Coronavirus Mental Health

How the Pandemic Changed Me – By Joe Plumb

The coronavirus pandemic changed the way we all live and work and has affected mental health and wellbeing of the entire world. 

For me, I can’t put into words how much I struggled at first. It was horrible. I felt so alone, so isolated. I felt like I was drowning in my own thoughts and the stress, anxiety and change really got to me. I hadn’t felt like acting on intrusive thoughts for a long time but going into lockdown very nearly tipped me over the edge.

I’m diagnosed with mixed personality disorder, bipolar and autism (Aspergers & ADHD), and life during lockdown was hard. In particular, the one thing that I really suffered with was the change and uncertainty, something which really affects my autism. Before this, I had a great routine which I followed day in – day out, every week. When this changed, in a way that was completely beyond my control, it put me over the edge, and days and nights of crying and lack of sleep took hold. 

We all know that things have changed dramatically from how life used to be, and it just keeps on changing. Rules have been relaxed but some more restrictions have now been put into place. Now, you’re probably thinking that this put me back into a dark place again after what I have just explained, but that isn’t the case.

I’ve had to change my mindset to get through the last few months, but I got through the whole lockdown and adapted a different lifestyle and routine, as I have done moving forward as the rules kept changing. Being able to do that made me realise that although difficult and extremely challenging, I can do it. I can get through this. Yes, I want life to go back to the way it was before like many of us do. However, like so many of us, before this I was terrified of change and it was something I avoided, but being forced to make real and dramatic changes to my life has made me realise that I can do it and sometimes, change is even good.

Before the pandemic, I drowned myself in work. Working 6 and a half days a week and sleeping very little, mostly to distract myself from previous memories of trauma and intrusive thoughts. I took little time for myself and although it might seem pretty obvious, it was not healthy at all for my mental wellbeing. 

After a few months, I started to see the simplest of things that made me happy and realise how lucky I am to be alive and how beautiful life is. From the birds singing, the sun shining, the sound of the rain falling and the importance of family contact and friendships.

I started to take more time for myself. I found myself eating better, my hygiene improving and I was getting the most sleep I had had in years. By doing this, I was giving my body time to recoup and recover and my mood and intrusive thoughts improved dramatically. I know things are different for a lot of people and yes, some things are stressing me out still like the uncertainty. But uncertainty is actually something we live with on a daily basis. It’s actually a good thing and quite exciting.

I know you may be struggling at the moment and your situation may be a lot different, but focus on the here and now and try to not look too far forward. Take each day at a time and be hopeful. Focus on the important things like yourself, your family, your friends and tell yourself “it’s going to be ok”. 

After months of avoiding moving out of my own space and changing my routine, I have now moved out and got a house with my partner (she’s amazing and has supported me more than words could explain). This is something I would never have been able to do without realising that change is good and it’s something I can cope with.

Things aren’t all bad. They may be tough now but better days are coming. You have to look at the good things everyday.

Stay safe and stay strong. You’re not alone! So many are in similar situations. 

Don’t suffer in silence. It’s okay to cry, no matter who you are, and most importantly, it’s ok to not be ok.

Check out our dedicated Coronavirus Hub here for more information and support on managing your mental wellbeing during lockdown