The Coronavirus and Mental Health

By Char Shields - March 28, 2020

COVID-19: it's on everyone's mind right now. Even if you don't want it to be, even if you say you're not that bothered about it, it's all anyone can talk about. It's turned the world into a scary place: panic buying toilet-roll and hand sanitiser, lockdowns, self-isolation... it doesn't seem real. It feels like we're trapped in a dystopian novel.

What a lot of people may not realise is that the world's reaction to this virus is actually really terrifying for those with mental health issues. And the long-lasting effects could be dangerous.

I've just come out of two weeks of self-isolation as I had a bad cough and was feeling quite poorly. Being stuck in the house unwillingly for so long actually had a horrible effect on my well-being... and I consider myself an introvert.

Suicidal thoughts that I thought were long buried started to crop up again. By the end of the two weeks, I was in a complete hole that I wasn't sure I could get out of. I felt trapped in my own home and couldn't see the point in life. This might sound dramatic to some. And it's not like I haven't done this before (I once spent 5 weeks isolated because of depression) but that doesn't make this experience any less awful. And when you're already depressed, the smallest thing can be enough to tip you over the edge. Suddenly, even dropping a pencil can feel like the end of the world. I once cried after dropping some pens and asked why the universe hated me so much. I wish I was joking.

But it's not just isolation that has been taking a toll on my mental health. The reaction of the world and the constant talk of death isn't helping either. Somehow, the fear of dying and other people dying is making me want to die. Try to work that one out. I sure as hell can't. But I just think... what's the point if this is all that life is now?

Events, gigs and festivals are being cancelled. Trips have been cancelled. These were things I was relying on. At the start of the year, I decided to plan one exciting thing every month - no matter how big or small - to keep me uplifted and motivated. Watching them all fall apart, the very things that have kept me going so far this year, is heartbreaking. And there's nothing I can do about it. I look ahead, and all I see now is me staying in my home doing nothing... that's all I've done for years thanks to my mental illnesses. Now you're telling me that I'm being forced to stay there?

It's also the anxiety around making sure there's enough food in the house and goddamn toilet roll (which has been a two-day mission to find). The lack of care people have for others is astonishing.

Thinking and talking about this whole thing is making me anxious to the point that I can't breathe. So why are you writing about it then? I'll tell you why.

I want to express the importance of looking after your mental health and well-being at a time like this, and how important it is to be mindful of other people. Unfortunately, that's all I can offer from this post: awareness. I'm still trying to figure out how I could possibly be happy with all this going on.

However, I can give you a couple of tips:

1. If you're self-isolating then don't just sit and watch Netflix all day - space it out. If you feel well enough, then get up and exercise or do housework or sort through your clothes and make a pile of what you don't want. Sort through your cupboards too and get some work done. Get dressed every day as if you were going out. This has been helping me so much now work and university have been cancelled.

2. Try to have a relaxed, friendly conversation with someone. I can't tell you how desperate I am for that right now but it's difficult to find. Everyone is talking about the virus and it's so stressful hearing about it all the time. Of course, people have other problems too so don't try to force positivity out of anyone. But if you're in need of a distraction and can't find anyone to talk to then feel free to message me or write in the comment section below. Tell me about your favourite book or your favourite band. Talk about your dog and show me pictures. In fact, definitely show me pictures of your dog. 
 
Whatever makes you happy - talk about it.

Stay safe and healthy, both physically and mentally. Here's hoping that this will all blow over soon.

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