Surviving the Coronavirus Lockdown

This is the second of our Coronavirus blogs from Kara, one of our service user volunteers based in North Somerset. She reflects on the feelings of anxiety and panic arising from the pandemic and how it is affecting everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.

The Government measures have strengthened and we’re now officially in lockdown. We’re only allowed to leave home for one exercise session a day, essential shopping for us or a vulnerable person and key workers to go to work and back. 

For our family the promise of Government financial support gave us some much-needed relief from my original gut-wrenching panic, of ‘ how are we going to pay the rent’. With this and some clever budgeting, we shouldn’t be made homeless by the crisis.

As more detailed information was released, I have discovered that I’m considered high risk due to my lifelong asthma condition. The advice is that I need to self-isolate for 12 weeks and the people I live with ‘shielding’ me further with strict measures themselves. This for us has caused a severe upward spike in our anxiety and related mental health conditions.

Primarily I panicked, phoned husband insisting he speaks to his manager, so he could come home and be with us. 

My three children live with us full time, the eldest an 18-year-old has fairly severe mental health issues (Borderline Personality Disorder, stages more severe than my own) combined with being higher functioning ASD. (Asperger’s Syndrome) Then I have a nearly 13-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter, both of which are listened under the SENCO teams at their respective schools. Autistic traits and memory problems meaning they need a little more support than the neurotypical children with their lessons.

In addition to this, my husband’s two daughters, aged 14 and 8, have two different mothers that are support workers (therefore key workers) caught right in the middle of our country’s crisis. He had to make the serious decision of either having his daughters to live here, adjusting to a completely different family set up, or having a period of separation where we would only be able to video message each other. Neither case is without stress, and these stresses are typical of the blended family unit.

The younger daughter we share 50/50 custody with her mum, and the eldest we have had a trial period of her living with us, but it didn’t work out. So we have her to stay alternative weekends. 

The girls at first decided to stay with their respective mums.  After a few days, the mum of the younger one realised there was just no way she could fulfil both the expectations of her job in a psychiatric hospital and keeping her daughter safe, stimulated and happy, so with a lot of distress, she has decided that the little one with come to live with us until the schools go back to normal arrangements.

My eldest daughter who had seemed to be coming out of her last crisis state, although not resorting to her coping mechanism of self-harm thank heavens, has had a deterioration in her overall mental health.

Trying to work with the changes to her routine as well as not seeing her favourite person (her boyfriend) because of my health and her boyfriend’s job (key worker) is really demanding for her and those around her. Restrictions to being able to see her usual understanding doctor, and another doctor not agreeing with the medication she is on currently, has been very stressful.

Personally I am currently dealing with immense amounts of guilt, partly due possibly to my own mental health problems but in no small way because of the implications of coronavirus. It is because of my health problems that my husband is not able to see his eldest daughter, my youngest step daughter’s mother cannot share the care of her daughter, and my eldest daughter has to make these extra sacrifices. On top of this I’m trying to educate my two other children who are at very different stages in education. No mean feat I assure you!

I had a couple of days where my sleep was non-existent, and my anxiety sky high, this resulted in a serious panic attack on waking up. I do already take citalopram to support my mental health, so I considered an increase of medication but after considerable thought I decided against it. 

The ways I’m supporting my mental health include planning, spiritual drumming, time out fun activities, staying connected virtually, eating and sleeping well, celebrating the good things like fewer fuel emissions and the fact so many of us are looking out for our neighbours, friends and communities.

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