Sunitha’s #MadCovidDiaries 7.7.2020
What a difference two weeks make? In the last ten days, it’s been a rollercoaster of unexpected life events, which has left me feeling both super hopeful and super anxious. The most prominent item is that I am now getting paid for some work that I was previously doing as voluntary. It’ll be the first time that I have had regular work since I ended up leaving my job 16 months ago. Genuinely, I know it won’t really make a huge difference as I had begun doing a lot of the work already but still, I’m feeling very anxious. Part of it is that I can’t imagine that something good could happen to me and the other part is that I just expected to continue to be out of work for a while especially with this lockdown. Perhaps, also interestingly is that a few of my fellow volunteers know that I have a mental health illness so I am not going in worried about being found out.
After the meltdown my partner had a few weeks ago, things have been challenging between us but we are both really trying to work together. Unfortunately, the lockdown has definitely been a pressure cooker for everything in my life and has forced us to discuss aspects of our relationship, we probably thought we could ignore. At no point, when either of us has struggled with our mental health, has the other one ever felt like walking away but being carers for each other, has affected the dynamics of our relationship.
The constant whirring in my head around who I am, as a result of my trauma, has temporarily ceased. Being able to understand that I have been impacted by the trauma in my life, doesn’t equate to me being defined by that trauma. Though unpacking that in a time of a constant feeling of hypervigilance is sometimes beyond my bandwidth, particularly when an inevitable reaction can spiral very quickly into a crisis.
This weekend I spoke to my mum a lot, who now acknowledges that she hasn’t quite dealt with a lot of the grief and trauma from her past. If one thing can come from this Covid experience for her, it will be that she has space from a lot of the toxic family behaviours that have damaged her emotionally. My mum growing up was always this incredibly strong person but in the last ten years, I have seen her be worn down by life. For her, seeing and supporting her two children and husband through mental health illnesses in some ways, helped her understand it better but still prevented her from seeing her own suffering. There was a point a few years ago when I was in a meeting for children of alcoholics and I read the traits, realising that it described my mum perfectly and at that point, I forgave everything. It was about realising that my mum was just as much fighting to survive as I was; it wasn’t that I lacked empathy for her tolerating my dad’s behaviour, just that I never concluded that we were similar in any way through our shared trauma.
The trigger for a lot of my difficulties in the Coronavirus crisis has been the feeling of the unknown, which hasn’t been helped by the lack of leadership from the government. When the lockdown was initially enforced, I at least felt like there was a possibility that the country would manage this. At this point, I have given up and even my family who are diabetic, seem to think it’s okay to have physically distanced gatherings. In my head, it seems overwhelming that I am having to take on that personal responsibility of rejecting invitations to protect them when I know my potential exposure could lead to a disastrous outcome. So again, we’re back to square one or a version of square one of risk assessment overdrive, which tumbles into anxiety for me.
Today, as several things were aligning up for me, I felt this gratitude to the world for this opportunity and yet, I feel incredibly claustrophobic. For so long, the language for me has always been about getting better or recovery. In letting go of this concept, I have in some ways had to acknowledge that there’s just different versions of me. Within the confines of society, some of my behaviour probably seems a little quirky. However, the truth is that as much as I am open to people, very few get to see that cheerful external me can become someone that falls into the darkness of despair where no one can rescue me except for myself. The loneliness of that realisation, sometimes makes me give up.
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