Roadmapping out of lockdown

Today sees the latest lifting of lockdown restrictions in England. While many people are excited at the opportunity to go for a meal, or to see a film. Some people are worried and concerned about these changes and how they will affect their mental health. Our digital officer, Claire, talks about how she is trying to create a personal roadmap that will help her with the things that she is struggling with.

Not all of us are excited about lockdown lifting and life returning to “normal”. Some of us are, quite understandably, really anxious about the changes we will have to make having got used to an isolated lifestyle.

I started thinking about this after I recently attended the Bipolar UK virtual conference. As somebody who has bipolar and somebody who works for Second Step, I found it a great resource for things I could be doing differently, challenges campaigners are having and so on. The whole day reinforced a lot of things I think about having bipolar, the stigma around it and how people have coped during the pandemic.

Roadmapping

The final session of the day was a panel talking about the effects of the pandemic and what we do next. Panelist, Dean Clarke, talked about how the government have given us a roadmap out of the pandemic but we need to create our own personal roadmaps, to protect our mental health as we exit. This idea has sat with me and I’ve realised I have a lot of very mixed feelings about coming out of lockdown and a roadmap may be the way forward for me so that I retain an element of control.

Fears

I will readily admit that I’m scared about exiting lockdown and seeing the world getting back to normal. Creating a roadmap will really help me move at my own pace and not take on too much.

I live on my own, and while I actually like not having to leave the house and see people it has been incredibly lonely at times (the support bubble rules have been my only saving grace with this). Being able to see my family without restrictions and possibly travel to visit my Niece is huge and something I really want to do.

Working

I have really settled into remote working, while other people have genuinely struggled with it, I’ve thrived being in my own space, not having my head full of office chatter, and being able to just focus on what I’m doing has made me happier and more productive. Moving back to office working is going to be really difficult, and I’m definitely keen to stay remote working as much as possible.

Socialising

I am very introverted so find social situations really hard, especially if they involve alcohol, as I don’t drink. I’ve had over a year now of not having to navigate those situations, invites etc and I really like all that pressure being removed. There are certainly things I want to do socially, like going to see bands live again, although I will admit buying tickets for “live at home” concerts has pretty much left me as happy as can be, I’ve not had to leave the house, I can wear what I like and sing and dance without people laughing at me.

Things others enjoy like going to a café for a coffee have always made me feel really uneasy. Now there is social distancing to take into account and honestly being anywhere near anybody is something I can’t get my head around. The thought of café’s and buses and supermarkets (I switched to click and collect just before first lockdown so haven’t stepped foot in a store since) are terrifying.

Travelling

Travel is something which is causing me mixed feelings, I had already gone three years without a holiday when the pandemic started so I’m now into my fifth year of no travel and I really miss it. Travelling is so good for my mental health, seeing cultural places and learning about how a place has grown up feeds me. Knowing I may be able to go on holiday makes me happy, but I’m still super cautious, I looked at booking something for the end of next year and couldn’t do it. My anxieties around the safety of travelling really got in my head, so I definitely need to give myself space for this one.

If I’m honest the new normal for me will be very reserved, I don’t think my mental health will be able to cope with the sensory overload of doing all these things at the same time. It’s going to take me time to ease back into it. A few years ago I had quite severe agoraphobia and spent a year doing graded exposure to get myself in an place where I could leave the house, go to crowded places, sit on a bus. I think I’m going to need to do this kind of work to get back on top of “normal” life.

What are you fears around life returning to “normal”? Send your thoughts to us via Twitter @wearesecondstep.

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