Jane is a member of Health in Mind’s online community
Looking back on the last six months, I have been reflecting on how much talking and walking; not necessarily at the same time, has helped me through an extremely tough time.
The last six months have been amongst the most difficult of my life. I have a diagnosis of bipolar mood disorder, the main presenting difficulties for me being, recurrent depressions, and severe anxiety. Like so many others with or without pre-existing mental health problems, Covid-19 created a huge challenge. In addition, I lost my mother to a short and unexpected illness in March of this year. These two major life events triggered a major depressive episode.
I don’t think I can overemphasise how helpful talking has been for me. Covid 19 quite literally isolated me from friends, family, and usual routines, such as volunteering for Health in Mind. Many of the paths of support that I would ordinarily have used to help me through such a difficult time, were closed or difficult to access. At first, even getting in touch with a doctor or mental health services was not easy.
However, I was very fortunate to receive telephone support from a Health in Mind staff member, early on in the Covid-19 crisis. At this time, this was a lifeline for me and continued to be so as I tried to find my way through this new world, a world without my mum and a world that was frightening and unknown.
Find someone to talk to
Over the next few months, I found myself needing to talk, on so many occasions, at many different and irregular times of the day. I have family, I talked to them when I felt able, but it wasn’t always easy. I also talked to:
- The staff member of Health in Mind,
- My GP
- A Community psychiatric nurse
- My best friend
- Helplines such as Breathing Space and Samaritans.
- I also ‘talked’ online on bereavement forums and bereavement support groups.
Being able to talk to someone was so incredibly therapeutic for me. Sometimes I just cried and said I felt bad. I live with my husband and children but I found I didn’t always want to talk to them. By talking, and saying out loud some of my thoughts and feelings, to someone who was listening, I was able to let go of some of the mental chaos and feel relief at having my thoughts validated. Each time, after talking, I felt that little bit more able to cope.
I will feel forever grateful for that space and kindness offered to me.
Following my own experience, I would really like to encourage people to talk to someone when finding life tough, for whatever reason. There ARE people who want to listen.
Walking is another tool I utilised throughout these 6 months and would like to encourage anyone who is able, to get out, get walking, get fresh air, and exercise.
Throughout the time, I walked almost every day with my husband or kids. At the beginning of lockdown, my options were reduced as to where I could go. There are a couple of walks nearby where I could feel I was out in nature but with travel being so limited, it had the potential to get monotonous. So to try to make each walk a unique experience, each day that I went out, I looked for a different wildflower, photographed it then came home to research what it was. I built up quite an album. This gave me a distraction, a focus, and a sense of achievement and it is a new interest that I have continued to enjoy.
As lockdown eased, I walked further afield. Being anxious about crowds in more popular spots, my husband and I would get our map, compass, water and a sandwich and walk in places off the beaten track. This was escapism for me, by being out walking and connecting with nature, I was able to leave my dark moods behind me, at home. The exercise was good for both my physical and mental health. I noticed that on the days I didn’t go walking, I didn’t sleep as easily and my anxiety levels were higher.
The Darkness Lifts
Six months on, I am in a better place. Of course I am still grieving and I will have days where I find that harder or easier than at others. But the depression is not nearly so dark and my anxiety levels are at much more manageable levels. I believe that every person who gave me space to talk also gave me space to heal and every walk I took, helped to restore my spirit.