Lockdown Week 1: A Mixed Bag

Charlotte’s first #MadCovidDiaries Diary 29.3.20

Hi, I’m Charlotte, I’m 45, I live with my husband and I have bipolar disorder with acute anxiety. This post contains a lot of references to exercise, so if this is triggering for you it might not be the best diary entry to read.

It feels a bit weird to call this my Mad Covid Diary, because in many ways I am much less mad than I was before coronavirus really became an issue in the UK. It’s not long since I had my first bipolar episode of the year, with my mood up and down but predominantly low, but I’ve come out of that now. I was having a lot of intrusive thoughts about suicide and running away from home, and my Community Psychiatric Nurse was concerned about me and had suggested Crisis Team involvement. But I felt that I would be OK because my husband, who usually takes the five-hour journey from West Wales to London to work every week, was working from home, so I would have company.

I ended up with more company than I had expected, because my daughter’s university shut down with immediate effect and she came to see us before going to see her dad. When the lockdown was announced, we all realised that getting her back to her student house to collect her stuff and then getting her to her dad’s was going to be a lot more complicated than we had thought; with reports of police stopping motorists and questioning them about where they are going, dare we risk going to her student house? Her stuff can’t stay there forever. My worry is not so much about us contracting the virus while we’re out, but about us “getting in trouble”, a life-long source of anxiety for me. One extra thing to fret about.

But generally speaking, I am fretting much less than usual. In fact, in some ways I am almost enjoying being locked down. For once, everyone is housebound just like I can be. I am often embarrassed about all the things I feel I can’t do, things that any adult ought to be able to manage. But now, haha! No one needs to know that I can’t cope with the bus to town because no one is supposed to be taking the bus unnecessarily! I don’t need to worry about not being able to force myself out of the house to get to my voluntary job, because the office is closed and meetings are all by Zoom. I don’t have to feel guilty for cancelling coffee dates at the last minute because there is nowhere to drink coffee. In fact, as a person who is much more comfortable with online life, this is a great time. As well as my voluntary job meeting, in the past week I have used Zoom to attend a dance class, a nidra yoga class and a yin yoga class and to meet up with a circle of old school friends. All from the comfort of home! Next week I plan to add HIIT and Zumba classes into the mix. If only I could access such a wide range of fitness classes in normal times. I’m hoping that some might prove so successful that the teachers keep going once we’re finally back to normal, but it’s probably not that likely.

One thing I’m less happy about is the reduction in contact with secondary mental health services. Obviously I understand why my staff can’t visit me anymore, but a phone call just isn’t the same. I would find it particularly hard to cope without face-to-face contact if I needed Crisis Team intervention. I don’t like not knowing whether my psychiatrist is even at the Community Mental Health Team right now, or if she has been pulled into a more general medical role. I’m not abandoned, I have to keep reminding myself of that, because all I have to do if I want more support is phone and leave a message and my CPN will get back to me. But it all seems very distant, and that leaves me feeling unsafe.

My daughter and I are trying to get out of the house once a day. We have started running up the lane behind my house three times a week, and on the other days (except today) we have been for a walk. I want to make use of the rule that we can go out to exercise once a day because it helps so much in keeping my mood positive; if restrictions tighten so that we can’t go out for exercise or can only go a certain distance from home I think I would feel very restricted and panicky.

By the way I know I sound like a fitness freak. I haven’t even mentioned the 30-day YouTube yoga challenge my daughter and I are doing every morning.

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