Monthly Archives: July 2020

Mask Anxiety

This is a tricky post to write as I’m sure I’m going to get very mixed responses. All I ask is that you be kind and respect others.

What I want to talk about comes in light of the new guidance on face masks and the rule in the UK that they are compulsory in shops except for those who are exempt from wearing them. The topic is the anxiety that comes with wearing a mask.

I know I’m not alone in having anxiety when wearing a mask. I’ve shared about this on Twitter and had responses from others who are having similar difficulties. There are many reasons for the anxiety I have with wearing a mask.

My first reason for anxiety is that I feel I’m suffocating in the mask. I know this is not the case but it is the feeling I get. I’ve always had difficulties with things around my face or neck. I can just about manage a loose scarf in winter and at school I cut the top buttons of my shirts so they couldn’t make me do them up. It feels almost like a form of claustrophobia. I feel trapped and like I can’t breathe even though I know it is not the case. This leads to panic which makes it harder still to breathe and a cycle is created.

Another reason for my anxiety with wearing a mask is other people’s behaviour. I have noticed that masks seem to make people feel they are invincible and less likely to social distance even though that is still necessary. As well as this people seem to struggle with using them correctly or fail to carry out other hygiene routines. This makes me feel that the risk is higher and I’m terrified of people I care about getting ill.

I understand the reasoning behind mask wearing and appreciate that it’s for everyone’s benefit but there are people who are exempt from wearing a mask and that includes people with mental illnesses especially anxiety. However I know people who are truly struggling with wearing a mask but are scared not to due to the comments people have been making about those who don’t wear them, calling them selfish. Until it was made compulsory I was not wearing a mask. I took all other precautions but I just couldnt bring myself to do it due to the above feelings. I read all the comments from others about how awful people who didn’t wear masks were and I felt awful about myself. The thing is although it seems selfish it’s actually self care and a benefit to others. If you have someone have panic attacks in shops that is not going to help the situation. As long as people are still taking precautions and using good hygiene practices they are not being selfish.

If you are in aa shop and see someone who is not wearing a mask, it is not your role to have a go at them or ask why they are not wearing one. Be kind. You do not know what they are going through. If you are struggling with wearing a mask please look after yourself. You are not selfish. Here is information about wearing face masks and there is a link on there to exemption card templates if you feel this would help you to have on you. This information is by the UK government.

Remember you are not alone. Take care. 💚

Positives From Lockdown

Lockdown has been a hard time for so many people, myself included but I’ve also found some positive things have come from lockdown too. Therefore I thought I’d look at my positives.

1. A lockdown birthday

I had my birthday in June when everything was still pretty much shut and we could barely see anyone. It was one of my favourite birthdays. I went for a picnic and a walk and then went home and did what I wanted. No pressure whatsoever. So I reckon on my birthday we should have a lockdown each year.

Birthday walk and picnic

2. The 2 metre rule

Yep it’s been the bane of so many people but I want to keep this forever. I now have a reason to tell people to get out of my personal space or to move away from them without appearing rude. Long may it continue with people we don’t want to be near.

Picture from Pinterest

3. Wildlife returning

During my walks I have had great pleasure in spotting different wildlife that has returned to our local park. We had a regular heron (named Herbert by me and adopted by others). We also had some Little Egrets. We also got to see the regular geese, ducks and coots have their offspring. I got particularly involved with one pait of coots who had a tragedy when their nest was destroyed. Wildlife is amazing.

Herbert

4. Finding new hobbies

I have taken up drawing again. It’s something I’ve not done in years but I seem to of improved over the lockdown period. I’ve enjoyed extending my range and developed some confidence in this area. I even set up Facebook and Instagram pages for my art. I’ve also managed to do more Lego building, which I love but just could never find the time for. I’ve adapted my routines to incorporate these things.

A drawing of mine

5. Getting things done

I have managed to get so many jobs done. Things I’ve always put off as I’ve been to busy or tired to do them. I’ve enjoyed them too. It’s not just been the mundane daily life jobs but things I wouldn’t normally get to do. I built my mum’s Christmas present from 2018 for her which I’d been meaning to do since she received it.

Making Mum’s Christmas present from 2018

Overall lockdown has been tough for me and many others. It has by no means been a positive experience fully but there are positive bits in there. Sometimes we forget these among all the talk of death and failing businesses. What have been your positives? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Feeling Lonely

Today the feeling of being lonely and isolated has really got to me. I feel so so alone in this world. I feel abandoned by certain support systems and others are just unavailable due to unforseen circumstances. I just need to get these thoughts out so apologies for what is ahead (though I’m also hoping to share some resources).

Loneliness is not necessarily about being on your own physically. In fact for me it is far from that. I live with my parents. I have people around at all times and that’s hard in a lot of ways too and can make me feel even lonelier. I feel like I’m stuck in my head without an escape. Like there is no one I can share what’s going on in my head with. I feel like a burden to everyone so I don’t feel I can share with them.

At the moment I realise I’m far from the only person dealing with loneliness especially with the lockdown and being separated from friends and family. Being lonely is a horrid feeling to deal with and it has been stated that being lonely can increase your chances of premature death by 30% (More info here). Combating the feeling of loneliness is difficult. It’s more than giving people contact, it’s about connection. It’s about really listening.

Tonight I feel like I am lacking that connection. I can’t see the people I really want to. I can’t hug them. I can’t feel part of a friendship group. I can’t be me at the moment. Everything is so limited. And I know everyone is feeling the same. But I also think my mental illnesses are making things harder. Lately I’ve had a lot of paranoia (or maybe it’s not) that I’m being excluded from things. This has made me retract into myself at times as I feel it’s my fault that I’m being left out. I feel I’m burdening others.

Feeling like a burden definitely adds to feeling lonely. It adds to the lack of connection. I struggle to let people know what’s going on. I don’t want them to leave me alone but this makes me feel lonelier. Paradox appears again.

So some resources that may help.

1. Elefriends is a forum by Mind for people with mental illnesses to connect.

2. Samaritans are always there to listen (other services for other countries are in the crisis contacts in the menu).

3. In the UK your local Mind may be offering services to support people during this difficult time. My local mind is doing welfare calls and holding some groups via Zoom.

4. Let’s Talk Loneliness has more detailed resources for helping with loneliness.

My last thing is to ask that if you think someone is feeling lonely then please reach out to them if you can. If you personally can’t support them share some resources with them. Sometimes it’s not easy for the person who needs help to reach out.

If you have any tips or resources to help with loneliness please feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Helping Me Through Life In Lockdown

Getting through lockdown has been tough but it has meant I have had to find things to help me through. I thought I’d share some of them with you.

1. My Local Mind

My local Mind has been amazing (Mind BLMK). I’ve had welfare calls at least once a week so that I can discuss any issues. They’ve set up zoom groups of their regular groups. They’ve just been amazing. I’ve always been grateful for them but more so now than ever.

2. Drawing

I’ve got back into drawing and kind of discovered a bit of talent for it. I even started doing them for others as a way to maybe help cheer them up. But it really helped my mental health and got me to focus on something other than what has been happening. I have now set up an Instagram and Facebook page for my art.

One of my drawings

3. Friends

My friends are amazing. They’ve been so supportive. I’ve had cards from them. I had presents for my birthday. We’ve messaged regularly. They’ve given me space when I’ve needed it. I love and miss them lots.

4. Finding Projects To Do

From the start off lockdown I decided to set myself little projects. Most of them were things I’d meant to do since before lockdown, like putting together my mum’s Christmas present from 2018 😳. This kept me a bit saner as it gave me a focus.

5. Lego

Lego has helped me a lot and links in with the making myself projects. I love focusing on making the models. It’s really helped me concentrate on something other than what’s happening.

One Lego creation

6. Avoiding News App

Since the lockdown started I have not gone on the news app on my phone at all. It was getting overwhelming for me so I decided I didn’t need to keep checking it. And it’s been great. I do keep up with what’s going on but in my own way and not an overwhelming one.

7. Social Media/Phone Breaks

I’ve started making sure I have time away from my phone, and social media in particular. Being so connected and everyone being in there all the time was too much for me so I took a step back. I try and have at least an hour in the afternoon without my phone if not more. Its eased my anxiety a lot.

8. Pets

I can’t forget my pets. They’ve been great. Walking the dog has definitely helped and we’ve been spotting wildlife a long the way. The cats have also been great for cuddles and entertainment during zoom calls (Why my cat always chooses the mindfulness exercise to leap on the keyboard I do not know).

Spice: one of my three pets.

So those are some of the things that have helped me most during lockdown. What’s helped you? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Will I Recover?

“Will I recover?” is often the first question you think when you get ill. You wonder whether things will ever be the same again. You wonder what the future holds. This is the same whether it is a physical or mental illness, but it seems less clear cut when the illness is mental (though I know many physical illnesses carry the same ambiguity).

I have a mental illness for a long time. In fact in my head I don’t ever remember feeling OK mentally. This has meant recovery to me has always felt unclear. The major thing with the question “will I recover?” is defining recovery. This is tricky in mental illness, maybe more so than physical illness, where the lines aren’t always obvious.

Recovery for everyone is defined differently. For me the definition below is what I feel I aspire to most.

My reason for identifying with this most of all is that it is not about going to a state where my mental illness is completely gone to be “better”. My recovery will be about managing my condition.

However… I have still gone through the “Will I recover?” question looking for the answer that says my illness will be completely gone. I think that’s what a lot of people want. It doesn’t seem fair that managing a condition is all we can hope for. It’s not like the broken leg that is often used in the analogy of getting treatment for a physical illness versus a mental illness. It is not clear cut. It takes a lot to feel well with a mental illness.

This is still a complicated idea as recovery is still what is aimed for in some mental illnesses like depression where complete recovery is possible in some cases. I’ve even been told that those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) may be classed as recovered as we won’t meet the criteria for a diagnosis with time and treatment. However for many of us it will be about management more than being completely better so for us this is our recovery.

So back to our main question “will I recover?”. There is no simple answer. Will we ever be how we were before our illness? Probably not as it changes us and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Will we be able to live a decent life? Yes. It won’t be easy but there is hope. Its not easy to see in the midst of mental illness. I struggle with this most days and even as I write this it’s something I’m struggling to believe but I’ve seen others manage so that’s my hope. Hope for recovery, in whatever form, is what we need to keep. We may just have to adjust our thoughts on what recovery is for us.

I’d love to hear your ideas on this topic. Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

N.B. Since writing this post I have come to dislike the word recovery with a passion. I’ve decided it is not the word for me and I don’t wish to use it in relation to dealing with my mental illnesses. I know this is a personal choice and I respect other people’s choice to use the word recovery.