Coronavirus, Anxiety and Me

I have been in self-isolation for the past week and I am on the verge of returning to work after this 7 day period at home.  I have been ok physically but, as the coronavirus outbreak is worsening I am really starting to struggle with my mental health.

Last year I was absent from work with stress, anxiety and depression for nearly 6 months and up until a few days ago I felt pretty stable but now I am starting to struggle, especially with the anxiety side of my mental health.

I went shopping, as I usually do on payday and I normally buy much that I need for the month ahead.  In the days leading up to going shopping, I was hearing stories of the shops selling out of essentials that I normally buy monthly which started my anxiety levels to rise.

I get paid monthly, I live on my own, I have bills to pay and my monthly salary just about covers that along with food and other things I might need.  I have very little room monthly to save any money and budgeting for food is one way that I can keep in some kind of control of my finances.  When I went shopping (and I visited 3 different supermarkets), not one had items that I rely on for my monthly food shop.  I eat a lot of pasta, at least 3 times a week as I know that what I cook will do me for 3 meals (one that evening, then lunch with the leftovers for tea), there were no tins of baked beans that I eat on toast at least 2 times a week, there was no veg, the freezers were empty save for a few tubs of ice-cream.  There were no toilet rolls or dog food, laundry products, hand wash, bath products or bin bags.  This has caused me a lot of worry and expense.  I need to eat, my dog needs to eat and I have a budget that I really can’t go too far away from.

In the end, I was forced to buy dog food and pasta on-line (Amazon had some stocks available) but I paid over the odds.  Roxy usually has one type of food and I couldn’t get that so instead of spending the usual £9 on a bag I had to buy something that was similar in nutritional value and ingredients that cost twice as much.  And I have had to bulk buy pasta online spending a lot more than I usually do.

In addition to that, I am getting really anxious about how this virus will affect those around me, both my Mum and Dad are in the at-risk group and are retired and I am worried about their health and how they will manage in having to isolate themselves with things like food shopping and just remaining safe.  My brother is also in self-isolation for the foreseeable future as he is asthmatic.

I have been watching the news, not constantly but the important parts of it as the advice the government are giving seems to change on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  I don’t know whether watching it is making my anxiety worse or not but I do know that I would rather be armed with the facts and be up to date with advice that is being given.

I’m worried about going back to work, and I can’t help panicking about what would happen if I picked up the virus and carried it to my parents or transferred it to someone else and I am worried about how the virus could affect me.

I’m worried about what will happen with work and if the office will remain open and about working from home.  I was planning on getting broadband put into my home this month but can no longer afford to do so as my food bill was more than I had planned.  Not having broadband and having to rely on mobile internet might be ok for blogging and other general browsing but I don’t have enough data to work from home for 7.5 hours a day for 5 days let alone afford to do this indefinitely.  I don’t even know if working from home would be an option when the work I do means that I have access to personal data.

And I am worried about having an extended period of time away from work, whether I will still get paid, whether I will still have a job to go back to should I take leave and whether, if I have to have time off again due to my mental health (which was stable before this virus pandemic) whether it will go down as sick leave and how that will affect my sickness record and pay.

I am just really anxious and worried about everything at the moment and I’m struggling to see anything in a positive light with so few answers to any questions, the advice we are being given changing constantly and all these stupid people who are panic buying and making the situation even worse in the grand scheme of things.

Supporting Friends Througn Mental Illness

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With 1 in 4 people in the UK being diagnosed with a mental illness it is very likely that a friend or family member could be one of these people.  It can be hard to know how to help when you hear of someone getting diagnosed with depression which affects around 300 million people, or anxiety, two of the biggest mental illnesses in the Uk, or any other mental health illness, a lot of what is written on the internet is about how the person affected can help themselves, the types of medical help that are available or guidance notes for employers to follow.

I have been through a diagnosis of mental illness and had 6 months away from work with anxiety and depression coupled with stress, and I am still recovering so the following post is about how you can support friends through mental illness based on the things that helped me.

  • Let them know you are there for them. Just hearing the words “I’m always here for you” and knowing that it is meant was a big support for me.
  • Don’t ask “How are you?” as many people will answer with a generic “I’m fine.” Instead, ask how they are feeling. I have a friend who always sends me a text to ask how I am feeling and it has always given me the opportunity to really talk about my feelings, sometimes being able to share those things is easier with a direct question.
  • Ask what you can do to help. Sometimes the answer may be nothing but other times it could be to run some errands or even just sit and chat.
  • Ask what they would like to do, and have some suggestions for things if they say they don’t want to do anything. My friend would ask me this and I would say nothing a lot of the time as I didn’t want to waste their time, but they would always suggest things like watching a film, cooking some food or playing games on the computer which made me feel good that they wanted to spend time with me.
  • Always remember them in group plans. My friend was brilliant at this, even when I’m sure they knew I would say no.  There really is no worse feeling than friends making plans and not being included.
  • There were times that I didn’t want to talk and there were times when I really needed to let everything out and having someone to just sit and listen was so valuable.
  • Don’t judge. There were times, at the beginning of my mental health illness where I hadn’t done any housework for weeks, I was still in the same pyjamas 3 days down the line, my hair wasn’t brushed or even washed and I felt embarrassed but my friends never judged me or made me feel bad about it.  If you can, do a small task for them, like washing the dishes, sometimes that little gesture helps more than you can imagine.  On one of my bad days where I hadn’t taken a shower for a week or even gotten dressed properly one of my friends came round and sat with me while I took a shower, they picked out some clothes for me to wear then blow-dried my hair for me because everything had felt too huge and overwhelming for me to do myself and those little things made such a difference to my week.

I hope that this guide is useful if you can think of any other ways to help support a friend through mental health illness then let me know in the comments.

The Hidden Effects of Mental Health

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There are now so many prompts to talk about mental health from Time to Talk Day to Mental health Awareness Week where opportunities are given to learn about mental health or talk about mental health from a first-person perspective.  Things that get talked about, often, during these periods are the causes of mental health problems, symptoms, medications that can help, looking after our mental health, spotting signs in friends and family and how to help others.  The stigma attached to mental health is often talked about in great depth but one thing I have found that gets overlooked is the hidden effects of mental health.

So, what are the hidden effects of mental health?

People who have had mental health problems experience the hidden effects, which often go unnoticed.  Some of these things can be

  • Social circle shrinks

When you have mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, it can be hard to stay in contact with friends, from calling, texting or attending evenings out, and before you know it, friends have drifted away.

  • Being overwhelmed

When my mental health starts to disintegrate, I stop doing things like cleaning my house or doing the washing up or laundry and as I get better, I can feel overwhelmed by all of the tasks that need to be done.  I also experience a sense of overwhelm when I go outside – to the shops, after a period of locking myself away in the house.

  • People treat you differently

Without wanting to, I have found that people’s attitude can change and they start treating you as if you are fragile and will break.  I have experienced this in work, where, even now, I still get concerned looks from my colleagues or do not seem to get to do the same types of work as others in case I cannot cope.

  • Lack of trust

I think that this lack of trust can be linked to people treating you differently, shrinking of social circles and the stigma that is still attached to mental health.  It can be hard to open yourself up to people and to talk about feelings, especially people you may not know very well.

  • Feeling trapped in a cycle

I often wonder if I will ever be well enough to be medication free or if I will have to rely on my tablets to keep me functioning at a level forever.  Sometimes it feels like I am stuck in a cycle of requesting my prescription, collecting tablets, taking tablets and doctor’s appointments to monitor my medications.

  • Slowing down

If people have to take medication for mental health there are side effects, which can affect memory and the speed at which we process things or our ability to understand things as easily.  This can be frustrating as we know we should be able to understand, remember or process things easily.

I can only write from my own experiences, though I do know, from conversations that I have had, that there are other effects that having mental health problems which all have a different impact on us.

Have you had any effects caused by having mental health problems?  I’d love to chat about your experiences in the comments.