Sunitha’s #MadCovidDiaries 20.7.2020
I’ve finally got some time off for the next two weeks and especially this week, I am going to focus on having time for myself. I have recognised that burn out for me is something that happens even when I have the best intentions ; it has as much to do with the external factors in my life as it does to do with living with long term mental health illnesses. For me, I have always been able to work to pressured deadlines but to the detriment of my mental and physical health especially when there’s no support from my workplace. In some ways, as other people have struggled in similar ways during the coronavirus crisis, it has made me feel comfortable about being very upfront with people about my limitations. Interestingly, there’s never any fallout as I expect but instead, I feel as if it helps in everyone recognising that there should be a focus on our own well being first and foremost.
There’s a difficulty for me in being able to prioritise my needs that has made me realise in lockdown that this is what leads me to struggle with maintaining friendships. There are a handful of people in my life that I am able to accommodate even if I am in crisis but those are often long term friendships with already established boundaries. For more recent friends, I often find myself feeling guilty prioritising the need for space when I am struggling to exist. Depending on the time I meet people, I can be super keen or quite distant in my behaviour, or a combination of both, which comes across as me being erratic. It’s also really difficult explaining to friends, who have definitely never seen me in those black holes of despair, what it feels like when I experience depression. In those times, I really avoid contact with friends and go into hibernation mode, rationing the little energy I have for basic function. In many ways, working on the order of each week works so much better for my depression. Usually I am planning weeks in advance, which is commonplace in London, and either cancelling last minute or forcing myself to hide my mental health illness to attend whatever social occasion I promised to attend. If only there was a box for “I will attend but it really depends on the severity of my mental health that day.”
Over the weekend, I spent most of it on the sofa, which in the past would have been a huge achievement as it meant that I had got out of bed. Yet, I kept having to check myself as all I could think was that I should be outside and doing more productive things. Even when I was watching films and television, there was a pang of guilt, that I should be watching something more serious. Without the constant presence of social media and the lack of things to do, I thought that mentality would have stopped but it highlights it’s an ingrained thought. It’s funny that when I was a depressed teenager, who kept all sorts of weird hours, I never thought I should be doing more because I still went to school and managed with most of my school work. My partner hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that I struggle to switch off because there’s always something I have been working towards. Today on my third day off, I have a list because without it, I struggle to focus and that’s when the anxiety seeps in. Whilst list writing itself helps to manage my anxiety, I know it can be an action I use to exercise control and order in my life. This is a definite recurring theme in my life when chaos reigns.
The chaos isn’t always about the present but extends into my thoughts on my future. My current life for example bears no resemblance to the future I envisaged for myself as there are things that I never expected I would ever have. For example, on the extreme, I expected to be dead by now. The emotional pain that I have experienced for years never made me feel particularly positive about my life expectation. Equally, my past relationships had always been emotionally destructive, full of codependency and the sprinkle of abuse. In truth, I thought that was all I deserved and so the cycle would continue. That I have a loving partner, is something I find myself running away from at times. Usually when he needs support, I am able to be there for him but when I know he’s okay, I find myself closing off a little. So sometimes, my need to bring order to chaos is when I am struggling to accept the good things I have in my life whilst also experiencing depression.
It feels strange that a lot of the above has focused on my own responsibility around providing boundaries given my limitations. Whilst I recognise the importance of all the above, I also know the impact of external factors. The current situation is not necessarily a reflection on how the coming months and years will be. Whilst I know that people are more switched on to their needs, it’s very easy for us to return back to the normal. For me, returning back to normal isn’t really an option and I am considering all sorts of things that seemed impossible to me before. By recognising that I want to live in a world that considers all the diverse needs of the individuals in its society, rather than a world where it expects those individuals to fit society’s mould or limit themselves in order to be accepted, I feel empowered.
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