Waiting lists are months long and racial disparities are ignored. Mental health awareness week is just not enough.

Sunitha’s #MadCovidDiaries 18.5.2020 

I don’t really know where to start. After a very challenging week, the weekend for me has been a lot of me trying to contain my anger and having these beautiful moments of hope. In some ways, I’m starting the cycle again of settling into this new normal but it really overwhelms me, particularly when I am managing my mental health on top of that of my partner.

On so many occasions in the last four years of our almost seven year relationship, I have had so many thoughts and conversations about whether it was healthy that we were together. For me, it always came down to, he understands me in a way nobody else does, gives me that leeway when I can’t and lifts me up because he knows what helps him. We’re both stubborn to the core and fiercely independent human beings, who on some level resent that we need each other. However, lockdown has changed a lot of this, we’ve found a common hobby in gardening and it’s reminiscent of those early days without the toxic codependency. That’s not to say we don’t argue, mostly about the tiniest  things and they’re actually arguments about them rather than some underlying issue. Yesterday it was over not helping him put the seedling trays in a plastic bag to keep them covered and him not sitting with me whilst I video called my family.

Most people have been video calling their parents from the start but I kind of kept it to a minimum since I usually see them every other month. Yesterday when I called, my dad was just wandering around the house with the iPad and my mum was cooking whilst arguing with my brother. On some level, it felt like I was there but also, that’s the dynamic I find quite difficult when I go home. Even though I have good relationships with my mum, dad and brother individually, when they’re all together, I find it a lot. Perhaps, it is because that wasn’t the dynamic growing up – It was usually my dad and I or my mum, brother and I. Plus, it’s not that I don’t love them all or vice versa, just yesterday highlighted that they’re having this time in lockdown together and I’m missing out. Though my younger brother would say that I had two years of my life where he didn’t exist and got all the love so maybe it’s his time. 

Boundaries for me have been a huge issue since my primary school days. Honestly, I am convinced that there’s a sign above my head it says, this person is a walkover. Under lockdown, I’ve really enjoyed having the space to be me without my extended family and constantly having to put in boundaries. Unfortunately, other interactions with new people still have that issue and so it’s still rearing its head. My fear is always coming across as a bully or being nasty but a friend pointed out that it doesn’t have to necessarily be something that I say but a smaller deliberate action like muting the whatsapp chat. Today I woke up to 30 messages and because I had the capacity I replied but the past weekend, I was very close to throwing my phone against the wall due to the constant messages. The additional anxiety I have had in the past when I am already depressed in bed and then inundated with messages, texts and calls, usually makes me just sink further into the lows. Under lockdown, I am really battling that knee jerk reaction. Though when this is all over, I think I am going to start phone-free days. Connections are great but I am way too available and I need boundaries.

To end, I want to say that I was beyond frustrated the other day when I saw Lloyds Bank mention something about helping with mental health. Until Covid-19 hit, most of my extended family didn’t know that I had a mental health illness and even now, I doubt they understand that this was my third breakdown in ten years. Every time I would get help, they would patch me up and I’d be okay for another few years until something else happened. Often mental health illnesses are viewed as weakness, my partner’s dad is one of those who thinks that even though both his sons have experienced them. Alternatively, you get the line, I went through more than you but I’m fine. Guess what, if you experience a lot of trauma and are fine, that’s great for you but I’ve come to realise, that’s more screwed up than having a breakdown. My dad, who I love dearly, spent most of his adult life as an alcoholic to self medicate what I now know to be a life long battle with anxiety. When he got PTSD, his drinking became worse and our life fell apart. At no point do I see him as being weak, only that he suffered in silence without any support from his employer. Whilst alcoholism and substance addiction are still taboo, waiting lists are months long and racial disparities are ignored, mental health awareness week is just not enough.

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