Jemma’s #MadCovidDiaries 27.4.2020
2 weeks ago I thought I was cured. I was both looking forward to (and low-key fearing) a discharge, I’d survived my historical ‘Mad March’ with not so much of a hiccup. I mean I was raging everyday from the news and injustices being reported but pre covid I’d been plain sailing since January 7th. Then came April. The rage and energy turned to fear and flatness. I started getting out of bed later and later and noticed the old familiar feeling of being drawn to total isolation because away from my family is safest for us all. My 3-year-old didn’t ask for a mother with bipolar/emotional instability/anxiety disorder/ptsd/fit-any-diagnostic-label-here, so I must protect her from my mood and behaviour to make sure she doesn’t experience a childhood like my own. I tell myself over and over this is a normal response to the chaos that is our world at current. This is not illness, this is NORMAL. As I skim through social media I see people enjoying time in the garden and doing craft with their children, starting new hobbies, attempting DIY. Generally, ‘making the most of a bad situation’. Feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy set in as my partner entertains our children downstairs whilst simultaneously doing his work and I hide away unable to cope, again. We thought this was over.
Living in lockdown is very much like living in an abusive household. You are not in control. You do not know what is coming next. You cannot trust anyone around you. Threat is everywhere, whether that be from the abusers living with you or from a virus that is killing thousands of people each day. Is it your turn next? A familiar feeling. The scared child inside me is sensing fight or flight almost constantly and wants me to run, but nowhere is safe and disobeying rules will come at a cost. I imagine my fellow service users who have had the unfortunate experience of being sectioned under the Mental Health Act or fell victim to a Community Treatment Order can understand the triggering nature of this situation but in a very different and uniquely traumatic way. Don’t get me wrong lockdown was in our best interests as a nation, but that powerless and dehumanising experience of having your human rights violated by a system that serves to restrict you in ‘you best interests’ is without doubt recognisable in this context. The emotions that are entwined with these past experiences are flagged up and felt all over again as if it were the first time. As ever, we scream silently.
The entwined mass of memories saved into my brain like a London tube map are firing like crazy. Stored trauma begins to present itself in bodily ways, through aches, pains, pressure headaches, lack of appetite, loss of taste, dulled senses, heightened senses, brain fog, dissociation, nausea and IBS, depending in which day it is. I am taken back to the relentless feelings of inadequacy and the gnawing presence of worthlessness that fuelled my post-natal depression 3 years ago. I am once again trapped between 4 walls for an uncertain amount of time, with a huge amount of pressure on me to be a good mum and raise a healthy happy child. The birth of my daughter and the months following were incredibly traumatic and still 3 years later I have chosen to avoid this place in my mind. Only now I can’t run away, my days once filled with work and university studies are now gone and I am alone with my head and my history. In the hours of daylight, online shopping and junk food seem to help to fill the void. On the night times I use meditation apps to sink into a more simple, dissociative world and leave mine on the pillow, the same dissociative imagination I would escape to as a child.
Contrary to the norms psychiatry has constructed and society therefore accept, psychological distress is not a malfunction of the human brain. It’s the exact opposite. My mental state is my own for a reason and it serves to protect me from how the world may treat me, based upon the evidence of my past experiences. Dissociation draws over me like a warm blanket and my depression drops like the dead canary down the mine, alerting me of the toxic environment I’ve found myself in. I’m trying to remind myself these feelings are mine to own and interpret as I wish. As I dare to question my thoughts and feelings, I realise I am re-living all the trauma I have experienced in my life due to one common denominator – powerlessness.
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