Coronavirus, Mental Health and Disability: My experiences

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One of the hardest aspects of the pandemic, and of my life in general, is the battles I have with myself. I have had depression and anxiety since my early twenties, and have managed it ever since. During my PhD I was particularly low and went through periods when I didn’t want to be here.

I often look back at that time and think what I would have missed out on. Meeting the love of my life, becoming Dr Chris, and a career I love are but three of those things. My point? Even if things can appear hopeless, as they did for me then, there is always hope.

One of the most challenging features of Coronavirus has been our self isolation. It is true to say that this has been our choice, but it has felt like the only safe option to us. We have watched the impact of the virus on those with impairments, seen the statistics and the particularly deadly nature of it for disabled people. Suddenly, going out to the shops didn’t feel worth the risks.

It is also true to say that this time has led to real positives. We have been well supported, Fran and I have got even closer and it has really put things into perspective. That said, this time has still has had its impact. Early on in the pandemic, I just wasn’t coping very well and I upped my dose of antidepressants and started to have counselling again.

Depression often reminds me of a duck swimming on a lake. Above the surface all can be fine, but beneath it, you have to kick furiously just to stay afloat. Sometimes you have to have a dip to bounce back, and I think this has been the case for me. Somehow, we have dug deep and I have been able to live a relatively functional and productive life.

If you are reading this too, know that it is ok for things to feel difficult, especially at the moment. We are being pushed and tested in ways which we haven’t encountered before, and asked to sustain ourselves in a totally new environment.

We have to support each other through this time. We are each others best resource, and it is through solidarity, human spirit and a compassionate approach to life that we will move through this time. Move through it we will too. We are by our very nature resilient, creative and adaptable people.

As strong as we may be though, we are allowed to waver, to have moments of doubt and darkness. It is through keeping in tune with these experiences that we can, I hope, ask for help.

Let us also remember that good mental health isn’t just about today. Our wellbeing is a lifelong pursuit and nurturing this a lifelong habit. It can be a hard path to visit, but through doing so, life can be richer.

Some tips

So Fran and I have been doing self isolation for a while now. Looking after our mental health has been particularly important during this time. Here are some of the strategies we have used:

Getting Creative – We have found different ways to express ourselves, particularly through writing and doing crafty things and journaling. Writing I have found a particularly powerful means of expressing my feelings.

-Trying new things – it is possible to still have new experiences during this time. I asked our butcher for a ‘mystery’ item in our order, and we’ll try and put something new in our supermarket shop.

-Get comfortable – We have tried to make our home a sanctuary during this time. Simple things like candles, throws and cushions have helped with this.

-Find space – Making ways to have a bit of time to ourselves has been important. My noise cancelling headphones have been a particular blessing. Use music and film to take yourself to different places.

-Find ways to talk – I have a lot of people who have kept me going during this time. I know I can be avoidant – but through keeping in touch with others I have found vital support and energy.

Laugh – Just find a way to laugh. I can honestly say that I find something to laugh at every day.

Hope – Most important of all – allow yourself to hope. There will be better times ahead. Even if you need others to have this for you for a bit, there is hope.

About the Author

Dr Chris Whitaker is a disability blogger who writes on impairment related issues.