(audio recording of piece below)
By Nick Groom
“When we suffer from poor mental health, one of the last things we sometimes want to hear is, “Sure there are a lot of people feeling like that…” Not only can it feel very isolating, it can feel very dismissive too; that somehow what we are feeling is not worthy of a second thought. We may as well be told “Suck it up and get on with it”.
As we try and find our way through this new world of social distancing, self isolation, and an almost total shutdown of the way we have lived our lives on a daily basis, we must be aware of how this may be affecting our own mental health. Fears may be heightened; our mood may drop dramatically or anxiety rises as we feel we are unable to cope with what is happening right now. So to be told that “we are all in the same boat” is very invalidating and only helps to make us feel that there is something wrong with us because we are “not coping like everyone else.”
If we go on line to try and find ways of coping, there are endless accounts of people learning a foreign language, taking up art, learning to play an instrument, writing poetry, redecorating the house, working out a route to jog or cycle within a 2km radius of home….and so it goes on…and it becomes exhausting just reading all the suggestions. For me it can not only be exhausting but I begin to feel the anxiety rising; “What should I be doing?” Then the guilt kicks in; “Why am I not learning Japanese, or learning to play the Alpine Horn?” Then comes the negative thinking “What is wrong with me? I am useless”
So let’s check the facts. I am not choosing to stay at home or restrict my movements. I am doing this to play my part in helping to defeat this virus.
Just stop and say that to yourself.
I am not choosing to stay at home or restrict my movements. I am doing this to play my part in helping to defeat this virus.
Then ask yourself “What else would I like to do?” and “What else am I able to do?”
Don’t worry about what you are reading others are doing, or what you see neighbours and friends doing; What would you like to do? Remember you are not going to be judged on what you decide to do or not to do.
So yes, if you want to learn a language, make a start. If you want to learn a musical instrument, start practicing. If you want to start drawing then sharpen your pencils. But remember there is no pressure on you. We are all under enough stress and pressure getting through this strange situation on a day by day basis. Why add to it?
So if you want to sit quietly and read a book. Do it. If you want to have a nap in the afternoon, who is to say that is wrong? If you just want to sit and be with yourself, just sit and be with yourself. If you want to phone up a friend, or skype or text someone then do it.
Routine & Support
One of the things I find helps is to set my alarm to the same time each morning and get up, have my breakfast and shower. I know that if I was to stay in bed, and stay in my pyjamas I would feel worse. A huge difficulty I am having is that all the days have very little relevance at the moment. Each day seems like a boring Bank Holiday Monday. I try therefore to have some kind of routine and set aside certain days for doing certain activities. Then each night, something I have done for a while, I sit down to watch a film at 8pm, depending of course on who has won the fight for the remote control.
If you are currently in therapy, try and keep in contact with that support. Many therapists, myself included, are adapting the way we work to meet the needs of clients. I am now working with clients through Skype, telephone or text, just to keep that support open.
This morning I spoke with a colleague of mine who noted that for those of us who have or have had mental health issues, we have spent years “skilling up” to deal with the daily difficulties we encounter; we are still here in spite of our past failures and victories. Take stock. Recall how you have got through difficult moments. What healthy coping methods and skills have you adopted?
Above all remember there is no right or wrong way. As long as you are staying physically well, as long as you are staying safe, as long as you are listening to your body as well as your mind and playing your part to beat this virus, then that is all any of us can do”
If you are having a tough time at the moment and need to reach out for support, please contact any of the following