Sunitha’s #MadCovidDiaries 3.8.2020
I’m back home and for the first time in a long time, it really felt like coming home. Of course, I experience anxiety here, lying awake in the middle of the night thinking the house noises means someone might be in the house or the depression clouding over me because I can’t see any way to escape. The beauty is that I recognise in the last four months, it has been an acceleration of having to deal with so many aspects of my life head on. Though it was wonderful to spend time with my parents, not knowing when I will see them next, made me really consider my behaviour. There were definitely moments where I got angry with them or irritated but I think by the end of the week, I had an appreciation for them. This was helped by my mum finally understanding that I will never be the daughter who gets married, has kids or does the things that all her other friends’ children do. On some level, she finally accepted that I was never like that before and that even though right now, I might seem better, I am able to make my own decisions. That this is impacted by my mental health is something I have come to accept. For example, last week, I went to the shop more times than I have in three months and it showed. The first time I got very light headed because of my anxiety of being in a shop and the second time, I ran out to stop myself from having a panic attack. That I am thinking about how I can practice food shopping again, an action that I barely overcame before all this, almost feels comical.
In so many ways, I feel like the framing of trying to overcome my anxieties means that I am in a position where I can consider having therapy again. Although due to coronavirus, there are limitations so I need to think whether this is something I want to start on a video call. For me, I am able to have really in depth conversations with friends where I am able to be fully vulnerable with them but when I had to spoke to a psychologist in the past, the phone calls used to fill me with dread, usually leading to a meltdown after the phone call ended. Obviously, when I was in crisis, attending appointments used to be difficult but I think that I found it much harder to hide my feelings in an in person situation than over the phone. As video calling is some hybrid of the two it’s a bit different but forming a feeling of trust is something I only know how to do in real life. I mean, sometimes I hear myself trying to explain the darkness that encompasses everything in my life but it all feels like an approximation.
There is a definite aspect of my teenage life, which feels like it was tinged with the darkness as well. When I was at my parents’ home, the last night before I came back to London, I was sifting through old poems that I wrote. A few days before, I had mentioned to a friend that I had been unable to really cry but this really set me off. The quality of the poetry was definitely that of a teenager but amongst it all, the impact of reading words that captured the pain that I was feeling, connected me so strongly to my younger self. One part of it that really upset me is that I was clearly a depressed teenager; I thought that if I reached out to the doctor, they would diminish my feelings and so in one poem I referred to my depression as being “my secret”. Admittedly, more than ten years ago, mental illness was not really understood in the way it is presently but I also realise, this has shaped my willingness to reach out as an adult in my twenties. My experience with doctors and psychologists has been very mixed and I have often left therapy or a GP’s office, feeling like they don’t understand the severity of the issue. Sometimes, my smiles and sunny demeanour made it hard for them to recognise that the same person would go home, cry myself to sleep, think about dying and try not to hurt myself.
In this pandemic world, I have had moments of crisis but my past experiences really made me reluctant to reach out for help. My solution to overcome those points was calling friends or sleeping until it passed, which might be hours or in other cases, days. Some days would be even worse because my partner would also be in crisis and it was like these two injured lambs, just flailing. However, there was no way that I could have ever survived if I had also somehow had to hold down a full time job and in that way, I have so much respect for my partner. His anxiety was already in overdrive in early March and with every day of the lockdown, the numbers rising and his grandmother testing positive, it would set him spiralling. Luckily, his work has been understanding and even given him some therapy sessions, which has led him to turn a page, particularly with the therapist believing that he is autistic. The acceptance that he is just a different type of person rather than the feeling of something being wrong with him, shows the power of a diagnosis. For me, I still struggle to know how to describe my mental health illnesses… I have depression, anxiety and complex PTSD but at different times, they present in different ways and are obviously all interlinked.
The last months have been so challenging and reintegrating back into society is going to be similar to a lot of people’s experience ‘recovering’. Except, the brief respite has made me address what I want. Up until this point, all my decisions have been theoretical but recently, having people wanting to meet up, has challenged what I am willing to do. For now, I still have the coronavirus situation as an excuse but I think I really need to consider whether going out all the time is what I actually want to do. Someone said I like to keep busy ; there’s a difference between being busy to distract myself from the depression, trauma, the numbness or all the emotions and actually enjoying what I am doing. Sitting with my emotions isn’t always possible but I am learning that when I can handle it, it’s a form of damage control. The next step is being able to handle sitting with them.
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