I have always been a nervous person, not that I think many people would say that about me. In my comfort zone, I am happy to be the centre of attention and with my ‘safe’ people I can do anything. I can talk to anyone and feel a sense of freedom I do not have when I am on my own, I feel like a different person. So, to be thrown into a completely different way of life, an un-comfort zone if you will, was incredibly difficult and has led me to reach out for help. I would sum up the problems I have been experiencing as anxiety, social anxiety and agoraphobia.
This year has been one of the worst of my life, my Grandma was diagnosed with cancer, my beloved dog died, my partner had his wages cut to nearly nothing, my step–daughter is struggling and needs a lot more of our support and, Covid-19 postponed our wedding and cancelled most of the little highlights in life. I find it very hard to live in the moment and often need something to look forward to, to get me through the days. The virus has robbed me of that and I find it hard to cope with a great stretching future of not very much. My mood has been very low, I have struggled to do day–to–day tasks, particularly any that take me out of my house or away from my partner.
The impact of lockdown
Strangely, although I was frightened and missed my family and friends, I felt much better at the start of lockdown when clapping for key workers, checking in with each other and a sense of all being ‘in it together’ was the norm. Since lockdown has eased, the feeling that everyone has an opinion on everything anyone else does and isn’t afraid to share it with negativity and sometimes viciousness has increased my fear that the world outside is a very bad place. I don’t feel like I can speak to anybody I don’t know; I must come across as so rude but if I am on my own, even eye contact is impossible.
My main fear is that I will get something wrong, interpret the government guidance in a way and attract the negative opinion of others. If you are reading this, I would urge you to be kind, just because you don’t want to go to the pub yet doesn’t mean the people that do are idiots and to say so might compound someone else’s suffering or shy them away from something that would bring a little bit of joy to their day.
Reaching out for support
The first step I took to help me get these feelings under control was to self-refer for some mental health support through Steps to Wellbeing, I had a very emotional first assessment with a trained professional who looked at my needs and the problems I have been experiencing and well as the effects they have had on my day to day life. I am now on a waiting list and have been sent some resources to use in the meantime. Just knowing there is a reason that I feel this way and that I can be helped through it has made me feel so much less hopeless.
The next thing I did was delete all my social media apps from my phone, when I feel stronger and on top of things. I log on via my laptop but limit this to once or twice a day so as to avoid the mindless scrolling and absorbing negativity. I found social media has become a very problematic and negative space for me nowadays and limiting how often I am logging on has helped. I have made my world quite small and focused on my family, my friends and myself.
It is easy to forget how many people are following the guidance, doing their bit and making a positive change when all you are confronted with is people being angry about beaches, pubs, and people breaking lockdown rules. I needed help to remember that there is good out there so my partner and I have started going on ‘holiday’ days where we visit a town we don’t know and go for a walk, avoiding the crowds, buy a coffee and come back, now we are allowed to travel a bit more it is helpful to see more of the world carrying on.
The benefit of reframing thoughts
My hope for the future is that I can reframe my thoughts in a more positive way. To not feel so frightened to go out of my comfort zone and leave the safety net of my home and loved ones behind. I would like simple things like going for a walk or to the shops alone to not cause me such intense stress. I would like my brain to not remind me of all the things I’ve ever wrong and fixate that ‘everyone must hate me’ or spend sleepless nights cringing over something I said or did.
I had to complete a goals statement for my treatment, and I wrote that I want to be more confident, less scared, accept and know that I am going to be ok, with things I cannot control. It’s been a rotten time for a lot of people, and I don’t feel alone in how I have been feeling, as we go back into a more ‘normal’ way of life I am sure people will struggle, my advice would simply be to reach out for help.
If you would like support, Dorset Mind can help, find out how here.
Big thanks to Joanne for writing this blog.