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I miss connecting with others in person and I fear for a disconnected future, where those of us with disabilities feel excluded from society.

@outdoorperscrip’s #MadCovidDiaries 14.9.2020 

What usually helps you when you’re feeling like this? This is possibly one of the most used sentences in mental health support. I wonder how many patients have suddenly found the answer to their distress is solved by that one simple question? I’ve been asked it a few times lately and to be honest I am finding it hard to answer. There’s been a few changes lately that I am struggling to cope with. I’ve found lots of different parts of lockdown challenging, as someone who was mid relapse in anorexia at the start of lockdown and it’s been a big battle to keep my health stable. Each time something has been challenging, from panic buying, to cessation of face to face support/college/being able to access my family and friend support, I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself down and carried on as best I can. However, despite being able to do this each time It feels like my mental health has deteriorated a small bit each time, slowly coming unpicked at the seams.

I’d been following the news and understood my daughter would be returning to school full time. There was a huge amount of anxiety related to this, but as with all change I tried my best to prepare ourselves for it, making sure she was ready with masks/hand gel/instructions to shower and change clothes when home, alongside the more practical things of ordering kit for school online. I did all of this knowing deep down that it felt too soon for them to be returning. Just before they returned to school I received notification from the school that they would be doing blended learning, half in school, half at home, with a different time table each week, every week, until Christmas. I should have been pleased about this as it means that the school is taking the threat of the virus seriously and making their best efforts to keep the young people safe. Despite knowing logically that it made the most sense it caused a complete brain crash. Weeks and weeks of pushing myself forwards, challenging my illness and coping with change had all built up. The last minute unexpected change of plan, meaning that every week would have a different routine was all too much. It was one of those moments where I loathed the fact that I am autistic. One of the occasions I feel disabled by my autism. One of those occasions I just wished I wasn’t me any more.

I reached out for help and had the line that started this blog off. What usually helps? Taking a walk in nature helps. I tried this, but it happened to be timed with an exceptionally busy day in the woods and there were people making loads of noise and not social distancing. The wood I used to go to be quiet and get space is often no longer quiet, particularly when the weather is good. In the past I would have met my Mum for a drink in a café, but I have so much anxiety about Covid, I’ve not been into any indoor place since March (aside from medical treatment). I see photos of people on social media, hugging their friends, having meals out, going to the pub and part of me is jealous. I feel lonely and sad. To be fair I’m not a person that hugs, I don’t go to clubs, have big gatherings or eat out very often, so in some ways many parts of Covid restrictions don’t have an impact on me. I just wish there was a way of switching off the constant anxiety so I can use some of the things that do help my mental health as ways of coping. Each time I see sunshine on the weather forecast I no longer feel the joy I used to feel, instead I feel a pit of dread in my stomach knowing sunshine brings noise and parties.

When I hit breaking point this week I called the crisis team, I just needed someone to listen, to validate, to understand. Instead I felt like they were panicking. I was faced with a barrage of questions and had two different people talking to me. They didn’t read my crisis plan, so weren’t saying things that were helpful. I very rarely call for help out of hours, but I’d completely crashed and couldn’t get myself safely home. Their call cut off when something frightened me and I dropped my phone. My partner thankfully called me not long after and came to find me. I worry about how close to breaking point I feel on a daily basis. I am lucky to live my family, I worry about those that don’t and I fear what is coming this winter. I wish there were face to face outdoor peer support services in the community, having access to ways of diffusing distress, with people that respect Covid rules could be so beneficial. I miss connecting with others in person and I fear for a disconnected future, where those of us with disabilities feel excluded from society.

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