The more lockdown is eased, the more my anxiety rises. It’s going to be a long time before I stop staying alert.

Hattie’s #MadCovidDiaries 2.6.2020

The more lockdown is eased, the more my anxiety rises. It’s going to be a long time before I stop staying alert.

I have obsessive compulsive disorder, and if there’s one thing I’m an expert at, it’s staying alert. Right now we are living though a real life enactment of one of my recurring intrusive thoughts, one no amount of cognitive behavioural techniques will dissipate, where my fear is in no way disproportionate. This is nothing short of my worst fear.

I am good at lockdown, I am well practiced in this. I spend years in my own self-imposed lockdown: I only left the house for *essential medical appointments* [read: trips to A&E] and for occasional daily walks [but only at times it wouldn’t be busy and only if I could stay 2 metres away from other people]. I was terrified to go to supermarkets or on public transport, and social gatherings were definitely not an option. I was paralysed by the fear that just by leaving the house I was somehow posing severe risk to others and causing unspecified ‘bad things’ to happen.

The isolation of agoraphobia was hard, I was lonely and scared and hopeless. But what was harder, was dragging myself out. I had to force myself to go out and see people which would leave me exhausted for days afterwards, trapped in cycles of obsessions and compulsions to try and prevent any harm I may have caused. I had to learn to fight through the fear, telling myself over and over again that I couldn’t hurt anyone that my thoughts are irrational and don’t warrant more than a brief acknowledgement.

I don’t think I need to say that these techniques aren’t pandemic-proof.

For many people the easing of lockdown is a great relief, a chance to go to your favourite beach and see loved ones again, albeit at a distance. I want to do that to, I want to sit in the park, drink tinnies and laugh about this to feign some kind of normality. But as lockdown loosens, my panic swells again and I watch myself falling back into the patterns I know all too well.

Considering everything, my mental health has been *manageable* through this, but I can’t help sensing that the worst is yet to come. That for me and so many others it’s the aftermath of this that will present the greatest challenges. I welcomed lockdown with open arms, but getting back to whatever normal life is will be a very different story.

I now face the resurgence of the challenges I faced before, a rapid spiral I don’t feel in control of.

It’s going to be a long time before I stop staying alert.  

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