COVID-19 and the New Normal..

Things were going so well. 2020 was going to be a great year…then COVID *sigh* 

When the UK went into lockdown mid March, things didn’t actually seem that bad. 

Working from home – nice
Staying at home – no problem
Having a legitimate excuse to avoid people – an introverts dream! 

3 months later… I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Anyone reading this with anxiety will know that structure and routine is EVERYTHING! So while working from home does mean no commuting and being able to catch up on Rupaul’s Drag Race in the middle of the day, it also means chaos. I had my workday routine down. Calling my man on the 8:42 train, grabbing a coffee on my way into the hospital. Lunch at 1:30. Working from home me is always late, in PJs and forgets to even have a lunch break! As for work life balance…my work laptop is still logged on at 9pm!

As an introvert staying at home would have probably been fine, except for the fact I still live with my family. Anyone who has read my blog before will know my family are not supportive of my mental illness. At the age of 28 being stuck at home with a parent who still behaves like you are 15 is an exhausting experience.

As me and my partner of 3 years don’t live together, lockdown meant over 3 months apart. Going from spending 4 days a week together and looking for our own place to this has been a huge change for me. As structure is so important for my wellbeing I have had to build new routines on my own, to the point where the idea of going back to spending time together causes me extreme anxiety. 

Probably the hardest part has been trying to adjust to the ‘new normality’. The world as we know it has changed, and for someone with a mental illness that is very overwhelming! Things I had been comfortable with, like buying a coffee by myself, are now unfamiliar. With the lack of mental health services during the pandemic I, like many others, have fallen back on unhealthy old crutches. After several years free from the dependency alcohol has once again become a consistent part of my life.

No one knows how long this will last, how many lives will be lost and whether we will experience more peaks and lockdowns in the months ahead. The only thing we can say for sure is 2020 is not a good year! 

How has COVID-19 affected your mental health?

 

Losing Faith..

Since I left the school where religion was forced upon me, into a world of freedom and choices, I have always been sure about my faith. It never mattered to me what anyone else thought about it. I didn’t desire approval from my family, or my partners. Now, on my 27th birthday, for the first time I have lost faith.

All of the years I believed undoubtingly, I was a good person who respected all living things. Who practiced what I preached. So why do I feel abandoned. Like my prayers fell on deaf eyes. Maybe like so many told me it was all make believe, a need for comfort, a want to belong.

I cannot understand the unfairness of it all. The continuous heartbreak and disappointment.

Maybe it is a fantasy I have outgrown. And now like a child parting with their once beloved toys, I feel that little bit emptied and colder.

It’s Been A While..

I cannot believe it has been 6 months since my last post! Where did the time go!

There have been ups and downs these 6 months that I could have shared. And times I could have used your support and words of wisdom. But the longer I’ve been absent the harder it seemed to come back.

What drove me to write here on my train into work this morning is what happened last night.

It’s the holiday season, and for a lot of us who work that means the office Christmas party. I was genuinely looking forward to it. I had been helping make Christmas decorations for the office, I had bought some alcohol and mince pies to contribute to the festivity, put on a nice dress…

But the moment I walked into the room anxiety slammed into me. There were so many people laughing and talking together and I just stood there alone paralyzed with fear. I lasted 5 minutes before I rushed out of there.

I can’t tell you the disappointment I feel with myself. I had really wanted to join in, enjoy a fun social event. I have come so far, sometimes I forget the anxiety even exists. But it still has its claws in me, holding me back.

Fanfiction…

Growing up writing was one of my passions. It was a form of escapism from my reality, to create stories to play out in my mind and put those images to paper. But as an adult, with a job and responsibilities, finding the time to sit and write something got harder. During this time away from work I realised just how long it had been since I wrote something. So to wake up my writer instincts I started on a short piece of fan fiction, a section of the popular Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy told from the perspective of a side character Taylor.

 

In all the years I have worked here I had never seen anything like this. The things I have seen here. Insurmountable wealth, relationships with terms and conditions, a room of pain, but none of it shocked me as much as the sight before me now. My boss sitting on the floor next to the elevator, head held in his hands.

“Miss Steele is home, Mr Grey.”

“How was she?” He asks feigning dispassion but his grey eyes betray him. I remember Ana’s tear stained face in the rear-view, body convulsing from her silent sobs.

“Upset sir,” is all I can say. For a few seconds he just stares, lost in emotions that I doubt he’s ever experienced before, then he nods silently dismissing me.

Christian Grey may be a lot of things. A billionaire CEO, a domineering sadistic megalomaniac, but today all I see is a broken man.

 

Back in my office I turn my attention to Leila Williams. Scanning through the security footage for the fourth time searching for a missed detail, something to explain how she got past the security. I feel my body stiffen as I watch her appear in the kitchen just metres from Gale, knife in hand. I hit the power button plunging the image into darkness unable to bear the terror in Gale’s eyes, like a deer caught in the headlights. She wasn’t safe. And it was my fault. The buzzing of my cellphone against the desk distracts me.

“Mr Grey?”

“I need some modelling glue.”

I pause for a moment intrigued. “For what sort of model, sir?”

“A model glider.”

Where did he get a model glider? Of course, Anastasia.

 “Balsa wood or plastic?”  I ask riffling through the drawer.

“Plastic.”

“I have some. I’ll bring it down now, sir.”

 

I knock on the heavy oak door of his study and wait for his response before entering.

“Why do you have this?” He asks as I place the small plastic container on his desk.

“I build the odd plane. Flying was my first love, sir.” I can feel a small smile lifting up the corner of my mouth as I recall childhood memories of flying, dreams of joining the Air Force. He just stares at me, confused by my statement.

“Colour-blind,” I say by way of an explanation.

He nods signalling he understands. “Thank you for this.”

I glance out the huge windows that look out over Seattle and notice the orange sun hanging low in the sky.

“No problem, Mr Grey. Have you eaten?” He stares at me both surprised and annoyed by my concern.

“I’m not hungry, Taylor. Please go, enjoy the afternoon with your daughter. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Sir.” I nod heading for the door. Pausing for a few seconds in the doorway I look back watching him completely engrossed in carefully arranging the pieces of plastic, as if he were trying to piece together his heart.

 

When the alarm sounds at 6am I feel too exhausted to move. His nightmares Ana kept at bay are back with a vengeance, filling the night with desperate screams and haunting piano melodies. In just a few weeks she’d had such a profound effect on him.

A reminder pops into my mind in flashing neon lights. Today Gail was back from her sisters. I hadn’t set eyes on her since Grey’s decision to follow Ana to Savannah. The decision that had left Gail here alone. Suddenly I’m anxious to be near her.

 

Spotting Mr Grey heading into the kitchen I wait behind the corner out of sight, eavesdropping like a child. The sound of her gentle voice like music to my ears.

“Good morning, Mr Grey.”

“Hi, Gail. How are you feeling?” I hear him ask, voice strained from fatigue.

“I’m good, Mr Grey. It was just a shock.”

“Thank you for not involving the police.”

“The police are not what that girl needs. She needs help.”

Gail is right. She does need help. My mind flashes back to when he first met Leila. She was lively, mischievous, so different from the desperate broken girl on the CCTV.

“What would you like for breakfast, sir?”

“Just coffee, Gail.”

Still not eating, like a dog pining for its owner.

“Sir, you didn’t eat dinner last night. Maybe you are coming down with something?”

“Gail, just coffee. Please.” His impatient tone brings the conversation to a halt and a few moments later he is retreating to his office.

Depression Doesn’t Stay Home When You Go To Work..

Tired all the time. Interacting with colleagues is an enormous effort. You keep headphones on in the hopes no one will talk to you. Deadlines don’t hold any motivation for you. Trips to the toilets to let out a few tears. You are late most days. Lunch breaks, what’s the point.

This is what it is like, working during a depressive episode. Recently this has been my life. And although I am ashamed of it, I reached breaking point and my Doctor has signed me off work for 2 weeks. I feel guilty at home in the sunshine, but I keep reminding myself I need this time to step back from everything and try to get myself into a better place mentally. I often feel so much like I’m juggling everything. Supporting my partner through his illness, looking after my nan with dementia, holding down a job, the never-ending list of housework, looking for a place I can rent. And sooner or later you drop everything.

To be honest with you guys. I hate my job. When I started I loved it, but 2 years later everyone I liked has left, it’s become a place where I have no friendly faces. Every year is more and more boring work for no more money. I thought in the NHS I could make a difference, but I can’t. No recognition, no appreciation. I feel worthless, underestimated. And these 2 weeks have become a countdown until I’m back there.

Guilt & Blame

This week was my Kitty’s annual check up and vaccinations. She really hates the vets so luckily she’s always been healthy, but during this appointment something was not right.

Her front fangs have always been too big for her mouth, which I think is adorable! And I had never had any signs it was impacting her eating or causing her any pain. So I was surprised to be told her gums had become infected, the tooth root was exposed and it needed to be extracted ASAP!!

Being a tad untrusting I got a second opinion. And while one fang might be savable with daily mouthwash treatment, the other was too far gone.

Being the highly emotional human I am I went home and cried my eyes out. The idea of her going through surgery, of it impacting her eating and playing. Everyone around me couldn’t understand. It’s only a tooth, people and animals have them removed all the time.

I’ve raised my little fur baby since kitten and she means the world to me but I suddenly felt like a terrible owner. Why didn’t I know it was infected. Sure she hates having her mouth examined and our attempts at teeth cleaning failed but I should have tried harder. Was it something in her food? Did I give her too many treats? Were there signs I missed? My mind kept cycling, convincing me it was all my fault.

When people think of mental illness they think depression, mania. But emotions like guilt can be just as hard to deal with for us. Mental illness affects all elements of my life, and it can only take something small to trigger an episode.

Loving Someone With A Chronic Illness..

Hi everyone!

I’ve just returned from the beautiful city of Amsterdam where me & my man were celebrating our anniversary 🙂 I still cannot believe it has been a year already!

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So I have spoken a lot about my own struggles with my mental health, but being in a relationship with someone who has their own illness has been a whole different challenge. Today I want to talk about loving someone with a chronic illness.

1.Plans will change

One thing you can count on is things will change at a moments notice. You could have planned a day out, then when the day comes they just aren’t well enough. For me change is difficult to deal with so this is a big challenge. But one way to manage it is always have more than one plan. Plan to go walk around a castle 3 hour away, but also plan something closer to home. That way if they are having a bad day then you have a plan B.

2.Memories matter

When you are having a good day together, take photos, collect receipts and tickets. It seems like such a small thing, but when they are stuck in a flare up and thinking f**k my life those memories are the proof of all the fun you have had together and a reminder that it won’t always be sucky.

3.It gets emotional

I’m not going to lie watching someone you love in pain and not being able to help them is one of the worst feelings. If like me you struggle with depression anyway it can be a real struggle not to drown in your emotions. But try to remember it isn’t going to help them. Seeing you upset is probably only going to make them feel bad.

4.Being their rock…whilst taking care of you

Being there for them is super important. Living with a chronic illness is physically and emotionally draining and having a strong support system makes all the difference. That said it’s important to look after you, especially if you have a mental illness to contend with! If you aren’t careful you’ll drain yourself and have no energy left when you need it.

5.You aren’t like other couples

It is easy to look at other ‘normal’ couples and notice how different your relationship is. Yes things are not as easy for you, maybe you cannot do all the things others can, but you are a stronger couple. You enjoy the good days so much more when they aren’t guaranteed. You know each others bodies and minds, you can read them without the need for words. Their illness is a part of them, but it does not define them.

 

 

 

 

No Place Like Home..

At the end of a long day all most of us want is to go home. But what do you do when you don’t have a place to call home?

Those of you who followed my blog from its infantcy will have known I lived with my mother after my brother went to university. Now he’s gone and got his expensive piece of paper he moves back here to join the hoards of unemployed postgrads. As most siblings we do not get on. He has such a negative impact on my mental health and self esteem. And after a series of dramatic family arguments I wound up here. Living in my car. Sofa surfing between what few friends I have. And understandably my mental health is suffering. Each day becomes a struggle to just get through work. Thank God I still have a job. When I think about all those living on the streets with nothing it makes me realise hey it could be so much worse. This situation is temporary.

This week I am facing up to the realisation I will have to start viewing bedsits I can afford to rent. I will have to live by myself for the first time and deal with the anxiety that will no doubt follow. But this will be a good thing.

Bad At Love..

Love isn’t easy. And when you are living with Bipolar II love is god damn hard.

For me feeling emotions so intensely is both a blessing and a curse. Falling in love is a beautiful euphoria, but for someone who has known so much pain and darkness, that feeling is addictive. I crave it, more than food more than the sweet release of alcohol poisoning my veins. It’s absence like the crippling withdrawals of a heroin addictive. I can love fiercely, but like a forest fire it burns consuming everything until I don’t know who I am anymore.

Someone once told me nothing ruins happiness like the images we create in our minds. Somehow my mind is capable of creating intricate pictures of exactly how things should be. The problem being I am the only one who can see them! 

If I have learnt anything through my mental health journey, it’s that I am not easy to love. I have crippling depressions and crazy mania that cause me to push people away. I get anxious, and insecure and paranoid and no matter what there is always a part of me that thinks you will cheat. I am stubborn as hell and more complicated than algebra. 

Even in my current relationship I cause arguments all the time, I can’t stand disappointment or changes and I overthink all the time worrying we aren’t right for each other. But I keep trying to remind myself that while we don’t like all the same things, while there are little things about each other that annoy the hell out of us, we love each other without conditions. We learn to compromise and grow together. And no one has ever treated me like he does, like he would move the moon to make me smile. Everytime I push him away he comes back with understanding and love. And really that’s all that matters isn’t it. 

I am not good at love, but I want to be. So if anyone has any words of wisdom on managing a relationship with a mental illness please feel free to share in the comments 🙂

Facing Anxiety..

As you regular readers are aware as well a the battles of living with a mood disorder I struggle massively with anxiety. I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety (aka anxious about a whole bunch of stuff!) One way that manifests for me is Social Anxiety. I forever live in a state of wanting to have people around me, to make new friends, be invited to social events, and also absolutely hating social events and meeting new people. So when my partner asked me to go with him to a wedding reception and meet his friends my first reaction was that sounds great. But the closer we got to the event the worse my anxiety got. 

The fear of being left alone, even for a moment while he went to the toilet, was terrifying. Having to interact with people I didn’t know. The worry of what people would think of me. On the day I told him that I just couldn’t do it. And rather than accept that like most people who know me would, he kept trying. Telling me how important it was to him that I was there. How everyone was looking forward to meeting me. He offered to check with his female friends what they were wearing so I could feel secure in my appearance. He promised not to leave my side. At the same time reassuring me if I still didn’t want to go that he wouldn’t be upset with me. After hours this, and the promise we could leave if I didn’t like it, I agreed to go. 

When I got there I was nervous as hell! Shaking and sweating. Making a move straight for the bar hoping alcohol would calm my nerves, and at least I would have something to hold to stop me fidgeting. He made sure that we were always touching, whether it was holding hands, an arm around my waist. And the more time that passed the easier it got. Everyone was friendly and soon enough I was joining in with conversations instead of listening. When the time came to leave, I found myself almost wishing we could stay longer. 

The moral of the story is sometimes it is better to face your anxiety than miss out on things you might have enjoyed. 

And having someone there who is encouraging and supportive can make even the scariest situations feel that bit safer.