May Blues

My mental health has been deteriorating, so I’m going to use this space to track my moods and symptoms in the absence of ‘regular’ MH care.

Today, the symptoms are:

Depression: I hate, hate, hate it. It feels like an ache pressing into the centre of my chest. My brain feels as though it has a fever and needs to be wrapped in a cool cloth.

Depression paralysis: This is not the same as tiredness. You feel frozen in place, almost stopped, and it’s hard to do even the simplest tasks. There are degrees of paralysis however, and I am able to do some things. They just take more effort and willpower.

-Strong suicidal thoughts: I’m not in danger right now. The aforementioned paralysis is stopping any risk that this might have posed. But thinking about suicide is never a good sign and it’s not normal.

-Mood swings: Even within the depression my mood still swings about in an unpredictable way. For example – over-reacting to some bits of news and under-reacting to others. Crying at inappropriate times. Outbursts of anger and irritability without any cause, directed at no one. Not knowing from one minute to the next what direction my emotions are going to take.

Oversleeping: I’ve been sleeping for up to 15 hours a day which is…different. And I still feel tired most of the time. I hope I’m not anaemic again (due to Coronavirus I can’t get a blood test to find out.)

Weight Gain: After spending most of last year trying to gain weight I finally manage it unintentionally. I didn’t think my appetite had increased. Must be a depression side-effect.

Inability to Concentrate: Concentration has been heading waaay down for a while now, but this week has taken it to new levels. Reading is out of the question. TV is impossible.

Loss of interest: Everything seems pointless. My mind and emotions are flat.

Tiredness + Restlessness: A severely uncomfortable mix of tiredness and restlessness is a unique gift that depression sometimes gives people. The restlessness feels like the kind of frustration where you might start to fling objects around the room or throw yourself out of the window for no apparent reason.

Detachment: This is an odd one. I’ve had this symptom before when I was very ill. It makes you fear for your sanity because everything seems so unreal and your mind seems detached from your body. At least it’s familiar and not a completely new issue.

Note: my mood is actually not as low as this list would suggest. Nowhere near 2017 levels, thankfully.

 

May Lockdown Update

Lockdown continues endlessly. I’ll have to remain inside even longer than most of us due to my mother’s health condition/s. This is not exactly a complaint – it’s a privilege to be able to stay relatively safe indoors – but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss pre-lockdown life.

Mum stays busy. Since teaching her how to use the laptop, she’s been doing her online botany course and following along with YouTube fitness classes. It’s honestly quite impressive. She was copying one by Ballet Based Movement because she likes the music they use. There were also some African dance and Afrobeat workouts which were really fun, especially when we both tried to copy the moves together in an awkward, uncoordinated and deeply uncool way.

Mum has also discovered the wonders of viral YouTube clips. I walked into the living room earlier and she showed me a video of an orchestra appearing suddenly to play Ravel’s Bolero in a Spanish marketplace. ”That’s called a flashmob,” mum added proudly. ”They do them in other places too.” I told her I knew that already and that I liked the music.

Middle Sister sends messages to tell me about her activities; when she’s not doing macrame, she’s ordering sewing machines and experimenting with baking and online gaming. I asked her what course she thinks I should do. ”Finance,” she replied helpfully. As if! I told her she was not only wrong but Very Wrong. ”Photography,” she suggested apologetically. Middle Sister graduates in a couple of months. Four years of a degree and no proper graduation. The first year students are all away, so she sits in the courtyard of their empty student accommodation. ‘There’s a fountain” she informs me. ”And it’s peaceful.”

Question for Boris: as the death toll in Britain passes 40,000 and people are being told to return to work, how does one ‘stay alert?’ And what’s with all the slogans? It’s a public health crisis, not a Nike advert! More advice, please.

 

One Thousand Dead

1,000 people died in the UK in the last 24 hours. The official number was 980, but this¬† doesn’t take into account deaths of healthcare workers or people in care homes. I don’t know why the deaths of NHS staff and the elderly are not included in official statistics; in the absence of an explanation it’s hard not to read it as an attempt to make the numbers seem less horrifying.

We are not yet at the peak. Predictions state that worse is yet to come and the death toll will continue to rise for at least the next few weeks. Huge mega-hospitals are being built in warehouses outside of cities. Scary.

I am frightened to touch deliveries that come into the house. My fear of contaminated packaging means that I’ve developed a new routine: wash hands, open the packaging, wash hands, remove food from packaging, wash hands, eat food, dispose of packaging, wash hands. And on it goes.

My mother, a woman who is normally very active and outdoorsy, has been looking at online courses offered by the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh, She wants to do the horticulture one and botanical illustration. I have been looking at ballet barre exercises and dusting off my yoga mat in case it’s needed soon.

In all honesty, I’m just very lethargic and tired (and emotional). The last thing I feel like doing is exercise or studying for an online degree. Mental health has taken a hit since all of this coronavirus lockdown stuff began. I can’t be the only one who’s feeling the fear or the urge to hibernate for the next six months and wake up when it’s all over.

 

Friends and Potatoes

This has been the longest week ever! I feel tired and depressed. Managed to sleep for a whole 15 hours and still felt tired when I got up.

Trying to think of something good from the last few days…I have two new Facebook friends. I joined a local coronavirus support group run by a team of volunteers who distribute food and other essentials to vulnerable people in my area. I got a friend request from another member of this group; I was wary because I didn’t know him. He seemed very eccentric, but alright as far as I could tell – an activist from the green movement and Labour party – I’d guess that’s why he noticed my posts. I broke my own rule and accepted his friend request.

Scrolling through his posts, I noticed a comment by my old teacher – turns out she’s friends with him too! She’d been my favourite teacher from sixth form and had also taught GCSE English, but we hadn’t kept in touch after I left college. I said hello and she sent a friend request too. She’s had a new baby – a toddler with blonde, floppy hair and tiny crooked teeth – and has lost a lovely dog (who was named after Johnny Cash.)

It’s strange that I’m more socially active in this period of isolation than I was before.¬† There have been a couple of old school friends who’ve got back in touch as well, so perhaps everyone’s feeling a stronger need for connection. Either that or they’re just bored out of their minds! Whatever the cause, it’s nice to have contact from friends. One of them shared an image of a Zoom business meeting where the boss had accidentally turned herself into a potato and then couldn’t switch the filter off, so she spent the entire meeting in potato form. If you’re going to make a mistake at least make sure it’s entertaining.