Lucy’s #MadCovidDiaries 24.5.2020
TW: Self harm, suicide and thoughts of suicide are discussed throughout.
‘This pandemic is killing us for different reasons.’
Is it Week 8 of lockdown? Week 9? I don’t even know any more. All the days are blurring into one, all as bleak as each other.
Life may be the same, the same, the same, day in day out, but I’m all over the place. I’m hanging on by a thread.
I’m in lockdown with my husband and kids, but I feel so alone. I have no one to talk to. I can’t burden them. I can’t pick up the phone and ring a friend; they all have stuff going on, and I can’t pour my own misery on top of theirs.
The more alone I feel, the more I shut myself off. Withdrawing from people is disastrous for my mental health, but while I’m longing for my friends, I don’t reply to their messages, I press ‘decline’ when they ring. I’m a burden, a problem. They only keep in touch because they’re kind people – I know that they’re just doing their duty, and must breathe a sigh of relief when I don’t respond. They all deserve this enforced break from me. I expect they’d be happy if they never saw me again.
Isolation is slowly killing me. I start to feel as if I could disappear and everyone would be grateful. The experts talk about ‘protective factors,’ but they don’t know what it’s like when you’re sure beyond any doubt that your protective factors would be better off without you.
There’s a motorway bridge a 10-minute walk from my house, spanning the M25. At the end of February, I stood on that bridge, the wind lashing my face, freezing hands gripping the railings. Who knew that motorway bridge railings are only waist-high? I was anticipating having to climb a six-foot fence, not to be able to just lean forward and fall.
I was preparing to jump, but the cars and the lorries kept coming and coming and coming. I wanted a break in the traffic so I could fall into a gap and not traumatise the driver who hit me.
Then there was a woman behind me, beside me, telling me not to do it. I let myself be led into her car – how weak and pathetic! – and taken home, where the police, alerted to my absence by my husband, were waiting.
Now, my brain keeps dragging me back to that bloody bridge, goading me to just go there, just have a look, just stand. ‘Now’s a better time than ever,’ it tells me. ‘The M25 is so much quieter than usual; you could just jump.’
I try to push these thoughts away, but they have their claws in me. ‘They’re just intrusive thoughts; they can’t hurt you,’ I tell myself, but they can.
Someone from the CMHT rings for my weekly check-in, and I find myself telling them that I’m having dark thoughts. Before I know it, they’ve arranged daily ‘welfare check’ calls, but when they phone I can’t be honest. If I tell them I’m not okay, they can now do a Mental Health Act assessment over the phone without even having to see me, and I CANNOT end up in hospital again.
They tell me to go for a walk in the sunshine, but they don’t know that everywhere I walk, memories of suicide attempts follow me. The reminders are everywhere: the bridge, the riverbank where I was picked up by police having taken an overdose, the pharmacy that sold me enough tablets to kill myself.
I go to Tesco and, observing perfect social distancing, I buy a packet of razor blades. I want to use them on my wrists, but I know I can’t leave my husband working from home and looking after two kids on his own. Once lockdown is over, it’ll be a different story, but for now, I use them on my legs instead.
I earn myself an ambulance ride to A&E, a quieter A&E than I’ve ever been in before. There are three of us in the non-Covid bit, all mental. This pandemic is killing us for different reasons.
The facemask they make me wear is so hot and claustrophobic I can barely breathe. I don’t know how the medical staff survive 13-hour shifts in full PPE. They are warriors. And unsurprisingly, they’re underwhelmed by my mask-induced panic attack. I almost expect them to tell me to man up.
I see the psych liaison team within an hour – so different from the 12 hours plus that I’m accustomed to. There’s nothing they can do, though – no crisis team, no consultant appointment, no acute day treatment unit. I was being treated there pre-lockdown, before coronavirus forced it to shut its doors and leave 30-odd depressed/psychotic/suicidal patients without ongoing care.
Instead, I’m sent home with several new lines of stitches to add to my patchwork, and a promise that the CMHT will keep calling.
I’ve been posting photos of lockdown life on Facebook: happy children, happy cats, lovely nature. But now I’m not posting anything. When I go quiet, it’s a sure sign that I’m not in a good place, but what can I do?
The glue that holds me together is melting and I don’t know if I’m strong enough to get through this.
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