Lockdown: The Ins and Outs and Ups and Downs

Nalan Mehmet

If I had a penny for every time I was told to not dwell on my issues or asked what I had to be depressed about, I would be a very rich woman. In times that I would be consumed by everything around me, like a sponge soaking up spillage, I would be told not to allow myself to become so overwhelmed. No one understands that it’s not a choice. The thoughts, the fears, the deep emotions and the anxiety that encapsulate you is not in your control. The mind is the most wonderful thing that god created in humans, every single one so unique. Even in identical twins, identical on the outside but so different on the inside. Some would say that those who suffer with mental health or disabilities are considered anything but normal, but what really is normal? Who’s to say what normal is?

My mental health issues consist of depression and anxiety, but in reality, mental health issues span a vast array of different illnesses, each one carrying its own symptoms, and each sufferer the varying in symptoms.

I have learned to recognise my symptoms and have suffered long enough to know that majority of the time, there is a trigger. It’s when I don’t know what the trigger is that I become worried. It’s the unknown, the uncertainty that then provokes my anxieties. With depression as awful as it is, I can cope. The anxiety however, frightens me. I feel so out of control, my heart rate is faster than a cheetah chasing its prey, my hands start to tremble, my mind floods with thoughts and I become so overwhelmed that I can’t think straight. I feel exhausted and depleted. In the early days of my recovery after my breakdown, I relied on medication but today only I can pull myself through it. Nowadays, I take myself to bed to sleep, back to my safe haven. I have finally learnt and accepted that only I can stop it and control it. It’s okay to ask for help and to receive it. There is no shame and its not a sign of weakness. I listen to my body more, I don’t take on more than I can cope with and on the occasions that I have, I start to crumble.

I don’t care what people think of me regarding my mental health because I realise that their negative opinions are a representation of their weaknesses and ignorance. Living with mental health is difficult enough at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.

Last year, when Covid first hit the news, I felt my anxiety levels heighten. We were due to fly out to Amsterdam for a long weekend in celebration of our son’s birthday. I have always carried hand sanitiser in my bag due to my germaphobia but this wasn’t just a little germ that we could sanitise away. We were facing an invisible killer virus which took my ‘what might happen’ thoughts to another level. Thankfully, all went well but not long after, as the number of cases and deaths rose, we were thrust into a national lockdown. The trapped bird was not only in a locked cage but the cage was now covered over too. 

I felt the same feelings that I experienced as a child growing up, Rapunzel locked in the tower. The more that I watched the news and saw the number of cases and deaths, the more uneasy and scared I became. I had to stop watching tv all together, relying only on Netflix where there were no adverts to remind me of Covid. I feared going out and if I went to the supermarket I would wear disposable gloves, mask and goggles. I would strip as soon as I walked in the door, put everything in the wash and showered. We wiped, and still wipe, all products with antibacterial wipes, spray all door handles, steering wheel, gear stick, keys and purse. I was living in fear that I could die any day. I occupied myself with craft projects. Once the weather warmed up, I was in my garden everyday, gardening and generally enjoying the sunshine. I was living in our own little bubble where I felt safe, until I would hear a siren, bringing me back to reality. The news of friends and relatives of friends catching Covid only brought it closer to home. I got through the summer, even though it took me longer to feel comfortable going out freely once lockdown was initially lifted but I eventually met up with friends for a meal or a coffee. Summer was relatively easy. 

The November lockdown didn’t really feel like a lockdown so I wasn’t affected as much but the current lockdown has affected me dramatically, in a totally different way to the first. I no longer fear that I’m going to catch Covid as easily as I did previously and my anxieties haven’t peaked as high. However, my depressive moods have been more prevalent. I am so emotional and frustrated all the time. There are some days that I do nothing and mope the day away.

I love them with all my heart, but God have I struggled with my family being at home 24/7! It’s lovely to be able to see them more than I would if they were still going to work, but from their mess to their mood swings to their meetings, when you’re used to having the house to yourself all day everyday, having three other people invade your routine can all become very frustrating. And the never ending Amazon deliveries. Don’t get me started on how many times a day that doorbell rings!

Living in limbo, not being able to plan anything and being unable to look forward to anything fun, living in constant uncertainty has taken its toll on me, on all of us. In a way, I am grateful for lockdown for making everyone else see, experience and finally understand what this kind of life is like. I’ve been in some form of lockdown my entire life, so to me, it was nothing new. Having said that, though I am very fortunate to have some wonderful friends who check up on me, and I on them, I miss being able to see them, chat to them in person and catch up. I miss having the freedom to plan a spontaneous day out, even if it isn’t anything special. I miss being able to hug and kiss my parents. Most of all, I miss living by my own rules.

I hate not being in control of my life, however empty it may be,  and in fact I know that this is the biggest trigger to my depression and anxiety. I try to keep busy in order to occupy my mind and I still avoid the news on the tv; sometimes ignorance is bliss. The one thing that I always do though is talk. Keep talking and stop judging; don’t patronise a sufferer of mental health. Check on each other. A simple hello will do, and that’s sometimes all it takes to be the sunshine peeping through someone’s clouds. Mental health, especially during times like this, should never be a taboo.

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