21st April 2020
How has your care changed since COVID19?
All of my face-to-face appointments have been cancelled, or moved to telephone appointments, but in the telephone appointments they’re not really been able to make another appointment. It’s just kind of been a one-off “are you currently fine?” level of contact, kind of for the foreseeable. I have support with a psychologist in a pain clinic in an NHS hospital, and then through the counselling service at my university, they are still doing telephone appointments and things – the university counselling service. But all of the staff for the pain clinic have been redeployed to other areas of the NHS, so it’s kind of unknown when any of those outpatient services will be back.
2. How have those changes affected your mental health?
I think I had to put a lot more work into staying well recently. So i’m kind of just aware that there’s no-one really to help if things go wrong. There’s kind of a bit more pressure I guess to stay on top of everything, in a way. I am doing well and I do consider myself sort of recovered from most of my problems, a lot of my worries and anxieties are kind of about how this is impacting on other people. So I might be struggling to focus on my own enjoyable present day life because i’m so worried about the situation. It’s just, the way this is going to change the pressure on the health system for such a long time, just feels like it’s going to be this long term stressor where a lot of people are going to be forgotten.
3. Have you been told how to get help in a crisis since COVID19?
No, i really haven’t, thinking about it. Yeah… no. I can book another appointment with my counsellor if I want to – within term time. But in terms of everything else i’ve not been given any kind of alternative.
4. How is the experience of self isolating / social distancing in the community? How are you finding living alone / with others, are you able to access support, food, medication, things to do etc).
Yeah I think practically I’m safe and well and i’ve got access to food. My housemate, we can help each other with the practicals of going to supermarket and things at the moment. I’m finding it quite anxiety inducing being out of the house, and I’m sure everyone is. I think being more aware of the distance between people having these extra rules means that when people aren’t following them it feels like much more of a threat, so i’m on a higher threat response all of the time when i’m out and about. I think that my coping mechanisms is always sort of spending time with lots of different people and doing lots of different things, so now that i’m restricted to one person and one person – well not one room but one house and i’m doing a lot of my work in one room – it’s kind of, i’m finding it quite hard to relax and to switch off from work. I think that, for me personally I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so I can be triggered by things, and often my way of coping with that is to just leave the place that i’m in and go somewhere else, and obviously that’s not available right now, so I feel quite trapped with my own brain, I guess. But i think that i’m quite lucky because I have a lot of friends around me and we’ve been doing a lot of Zoom calls and online activities, and me and my housemate are really supportive of one another, and communicative. So I am really lucky there, but even then I don’t want to put too much pressure on her, because she is just the only person in my life at the moment so it is kind of, it’s just a very unusual circumstance, and a lot of the usual coping skills have been disrupted by it.
5. Have decisions been made about your care (discharge, referral etc) that you believe wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for COVID19?
Not a discharge, but i think, as I mentioned, a lot of the services have been suspended indefinitely, and my perspective on that – because I am a researcher in this field – is that I think that a lot of services are at risk of not coming back. So although I’m not currently discharged from them I think that – I don’t know how much of that is my anxiety feeding in – but i’m not, it’s not to me confident that they will be coming back, even if they currently still exist. But in terms of decisions about my care being made, no, not that i’m aware of.
6. Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
I really think that the loneliness and the social isolation of this is going to push a lot of people to experience mental health problems for the first time. In that, people who, people like me who have long-term experience of kind of moderate mental health problems, have a lot of coping skills for isolation, and loneliness, and anxiety, that other people maybe haven’t been taught. I think maybe that’s something you might want to be aware of, or that people should be talking about, how to recognise symptoms in yourself if you haven’t previously had them. Or mental health 101 for people maybe that are experiencing something for the first time.
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