This is the first time I’ve written for nearly six months – and nearly five months ago the world changed forever. So to put it bluntly, a lot has happened and changed for me.
At the height of the pandemic I felt like I was coping, everything happened so fast; pubs and restaurants closed, my university placements got cancelled, my job role and environment changed overnight (literally), I took up working in a hospital, and worst of all I stopped seeing family and friends – which I can only imagine was the worst thing for most of us. It’s a scary thing how quickly you can feel isolated and cut off from the people you love.
Before the pandemic, my mental health had, and was continuing to improve, and I finally got myself in a great place mentally – other than the occasional low day, I naively thought I was over it. I felt comfortable talking about it, and offering advice to people who were suffering worse than I was – it gave me a purpose and made me feel like a good friend, and person. Writing the blog had also given me purpose for the last few years, and the reaction I got from the last posts I wrote gave me so much drive to keep on going. That drive disappeared for a long time, as I no longer felt in a great place mentally, nor did I feel like a good friend, or person. As I said before it is scary how quickly I began to feel isolated, but even scarier that I was isolating myself without noticing – until now. After so much time on my own, I no longer felt comfortable talking about my mental health – I wanted to deal with it on my own, and didn’t want to feel like a burden when everyone had their own shit going on. Unknowingly, I was carrying out that avoidance behaviour that I once knew so well, rather than talk about how I’d really been ‘coping’ I just began not talking at all. I deleted all my social media, because I just couldn’t cope with the constant reminder of all the bad shit going on. For those of you who have read my previous posts, you’ll know I hate social media – but when you can’t see the people you miss in person it’s all you have, but I couldn’t face it.
During the pandemic I’ve worked on the front line of the NHS as a Healthcare assistant in a Hospice, a hospital, and more recently in the community as a care assistant. I truly feel helping others has been one of the main things keeping me sane through all of this, but it’s been a new way of working for all of us, particularly the front line workers. The way of working has changed drastically – covering our smiles with masks, and a comforting hand with gloves, exchanging a consoling hug for an elbow bump, and seeing an empty bedside instead of a patient surrounded by their loved ones. Being the light and hope that our patients so desperately need, when we’re in desperate need of it ourselves. Feeling guilty that we’re not doing enough for our patients, and worse still, not doing enough to protect our loved ones. But I wanted to power through – I wanted to be that light and hope for my own family and friends, by pretending to be OK and listening to them. So, I ignored my own mental state to avoid the guilt of self-pity until a few weeks ago when I cracked – and I just couldn’t see any light or hope anymore.
Since the pandemic, I feel so much more grateful for what I do have. I feel sad, and grateful that there are people much worse off than I have been, so it’s not all bad. The social distancing has made me realise how important it is to feel close to others, and is something I will never take for granted again. But I still can’t help thinking that once the physical threat decreases, so will our mental health and we’re left with the emotional and psychological scars of what this year has brought to us. That’s when we really have to be the support for others, but most importantly ourselves – we can’t look after others until we’ve looked after ourselves. Ever since my battle with mental health I learnt to stay within my limits by paying attention and admitting when I was about to reach it. Somewhere along the way these last few months I forgot how to, and I know I’m not the only one. I’ve been slowly beginning to build myself up again, and look for the positives.
I felt I needed to write this post as I know there are many people who are or have been feeling this way. Writing this post, and this blog as a whole is an extremely scary and personal thing for me, so I can only hope it’s relatable and if it helps even one person, it makes it all worth it.
Look after yourselves.