Well hello and good morning and what a strange new world we are living in. Here in the UK we are on the second week of a partial lock down which we kind of knew was coming but still was a bit of a shock to the system. I have started to settle into this new way of life but I know being a homebody by nature definitely helps. I have also spent around 6 years on disability benefits so I’m pretty used to 8 hours a day on my own and periods of time without seeing another human. That said these are scary times and I’m glad to now have someone staying that I can have little meltdowns with.
These are difficult times for everyone let alone anyone with existing mental health challenges but there are some things I am specifically worried about. The first is access to medication; GPs and other healthcare organisations have clearly cottoned on to the fact that if we cannot be trusted with loo roll we probably cannot be trusted not to stockpile medications. Luckily I recently picked up a 3 month prescription but the idea of not being able to get hold of medication easily at some point in the next few months is very stressful. I’ve been told to give a weeks notice when I’m running out but I will only be able to have a month at a time moving forward. As we all know from this post I have worked very hard to get the right medication and the downside to running out of medication for me is a) a deadly rash b) getting put on another medication to balance out my mood as I build up the old medication to it’s normal dose. This is very much a lose lose scenario for me and I have already eaten too much chocolate in confinement, I am keen not to add a new psychiatric medication into the mix and balloon into an easter egg shape. My solution to this is to become very organised and start counting my medications, my recommendation to anyone else on psychiatric medication is to get organised, work out what you have and stick a reminder in the diary when you need to order!
The second is that a lack of routine and structure is particularly difficult and makes me feel quite anxious, although I did this for several years on benefits I worked hard to introduce a structure into the day so I didn’t just become a blob on the sofa watching daytime TV. Part of this was my latent guilt about being a ‘benefits sponge’ but it was also that I start to feel irritable and generally a bit anxious and gross when I don’t have some kind of plan to the day. Luckily for me I am working from home which naturally generates some routine although I miss proper tea breaks and jacket potato lunches in the cafe. I am very fortunate to be in that position and I imagine it must be particularly difficult if you are currently not working from home, for whatever reason. Implementing structure is really important and will make you feel you have been productive at the end of the day, which ultimately gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. It’s particularly hard when you cannot go out and do the things that would usually fill time like a long walk, exercising at the gym or a swim, having a potter about town, meeting a friend for coffee…So it’s important to find ways of introducing those things in a way which works for your set up and y’know, keeps you from breaking government guidelines.
I am also worried about sleep which is a major trigger for me, at the moment I am definitely not doing enough exercise to activate any kind of significant sleep mode at the end of the day but my mind is also generally ticking over. My flat is quite small with 2 rooms so although I aim to hide most of my work related bits at the end of the day I am still existing in the same small space that I am eating, working, relaxing and sleeping in. I have also got into the terrible habit of being worried about sleeping which means i stay up until I am exhausted and don’t properly wind down and read and have some non screen time, this is SUCH bad sleep hygiene and I really ought to know better. My aim moving forward is to go to bed at a semi reasonable time before I am too tired to engage in self-care and actually have some time out.
Speaking of screen time I am also acutely aware of the amount of screen time I am having, I seem to glide from one screen to another during the working day which is also no good for you. I live fairly central near a lovely common, at the start of all this I thought ‘excellent, I’ll be able to go for nice long walks and get some fresh air’ however like the scenes of Cornwall and Wales people are going out en masse with the same thought. Following a very stressful human obstacle course one warm afternoon on my way to the pharmacy I decided daylight walks are not enjoyable and I simply come home feeling more anxious than I did pre-walk. I now live like a vampire and go out only in the evenings for a walk; on sunny days I open the large windows in my living room, plonk myself on an IKEA poang chair and pretend I am outdoors. My freckles are responding to the small amount of sun their receiving as a result so I can only conclude I am getting the vitamin D I need.
I could sit here and preach about all the great things you should be doing to stay well but it is only week 2 and like most people I am still transitioning from knowing what I ought to be doing to actually doing it. However I can celebrate the small achievements I have made for sure:
1.I have picked up the gratitude journal again, for those of you who are unaware of what this is it’s essentially a way of forcing you to be positive about the day. For me I commit to recognising 3 things I am grateful for and I then draw them in a bid to stay creative. Some days these are wonderful moments, some days these are organising my sock drawer:
2. I have been doing the 30 day illustration challenge to stay away from screens and force me to spend time doing something I actually enjoy:
3. They are vampire walks but they are walks nonetheless, yesterdays was about an hour and a half ambling through the deserted streets of town. Slightly creepy and apocalyptic but I did stumble across this in a crepe cafe which tickled me:
I’d love to hear/see what you’re all up to, remember you too can acknowledge the little things.Stay safe and stay at home x