Time and life have changed into sand that’s slipping between my fingers.

Emilie’s #MadCovidDiaries 4.4.2020

TW: Self Harm

As I set out to write this post, I realise I’m not on my second but on my third week of quarantine. I see on social media that people are still counting days, but I’m apparently starting to lose track of time. It was to be expected, I guess. I feel that time and life have been changed into sand that is slipping between my fingers. If I were to close my hand, surely, I would retain a few grains but most of it is still escaping me.

My second week had started out pretty well. I struggled all week with the idea of productivity. Most people on social media are talking about it: they are all “How am I supposed to be productive working from home?” and “I feel so guilty I’m not doing as much as I should”, or even, if more rarely: “At least, I’ve been able to do things I’ve been putting off for so long!”.

I guess, as a mentally ill person, I’m used to my productivity being very hit or miss. Still my first week of doing absolutely nothing had been pretty bad for my mood, and I had deadlines to meet. Somehow, I managed to get to work. My sleeping schedule started settling itself out. Five essays were written that week. I’ve found that having visual representation of what I accomplished was what helped me the most: instead of working only on my computer, I would write by hand my essays. Even if I couldn’t control the entire stream of sand that was being poured in front of me, there were grains of sand I had managed to snatch. And they were pretty neat, so I might as well expose them properly so I could be reminded of them.

I guess to anyone out there struggling the same way, I would say, break down your tasks and write checklists for the pleasure of checking them off. Have visual reminders of your progress so you don’t lose yourself in the middle of long projects that feel like they never stop. On the other hand, and this has been pointed out to me on social media a few times, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. These are not ordinary conditions, and it’s okay to not be able to do everything. Hell, it’s okay to not be able to do most things. As much as possible, try to do at least one thing. Be able to go to bed saying “I have accomplished this”. Even if it’s not much. I am not even talking about work or studies, even just doing laundry or doing the dishes. Don’t judge yourself for what you’re able to do or not. Just accomplish at least one thing. It’s also a good way to keep track of time, at least a little. Tuesday was the day you went out for groceries. Friday was the day you wrote that email you had to write…

This looks all fine and dandy but I must admit, the past few days have not been as easy as this. I had a major breakdown last Sunday. It hit me all at once, that I was alone, that there was no one to check up on me, that I could die and no one would be there to save me. I know most of it was irrational but suddenly the stream of sand was asphyxiating me, and I couldn’t breathe anymore. There was sand in my lungs, and I could feel the gritty texture of it down my throat. I found myself shaking in my bed, unable to think clearly. To be honest, I screwed up: I self-harmed, for the first time in months, and I took a bit too much of my meds in my desperate need for sleep to take me away from my mental breakdown. It worked a bit too well, since I slept 25 hours straight. I never saw Monday. I woke up on Tuesday with the need to create. Since then, I’ve finished two drawings. After talking about it with my therapist, it seems creating was the cathartic expression I needed after all this anxiety, but was too shaken up to be able to accomplish on Sunday. I’ve also been reasonable, and called my psychiatric health centre to ask for help, under the advice of my therapist. But it seems to be pretty inefficient right now. I’ve called once on Wednesday, asking for a new doctor since mine wasn’t coming in anymore. The secretary promised someone would call me the next day. No one did, so I called again in the evening. I was able to talk to a doctor for around twenty minutes and she promised to call again the next morning to check up on me. She never did.

This leads me to my last bits of advice: Creative activities a great way to express pent up frustration or emotions. Like me, you probably have been left with less contacts with health professionals. Therapy over the phone is good, but not as good. More than ever, you need ways to express yourself in ways that are not self-destructive. It’s not about whether or not you have talent, it’s about throwing your anxiety, your sadness, your anger on a piece of paper or any other support you might choose. Write. Draw. Paint. Play music. Create. (It’s also a great way of being productive and keeping track of your productivity). And if like me, you feel like you aren’t heard enough by professionals, please, keep asking. You have every right to ask for help, you deserve it. Most professionals are just completely in over their heads right now with this situation. They are not ignoring you in particular, they’re just overworked and stressed. So, keep asking. I’ll call the centre again on Monday. Don’t let your voice be drowned out in the stream, it deserves to be heard.

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