also Shout is a text based talking service, you can reach them by texting: 85258. Both of these services are free and confidential.