Quarantine and Chill

Quarantine and Chill 

 

I know a lot of people have been writing about this COVID-19 pandemic, mainly how selfish others have been in not adhering to social distancing policies and/or panic buying. I don’t want to do something that others are doing just for the sake of doing it.  

 

As you may know, this blog serves mainly myself, not an audience. I have been writing on this blog as a release for my thoughts and feelings… so that’s just what I’ll do yet again. Write about my thoughts and feelings during this “lockdown” and pandemic. There may be some advice thrown in from time to time; however, this will mainly be for myself so that I may be able to see it again when I read back over my entries. (With all that being said, I’m not going to discourage anybody from heeding or criticising my advice, from sharing my entries or from following my story.) 

 

Let’s start with the beginning of the pandemic in the UK. As you may remember, I started working in a pub and club just a few months ago. This has made a huge difference in my overall mental health, as it’s a job that I thoroughly enjoy doing. Well, that’s just sod’s law, ain’t it? To finally find a job that I love, only for a hugely contagious virus to come along and stop me from working. 

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Now, I’m not saying that I would be out working in a pub during this critical time, as I completely understand the seriousness of this pandemic and I’m adhering to social distancing as much as possible. I would not be somebody who is putting others at risk… but that doesn’t mean I can’t miss my job. I miss the pub, my colleagues, the regulars and the overall atmosphere in the place. We’re like a wee family in there and it’s been hard to stay away. I do hope that my colleagues are staying safe and that I’ll see them for a party when this is all over. 

 

Being unable to go to my place of work has been hard, not only for the reasons above but also because I’m not very good at self-isolation.  Before all of this, I would not have been able to stay in for longer than one night. I needed to be out, speaking to and interacting with people. Which is quite funny, considering I used to be a pretty heavy introvert. I suspect this is due, in no small part, to my depression and anxiety. When I’m alone, my anxiety has free reign over my thoughts and feelings and I’m not very good at distracting myself from this. This inability to distract myself usually leads me to the pub, where I know everybody and can be in good company. Out comes COVID-19: “NO CHANCE YOU’LL BE DOING THAT NOW, SUCKER!” Well, shit. 

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I’ve now been in self-isolation for 4 days. That’s 4 times as long as I’m used to being by myself… and guess what? I’m absolutely fine! I have really surprised myself with this, as I genuinely thought I would be climbing the walls, breaking quarantine and begging friends to see me. Could this be because I know that going out is not an option? Is it because I’ve come to terms with the idea of self-isolation for the good of others? Have I realised that it would be utterly selfish for me to even contemplate going out at a time like this? All of these things seem like they would have been a major factor; however, there is another thing that I didn’t consider until very recently. 

 

Working all the time and constantly feeling like I can’t be left alone with my thoughts leaves very little time for me to work on myself and my own wellbeing, both mental and physical. Without realising it, I’ve actually turned my focus towards myself; doing things around my home, taking care of myself, making sure I have proper food (not just quick and easy rubbish) etc, etc. This has calmed me during a time which would otherwise have left me anxiety-ridden. Sure, many would argue that I make excuses for not looking after myself, such as the ones at the beginning of this paragraph; however, those people may not know what it’s like to live with anxiety (they may even be people who have conquered severe anxiety and have forgotten what it’s like).  

 

The amazing thing about all of this is that I was convinced I would feel trapped by this quarantine. I was utterly sure that my anxiety and depression would have started a reign of terror by the second day. This hasn’t been the case. I actually feel free. I feel calm (or “chill”, if you will), collected and determined. This has been a beautiful realisation in my head, showing me that I’m stronger than I believed. Some things that I’ll definitely be taking away from all of this are these: do not underestimate yourself. Do not assume that you will fail. Have faith in your subconscious drive to survive and remember that you are a priority. Take care of yourself and other things will naturally follow.  

 

I’m having a couple of beers to wind down my night, knowing that today has been a productive day. I do hope that you’re all staying safe during this difficult time and hope we all come through this as stronger people. 

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Love and Peace. 

Hello, Old Friend

Well, this is the first blog that I’ve written in a very long time. To tell the truth, I don’t know why I haven’t written in so long. I found such solace in putting my thoughts and feelings into words, that it seems crazy for me to have stopped; yet, here we are. 

 

There is so much that I could write about so if I manage to keep this up, I hope to try and get through it all. In the meantime, let’s just start with how I’m doing right now. I’m lost. Very lost. Although, not so lost that I worry about never being found. I know that I’ll find myself again and I’ll find my path. With that in mind, let’s get searching. 

 

I’m finally in a job where I can be happy about what I do, even though it’s still a means to an end. I’m working in a pub and club in my home town. The pub is actually somewhere I really enjoyed spending time before I even considered working there. It’s somewhere that I have a lot of faith in and respect very much. Live music every weekend, pub quizzes, karaokes, team events. There’s not a single day in the week that doesn’t have something going on and I feel privileged to be able to work at any one of these events. To serve the customers who come in, whether they’re regulars or new faces. That is really saying something, considering that 6 months ago I would have said that I loathe working in the service industry. I feel content with my working life… well, in terms of the work itself. 

 

You see, I’m not getting enough hours in my job to stay afloat financially. This has caused a lot of money worries, which has led to stress, which has led to anxiety and depression… and that is where I regret stopping my writing the most. If I had kept writing, maybe these last few months would have been so much easier to handle. Maybe I would have been able to keep things in perspective. Except, I couldn’t keep perspective and that’s why I feel lost. 

 

Shortly after I stopped writing, I decided I would do something with my life academically. Educate myself in an area where I would be happy, not just earning money but making a difference in the world. I decided that area would be science; specifically, astrophysics. I took a step back to figure out what fascinated me and filled me with wonder. I felt like such an idiot that I hadn’t thought of it before, as it was staring me in the face: I’ve always been fascinated by space, planets, galaxies, the universe and how all of it works. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to discover other worlds, discover how this universe works and discover why things we have observed in space are there.  

 

When I realised what direction I wanted to take, I set about signing up for a course through the Open University. I felt so driven to succeed. I would study at every opportunity that I could find. Well, somewhere along the way, I lost that drive. I fell away from it and into another one of my pits of despair, purely because of my financial situation. I found that I couldn’t afford internet, which was a major drawback in my studies. This eventually turned into a vicious cycle, as the more I fell away from my studies, the more guilty I felt and the more depressed I became. The further into my comfortably numb pit I fell. 

 

No more. I’ve taken stock of what’s been happening in my life and I’ve rediscovered my priorities. One of which is to write more and maintain my perspective. Of course, another priority is to make sure I stay the hell away from that pit as often as I can. It’s far too comfortable a place for one that is so dark and scary. It’s a dangerous place, that could very well destroy my ambitions. 

 

Well, you know what’s been going on recently in my life. I’d very much like to know how you all are doing. My dear blogging buddies. The ones who believed in me and helped me through some of my darkest times. Pop up and say hi again. Although, I will understand if you’d rather let this pass you by, given that I just disappeared. 

 

As always, Love and Peace. 

 

Duncan 

Blindsided: My Depression Snuck Up On Me

The past few months have been very strange for me. I have had ups and downs, the way I normally do; however, I haven’t noticed the ups and downs as easily as I usually can. As I write this, it has only just dawned on me that I have basically been so depressed these past few months that I have been blind, even to the very thing that was blinding me: my mental health.

 

Broken

Being blind to my mental health, while it may at first glance seem to be liberating or even preferable over obsessing about mental health, is actually quite a terrifying notion. Coming to realise how blind I have been has awoken a terror in me that I haven’t felt before. I suddenly realise that I have been drifting through life with no real aim. I can now see that I have been neglecting self-care and I have just been on autopilot for so long. I can barely remember what I’ve done over the past few months. How did I get here? It’s almost as if I’ve skipped a portion of my life. There has been action and consequence and my life has changed in many insignificant ways but I don’t know or understand why it has changed because I can’t remember any of the actions or consequences that have taken place. I think that is the most terrifying part, as change is already a scary notion at the best of times; however, not understanding the change makes it all the more scary. This blindness and inability to remember or understand has made me feel broken, in the sense that I am not functioning the way that I should be. I want to fix myself but the task seems so monumental that I don’t know where to begin.

 

Writing

There was a period of time when writing was something about which I was passionate. One of the consequences of being so blind to my mental wellbeing has been neglecting writing. This is something else that scares me. If my brain can cut something that I enjoy so much out of my life without me even realising it, what else is it capable of doing to me? I love writing more than I ever thought I would so why did I dismiss it so willingly? I can’t imagine a version of myself that would do something like that. It isn’t me so who am I? I must be honest, I am tearing up as I write these questions because I can’t fathom the answers and it’s terrifying me. Hopefully writing this post will help me sort the muddle of thoughts in my brain and I’ll be able to understand what is going on.

 

Music

Music is a huge part of my life and it always has been. I have memories of music going as far back as when I was a baby, not even 1 year old. The thing is, though: I haven’t enjoyed music much, if at all during this period of being broken. This is another thing that I love so dearly which has been crushed and almost obliterated by my depression. I read other people’s stories of depression and quite often I can’t relate because of one thing: music. People say that music saved them from their depression because they would lose themselves in their favourite songs or albums or with their favourite bands or artists. I have never been able to lose myself in music when I am depressed because my depression takes music away from me. I really wish that it was different and music helped me when I’m feeling low but it just doesn’t. Even playing my guitar doesn’t interest me when I’m depressed and that is something which I have been doing since I was 8 years old. I need music in my life so why am I so readily giving it up? I don’t think I will ever know the answer to that question.

 

What to Do Now?

Well, what am I to do now? I feel like my life has passed me by in such an extraordinary way. I failed to recognise that I have been in a depression for months. This has scared me and I don’t know right now what I can do. I guess writing this is the first step. I will figure it out eventually but right at this moment, I feel lost; more lost than I’ve ever been in my life. At least, that’s how it feels to me right now.

With all of this being said, my head does now feel a little clearer. I can remember why I started blogging in the first place and I hope I have it in me to continue. The most important thing to me is my mental health and the mental health of others. Breaking the stigma is still very much my goal, I just seemed to forget that recently. Now, that thought has broken my heart. I hope I never forget it again.

An Open Letter: To Everybody Who Has Reached Out to Me

To those who have helped me,

 

I have been using Twitter regularly ever since I started writing. Sometimes this was just to vent about something which was bothering me at any given moment; sometimes it was to promote blog posts that I thought people may enjoy or appreciate. In any case, I have made so many new friends since I started Tweeting and blogging.

 

Of the friends that I have made, I appreciate most of all of the people who have reached out to me when I was in a bad place. Whether I had been silent and you sent a message to check on me or if you have picked up on any of my cries for help and reached out, I want you to know that I appreciate this to no end. The fact that you have reached out to a stranger online shows me that you have a good heart and your intentions are pure. To me, that is a wonderful thing and it restores some of the faith I once had in humanity.

 

I am still struggling with my mental health and I know that I still have a tendency to retreat when things get rough; however, I do eventually remember that you all are there for me. I hope that you don’t take it personally when I don’t reach out, as you have all reminded me time and time again that you are only a message away. It is difficult to talk when I am in my darkness and I can’t always reach out.

 

After all that you have done for me in these last 7 months, I hope that I will be able to repay the favour. I hope that I can do something for each of you to show my gratitude. From the bottom of my heart, I feel like anything that I do won’t be good enough but I want to try. If there is something that you need help with or if you are struggling at all, please drop me a message and I will do anything that I can.

 

Thank you all again so much for your kindness, for being so pure and for making me feel like I matter during a time when I felt worthless. You have a special place in my heart.

 

Duncan

 

Love and Peace

My Manic Days: Why I Worry About the Extent of My Depression

This little brain of mine. It’s certainly been putting me through the ringer over the past year.

 

I’ve had my highs and my lows but if I am honest with myself,  I have to say that it has mainly been crippling lows. My depression has brought me to my knees more times than I would care to count. I have been fighting very hard to keep it at bay but no matter how many times I pull myself back up and no matter how many things I learn about my mental health, there is always something in my head which drags me back down into the pits. It seems an almost inevitable part of my life now. I thought I had already come to terms with this but I really haven’t. The knowledge that I will hit a soul-crushing dark spell at some point in the near future is terrifying to me still.

 

Manic Highs

One of the things that is scaring me currently is a pattern that I’ve noticed in my mental health: I almost always fall into a dark spell immediately after I have had a manic high. I go from feeling amazing, untouchable and invincible, to a pathetic little ball of depression who doesn’t want to do anything. Do you know what makes this most annoying? It means I am now scared to be happy. I am literally scared to enjoy things in case I tip over and fall to the point of no return.

 

What Does This Mean?

I have been thinking about my mental health and the patterns that I have described, both in the past and in this post. I don’t want to start diagnosing myself, as that is the last thing one should do when it comes to mental illness. Really, I am just making observations and writing them down so that I can analyse them.

 

In observing the patterns and applying these to different forms of mental illnesses and disorders, the only cases I have been able to compare my experience to have been those involving Bi-polar disorder. This was formally known as manic depression. Somebody who suffers from Bi-polar disorder will go through phases of manic highs, followed by crippling depression. This is of course a simple representation of the disorder, as I understand that there is far more to it than just being really happy and then being really depressed. I have picked up a fair bit of knowledge on Bi-polar disorder over the last few years and I may write a post on the topic at some point but for the purposes of this blog post, I will just leave it at a simple explanation.

 

Naturally, given that my manic highs seem to be followed by not just a period of feeling down but a crippling depression, I am concerned that I may have Bi-polar disorder. Like I said, I am not writing this to self-diagnose and I would NEVER claim to have a disorder unless I had been medically diagnosed with it. I am simply voicing my concerns over the possibility that I may have it. I will obviously need to voice my concerns to my GP if I want to know for sure and this is something that I may end up doing if my concerns increase or even remain in the next few months.

 

What Do You Think?

Do you think that I am concerned over nothing? Am I maybe over thinking things? Do you think that I am right? I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Even if you think that I am spouting a load of drivel and that I am worrying too much. Drop me a wee comment or even an email using the contact section of my website.

 

Love and Peace

Talking Mental Health: 5 Reasons to Talk About Your Mental Health

In this world, it’s always too easy to close yourself off from others and keep your mental health woes to yourself. A lot of the time, you may feel crazy for feeling the way that you do and you can’t relate to others, simply because everybody else seems to have their life together and they project a healthy life; however, the reality of the situation is that many of the people in your day-to-day life can relate to how you are feeling and they will be there for you if you ask for their help.

These are some reasons to talk about your mental health, whether this be with a loved one, a therapist/counsellor or just a voice on the other end of the telephone such as the Samaritans. If you’re struggling to talk, you’ve come to the right place.

1. You Owe it to Yourself

You have been fighting this mental illness on your own for far too long, whether you’ve only recently been stricken with it or you’ve been dealing with it for years. It is mentally exhausting and keeping it bottled up is not doing you any good whatsoever. You owe yourself a break from fighting and the best and healthiest way to do that is to talk to somebody about it. It gives you a feeling of relief and release that nothing else can give. You don’t even need to delve deeply into the subject; you can just tell somebody how you’re feeling to get it off your chest. Once you’ve gotten it out in the open, you will notice an immediate release and you can take a well earned break from stressing about everything. Plus, you never know, whoever you talk to may also be able to give some helpful advice regarding your stresses or your mental health.

2. It Raises Awareness

This is a very important reason for me. If more people talked about their mental health, there would be so much more societal awareness and it would help to fight the stigma. One of the reasons that mental health has been stigmatised is because there is a lack of understanding on the subject. The more that people talk about it, the more that people will understand about it. Whether that just means the number of people suffering with poor mental health becomes more common knowledge or it means that more people come to empathise with others who are struggling, it will be a step in the right direction. Talk about your mental illness and fight the stigma!

3. It Helps Your Loved Ones

Now, don’t get me wrong, your mental health is all about you and nothing will change that. It may be strange at first to think that talking about your mental health could help your loved ones but it really does help them. The reason I say this is because your friends and family worry about you. When you’re closing yourself off, they worry about what might be wrong with you. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell them you’re fine, they’re not stupid and they will always see through it. They can see that you are suffering and if you keep everything to yourself then it will only make them feel worse. Talk to them about whatever is bothering you. Talk to them about your mental illness and how it makes you feel and act. If they even begin to understand what is going on in your head and why you are retreating all the time, they will worry less and they may even get to know how to help you in your dark times.

4. It Puts Things Into Perspective

One of the worst things about keeping things bottled up is that things get blown way out of proportion when they are kept in your head. You will over think things and build them up to the point where it becomes unbearable. That is dangerous. Both for you and for those around you. Your behaviour has the potential to be very unpredictable when you build things up to that point. It has the potential to make you suicidal. Please do everything you can to stop things from building up like that. The first place to start is to talk about it. This puts things into perspective and allows you to see the issue for what it is; not for what it’s been built up to in your mind. Merely talking about how you are feeling will put it into words, which can be analysed. Talking about it also makes it a tangible thing, which can be looked back on with hindsight. If you keep it bottled up, it only exists in your head and can’t be tangible; for you or for your loved ones. Put it out there. Get it into a tangible form and use it as a tool to help your mental health.

5. It Encourages Others to Talk

We all like to relate to other people. There is not another feeling like it. Part of relating to others is being able to imitate good behaviour or take inspiration from somebody else. In my case, it was when I started reading other people’s blogs that I started relating to people from a mental health perspective. I could see that these people were talking about their illnesses, which must have taken a lot of courage. It was this courage from other people that inspired me to talk about my own mental illness. I like to think that other people reading my blog have taken inspiration to do the same. If even one person has been spurred on by my posts to talk about their mental health, that is an amazing thing to me. Now it’s your turn. I hope that reading this post has helped you to see that talking about it is very, very important and I hope that it may inspire you to do so.

Don’t be afraid to talk. Don’t let the stigma drag you down. Don’t let things build up in your head. Don’t let your loved ones worry about you all the time. Don’t feed the stigma that is stopping others from coming out.

Talk about it.

Love and Peace

Guest of A Bearded Man: BUSTING THE MYTHS SURROUNDING ANXIETY

Guest of A Bearded Man

It’s time for my first ever guest feature on this blog! Are you as excited as I am!?

 

I reached out to the blogging community, hoping that other bloggers would be interested in working with me. I got a very good response and am delighted to begin a guest feature series: Guest of A Bearded Man. This series will feature a variety of bloggers and it will not be tied down to a specific niche. This will be all about supporting my fellow writers and introducing my followers to new blogs. I hope you will enjoy it and that you will join me in celebrating and supporting the talent that is being featured.

 

This week’s Guest of a Beard is none other than Gabrielle Isaac Allison, better known as TheOpinionatedOne. Gabrielle is a Lifestyle and Christianity blogger who, for this feature, has delved into the realms of mental health and anxiety. This is a deep dive into the myths surrounding it, which I must say I found fascinating to read.

 

Enjoy!

 

BUSTING THE MYTHS SURROUNDING ANXIETY

I felt chained to my bed. Although I heard the laughter of my friends echoing down the hall in our little apartment, I couldn’t get up to go in the living room and partake of whatever fun they were having.

 

It was weird. I felt my face, and tears were streaming down. What happened? I didn’t do anything to hurt myself, and I wasn’t feeling sad. It just hit me. It reminded me of my high school days on the field throwing shotput and discus.

 

One day at practice, my coach was demonstrating the proper discus throwing techniques, not realizing I was in her line of fire. The discus shot out of her hand like a rocket and hit me square in my back, right between my shoulders.

 

That’s how I felt. Like all of the breath had been knocked out of me in one sudden, unexpected slam of emotion.

 

That’s my anxiety. But, the word anxiety is so overused now, in my opinion, that it has lost its meaning. Because so many people don’t understand this mental health problem, there are a lot of myths and issues surrounding it. Today, I want to bust some of those myths to set the record straight. Let’s get into this:

 

All People With Anxiety Are Sad

ALL PEOPLE WITH ANXIETY ARE SAD

Anxiety affects people in a lot of different ways. For some people, depression is coupled with anxiety. For others, however, anxiety is just some weird chemical experience that causes us to get really worried and anxious out of nowhere.

 

This mental health issue is by no means a one size fits all issue. People with anxiety are very different and should be treated differently in many respects.

 

All in Your HEad

ANXIETY IS ALL IN YOUR HEAD

I used to attend a church where I was told that I wasn’t attending enough. I wasn’t attending often because I was having physical issues that were stemming from my anxiety attacks. Anxiety starts in your head. For some reason, your brain sends signals that are different than those sent by another person’s brain.

 

These signals cause your body to react in different and uncomfortable ways. For me, my hormones went crazy. As a woman, you can guess how hard it has impacted my body. So, anxiety may start in your brain, but it does work its way throughout your body. It is real and it is a debilitating disease.

 

All People with Anxiety are Socially Awkward

ALL PEOPLE WITH ANXIETY ARE SOCIALLY-AWKWARD

Social anxiety is by far one of the most common forms of anxiety, but it is by no means the only form of anxiety. Take me for example. I’m a very sociable person. I once had a teacher tell me that I live up to my nickname, Gabbie, because I just wouldn’t stop chatting with my friends in class.

 

I would say that I have a lot of medical anxiety (where you worry you have medical issues and your body starts to give you pseudo-symptoms of that issue). This impacts my day-to-day life and can turn a good day bad really quickly!

 

Christians

PEOPLE WITH ANXIETY CAN’T BE CHRISTIANS

I take my Christian faith very seriously. A lot of people have insinuated that anxiety is not a trait for a Christian because we are supposed to “cast our cares upon the Lord.” To that, I usually retort that Jesus has a bit of anxiety when he cried blood in the garden the night before he was to be tried and crucified.

 

Hormonal changes and high stress can cause someone to cry blood, so I’d say he was significantly anxious, even asking God to take the responsibility off of him, if he could.

 

Just Get Over it, Don't Think About It

JUST GET OVER IT AND DON’T THINK ABOUT IT

If people could get over it and prevent suicidal thoughts, worrying about their bodies, worrying how they came across to someone, or having an anxiety attack for no explainable reason, don’t you think they would?

 

I know that I would much rather abstain from these things, but it isn’t that simple. Controlling your anxiety often takes counseling and/or medication, a luxury not many people can afford! That’s why breaking the stigma of anxiety is so important. It helps us present one unified fight in solidarity against this mental health issue.

 

CONCLUSION

That’s it. Those are the things I wanted to set straight. I hope you have a new and improved understanding of anxiety!

 

About Our Guest

Gabrielle Isaac Allison graduated with a BA in Mass Communication and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog, TheOpinionatedOne.com, features posts on the topics of health and wellness, Christianity and religion, mysteries, entertainment, lifestyle, and more.

 

You can find Gabrielle on her social media links below:

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