Coronavirus and My Mental Health

Coronavirus and My Mental Health

I can try and drown out my feelings with the sounds of the past,
But the second I hit pause they come straight back
I try to keep smiling and put on a brave face
But underneath the surface I’m struggling to keep faith

That we’ll get through this
That we’ll rise again
And we’ll ride

I’d be lying if I said that I was doing okay
Cos the silence is filled with the thoughts I keep at bay
It’s everything I’ve got to keep my head above water
But it sometimes feels like my fights don’t matter

Who I am compared to this
To coronavirus
And all its shit

It’s in the darkness my creativity seems to lie
When I’d much rather be stood in the light
But the sun mocks me wherever I go
Cos all it does is highlight my shadows

Taunting me with my demons
Twisting my feelings
Skewing my reasons

I just want to get on with my life
Of making good times and going on rides
But it feels like we’ve got so far to go
And it’s with both hands that I’m having to keep hold

I’m glad that for as long as coronavirus has been a thing, people have also been talking about mental health. It has focused a lot on anxiety and OCD, which is understandable as people are worried for their own lives and those of their loved ones and we’re constantly being told to wash our hands. They are both things that I struggle with, but my anxiety has been surprisingly silent on this one. I’ve no doubt got Thorpe Park to thank for that, as it sparked an interest in zombies which then led to me playing the game Pandemic, so I’ve found the progress of Covid-19 somewhat interesting. Instead, my depression’s come out to play.

Depressive episodes for me are different to what they used to be. My head used to be crammed with all the worst, most self-critical thoughts I could ever think about myself but, after The Smiler saved my life and I didn’t believe them anymore, my depression is now mainly feelings based. I still get the odd thought when I’m feeling particularly stressed, and I say them, but I know I don’t really believe them and it’s just bullshit my head’s kicking out. It’s just the illness. With the feelings, though… Oh… My… God.

So I’ve had two depressive episodes this year, one in January and one in February. I’m now feeling on the edge of one in March and I’m not a fan of the regularity with which they are occurring. They are short, kind of a build up and then a shit couple of days, but those two days are debilitating.

In January’s, I wrote two songs in one night and spent the rest of the time crying my eyes out, feeling so crushed by the general low nothingness that was laying on top of me and invading my brain and body. In February’s, I ended up on the phone for four and a half hours to a friend, bursting into tears at one point because I didn’t want him to put the phone down, so he didn’t. Now, I can feel it bubbling away, threatening me from not too far away. My strategy is mainly to try and keep myself busy and give some meaning to my days.

Which is made harder by the fact depression demotivates you.

I’m not working at the minute. I’m one of the unlucky people who’s been laid off as a result of coronavirus, and is therefore hoping the government gets their shit together with this 80% wages thing. I could take a job in a supermarket to keep me busy, or even step back into the NHS, but I’m not doing this for two reasons: 1) I’m fortunate to have financial support from other sources if I need it, whereas others don’t so I’d rather them take the jobs, and 2) If I did take a job anywhere, my anxiety would absolutely hit the roof and, if the job was in the NHS, smash through it.

So I thought I’d focus on my side hustle instead, my art, my business. Get something in the pipeline for when all this is over. I even made a timetable to help me organise my time over the things I need to focus on, but depression has waded in and now the timetable is a bit more of a hope than anything else.

I started off this lockdown in fairly good spirits. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has just come out so I’d been spending all day playing that. Seemed a good distraction, until three days in and that started to turn sour because I wasn’t enjoying it anymore because depression. I won’t lie: I’m scared. Not of coronavirus. I’m scared that I won’t keep this depression at bay, and it’ll swamp in for another two days of absolute hell. You could read that and say it doesn’t sound bad, “Two days. Some people have episodes for two weeks, two months even.” This is true, I’ve been one of those people, but the depths it sends me to in those two days I wouldn’t wish on my enemies. You can’t really truly know unless you’ve experienced it yourself, or you’ve been close enough to someone who has that you’ve got a pretty good idea. And what I hate in all of this is that I can’t use my one fail-safe coping mechanism: rollercoasters.

I’ve got other coping mechanisms, sure, but only the joy and thrill of rollercoasters have worked every single time. I don’t even have people to hug other than my fiancé. When I went for my government-mandated walk in the park today, I ached to have a face-to-face conversation with someone else, to touch another human being other than the one living in my household. There were plenty of people outside, but the 2 metre rule makes it a bit difficult to have a connection with anyone. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to keep surviving this.

I’ve been on the phone to people, instant messaging friends and colleagues all the time, but I feel like I’ve been left astray. There’s so much advice out there for people struggling with anxiety during this lockdown, but I feel like there’s less of a message for those of us struggling with depression, other than pick up the phone. The phone isn’t fucking enough, alright? You can’t hold me in your arms and chat shit about trying to fit big mattresses into tiny cars through a phone. Some people say this is how it is and you just have to get on with it. I’m perfectly well aware of this, but I’m struggling and I want my voice to be heard for others to take some comfort in.

So why have I written this? For my own benefit, to get these feelings down and out there, and also to add to the dialogue. I tell people to Smile. Always. and I have others tell me to try and keep my chin up, but underneath the brave face I’m showing to the world, my boat’s sprung a leak, and I’m desperately trying to fix it before it goes under. I don’t want anyone else’s feelings to be invalidated by the “it is what it is” attitude that’s going round because it honestly doesn’t help. We shouldn’t feel like our feelings on this matter are insignificant compared to the people fighting for their lives and others’ in hospitals around the globe. This consequence of the pandemic will cost lives too if people don’t feel able to talk about it and be taken seriously. It needs to be talked about and it needs to be taken seriously, even if it’s just for our own sanity. Everyone’s fight is different in this pandemic, and this is one that I know I share with others. I want them to feel free to talk about their feelings and for them to be validated, as I hope mine are here. I need them to be.