Anticipating lockdowns and mental health symptom spikes

Justmehere

Moderator
This thread is about coping only, not political or virology debates.

Along with millions of people, I am feeling a sense of anxious anticipation about the rising covid counts and lockdowns in my country.

The hardest thing is living alone. Right now I have a decent amount of human contact but in about a month, I’ll be fairly locked down and alone from Nov to probably March. I’ll be stay at home job hunting and etc. Plenty to do. That’s not the issue,

I’m worried about the mental health toll of such isolation. Humans are built for human contact. It seems like I’ve cracked a bit this year and I have noticed I feel so much more mentally healthy when at work on a good team. My job ends in a month and I have no real significant family contact.

I plan to engage a lot of online connections and try to connect with friends and keep making new ones somehow and take it a day at a time.

The anticipation is it’s own battle though. I’m happiest when helping people at work. I have a limit of how much I can handle because of PTSD, but when I’m under rhat limit, I’m this person that comes across “like a rock” - that’s how co workers describe me. I think I am really desperate for people, familysomething.

I have no one really that is family or even a life partner. Probably never will. I am just too cracked for too long.

The lockdowns make it so much harder to cope with that reality. I had peop in my life almost like family but like family they busted so many boundaries I started to crack and distanced and it’s not a returnable situation. They at least were a connection in the last lockdown.

Now it’s soon to be my dog and I and a fight to mentally and financially survive without the human connections that help my brain.

Then add in the holiday season.,,
 

Friday

Moderator
Start talking to yourself, or perhaps better? Start singing, reading aloud, talkin to your dog, learning a new language, etc.

I’ve technically gone months, but more often weeks, without opening my mouth except to eat, drink, smoke, or brush my teeth. It seems like such a small thing...talking...but IME it has huge consequences. Far beyond the hoarse thing that happens. I’d expect sign language would be just as effective as vocal speech, it’s the aspect of converting thought to something more tangible & present.

Writing is similar (translating thought to word), yet somehow quite different, at the same time. There’s also a notable difference between typing and hand writing, when you’re completely on your own for extended periods of time... that doesn’t seem to exist, or at least not as strongly... when I’m interacting with others in person, over the phone, online, etc.

Not allowing prisoners to talk, even to themselves, in part of how to effectively break a person. <<< A lot of the time? I evaluate my own actions/life on “Am I adhering to the Geneva Convention, or deliberately/unconsciously breaking myself down in ways that have been outlawed by most countries?”

Talking to yourself may seem crazy... but it’s not talking at all that’s a worse indicator. Singing, otoh, doesn’t even seem crazy. I just have a lousy voice. ;)
 
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Friday

Moderator
“If I’d do it for someone else, do it for myself.”

Meaning? Wake up. Have a coffee. Take a shower. Put on real clothes. Do my makeup. Just like I was going to work, or to the gym, or meeting someone for coffee. THEN? Change, later. Into gym clothes, going out clothes, work clothes, etc. Just like I’d just come home from work/gym/hanging out/etc.

I’m not saying to participate in random wardrobe changes, nor to skip PJ days just because dammit! I don’t wanna get dressed or do Jack shit today! Those days? Are just as important. As are REAL delineations of the day. I don’t need to put on a court suit if I’m not going to court. Nor do I need to wear my swimsuit, running clothes, etc. if I’m not actually going swimming, running, etc. But having spent over a year convalescing? (From that perky little flu I caught a while back). Where my PJs matched better than my street clothes? Wake up, take a shower, get dressed, do shit.... hit sweat pants o’clock THEN change into “Do nothing” clothes? Is sanity saving. Whether you actually do shit, or not. Blocking out the time to do so, and being appropriately attired should you choose to? Soooo freaking useful mental-balance-wise.

If I’d put makeup on to walk out my door in the morning? I put makeup on to sit and clack away at my keyboard at home. Becuase if I’ll do it for someone else, I’ll do it for myself. If I’d take a shower and change into scrubby clothes when I’m “done” for the day? Hear here!!! Done for the day! Time for a hot shower and comfy (if a wee bit hideous -or worse better matching than my real clothes-) clothes.

Wearing the same thing day in, day out, making no effort at all? Just makes me feel like I’m running symptom hot and can only have 2 sets of clothes (what’s on me, and what’s in the wash)... even when I’m not. The association is waaaaaay too strong. Which I found out when I was sick. Even if my MacGregor Plaid PJbottoms & matching scarf? Are super cute. And probably look better on me than jeans and a camisole. Take OFF the pjs, Friday. Take a shower. Shimmy into some jeans. Okay. Sweatpants or flannels soon? Soon. But not right now.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
In the UK, the rules are now that we can meet up with one other person, outside. But we can only leave home for specific reasons, like food shopping, work, exercise.
Is there a friend you can meet to go for a walk with, so you have some social interaction?

Whilst I'm 'zoomed' out, I'm trying to organise a little zoom party for some friends next week. A few of my friends live on their own, and one has lost her job (freelance photographer) during this whole pandemic so really tough on her.

It's hard times.
And in the UK, the sunlight hours are dwindling, so it's going to be tough.

For me, things I'm going to do:
Get fresh air during the working say, when the sunlight is around
Try and pick up running again as I've stopped this last month or two. That will really help if I get back in to exercise.
Try and be kind to myself because November is always a bad month for me anyway, and to just acknowledge that.

Hope you find things that help.
 

intothelight

Moderator
I've been in isolation pretty much since the end of March, and while I have daily phone contact, interpersonal contact is limited to family and friends staying close and doing activities outside on some weekends. Things that I have done to keep myself from becoming depressed include setting time to watch sunrises and sunsets, burning my favorite candles, playing with recipes, long walks, different Zoom groups that meet regularly, participating in Zoom parties, getting in touch with old friends I hadn't really reached out to in forever, watching some old movies and some new one's, listening to different types of music, reading new books and rereading old favorites, etc. I try to do some "special" each day as it give me something to look forward to.
 

Justmehere

Moderator
Thanks for the ideas.

This is what I am realizing:

I think it’s extra hard because my mind slips back to that place when it was forced. Locked in a room with nothing but my thoughts and fear of what happens when the door opens again.... but even simply the long hours with my thoughts only... it breaks people. It broke me. For two years after that trauma, I never locked my front door. Not safe but I mentally could not handle it. I figured doggo sleeping next to me would be my guard. But locked doors clicked my brain into fight or flight too badly. For a couple of years, I couldn’t be in rooms without windows. (Which I can only barely do now.) I remember sneaking in times to quietly sing to myself to keep my mind from breaking.

Now that everywhere around me is “locking down” - my goodness... the days I’m with people it’s like I snap into capable. I’ve noticed I’ve been too willing to be in danger just to get human feedback? Something. I’m chasing an old pattern. I was a neglected kid and it made me super quiet and shy at school but a loud mouth at home. Loud mouth that attracted abuse because at least it was a freaking response.

Human contact can overwhelm me and yet when hours become days/weeks/months... my mind craves it? At all costs and that’s dangerous.

Walks would for sure help. Zoom helps. Distractions help. Turning up the music and singing along would for sure help. Avoiding danger even when my mind is bugging out - would also help. Schedules and regular changes of clothes and etc, it would help keep my brain out of that space.

Now it makes sense why nightmares are coming back with gusto.
 
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lil_fighter

Confident
@Justmehere you sound like you are a people person and thrive on the connections you have with others which is such a great thing, particularly with PTSD and the feelings of disconnection and dissociation that can come with it. Making those connections no doubt make you feel alive and I can relate to being happiest when helping others at work. I feel the same way. It sounds like a great plan to make sure that you have online connections with people and that you have your dog too, going out for walks should help and even those brief interactions with other dog walkers could help.

Going into lockdown again here in the UK on Thursday will be weird but I work in education and they are keeping colleges / universities open this time so I will still be expected to go to work - which I don't mind as it means I get to still have a routine and can connect with others in person. I will meet a friend this week before the lockdown for dinner after work just to make the most of it. I am grateful that I live by a large park and can go for walks. Also will make use of my exercise bike indoors. I am in therapy and do online sessions so that will really help. I have recently ended my relationship and moved out of what was our home, so being newly single in a new place and sitting with the grief of the breakup will be tough during lockdown but being in a small flat with my ex during lockdown would have been much worse especially if we had broken up so alone time may not be so bad I guess...we shall see.

@Justmehere Online group therapy or online groups might be worth looking into?
 

Still Standing

MyPTSD Pro
Are you able to be in your car to take a drive which would give you a sense of getting out of the house, @Justmehere? Even during our full lockdown, I still managed to get in the car and drive somewhere into the mountains. If so, are you able to listen to the radio while you drive? If you listen to some type of talk radio, it will give you a voice to listen to. This is what I have done since the initial lockdown, months ago. If not the radio, I also listen to an audiobook while I drive, especially in areas with no cell coverage. Hearing someone talking goes a long way with having a sense of "social" stimulation. I discovered this form of distraction years ago when I was partially paralyzed and bedridden for 6 weeks waiting for my first of many back surgeries. This was way back in the "dark ages" when TV was the family entertainment center...no cell phones, computers, etc. Nighttime was the worst. Pain would prevent me from sleeping, so I watched hours upon hours of Home Shopping Network. Having a human voice yakking made me feel not so lonely, when the household was sleeping or at work and school. Voices in the background filled the quiet void. In today's environment, I even take liberty with talking back at the people...or yelling at them...when listening to my favorite radio stations.

This is simply a hard time for so many. I wish it weren't so. I hope you are able to find a wonderful distraction that will ease your lockdown period.

If I’d put makeup on to walk out my door in the morning? I put makeup on to sit and clack away at my keyboard at home. Becuase if I’ll do it for someone else, I’ll do it for myself.
This is so important! Even simply putting on lipstiok each day helps to make me feel better about myself. I used to put makeup on for others, but, now I do it for me. The funny thing is, here I am putting on my lipstick and then I go out and have to put a mask on. Why am I wasting the lipstick???
 

enough

MyPTSD Pro
I like the idea of engaging the brain when given a situation that restricts most else.
My father got through a tough patch when my mom died by building model airplanes and I got through it by learning to read all the blueprints. At eleven I could draw 3 view orthographic and was getting into perspective views. It set me up for a career in CAD/CAM manufacturing.
I have had copies of my favorite books underneath the seats of every vehichle I have ever owned, I can pick up a Vonnegut or a Heller and open them to any page to kill the time when forced to sit in a traffic jam or waiting for a meet that is late.

This is difficult stuff this covid. Here in the US we are looking forward to having leadership and hope this time around.
 

Kittie

Confident
It's ironic that I've spent the last 25 years only leaving my house once a month to get groceries and pick up the mail. Now that my special friend and I have become very close and have started going out together and having fun, being locked down isn't voluntary for me anymore. I had got used to being a solitary person. I would go out into nature but usually not with other people. For conversation, I would talk to my cats. I was just beginning to like the outside world...
 

SeekingAfrica

MyPTSD Pro
Same as some of the other answers. I am from the people that recharge from alone time. But the lockdown in it's own right reaaaally made it a bad thing. It's not the same at all as choosing to be alone. I just wanted to say I can totally relate. The last lockdown really played a number on me and if there is another I honestly don't know how I'll cope. Thankfully here they are still talking about taking measures, but no new lockdown...so far. Though this year, you have to be ready for anything really.

I will say one thing though. 2 years ago, I couldn't imagine having a roommate(one I haven't been a friend first). But then by necessity, I got 1.
Later, she moved to another country. So the next roommate moved in exactly 1 week before the spring lockdown began.
We have age difference of 8-10years and she is pretty much the opposite of me. But, with the lockdown making everyone crazy, we ended up having coffee in our kitchen every day and bonding over the craziness. Didn't save me from all the lockdown effects, but it did provide comedic relief and dependable social contact daily. Also we ended up getting to know each other fast and we are still having very nice roommate-friendly relations, despite being very different. We sort of get each other. And it's nice on most days, not being entirely alone. Besides, even on days when she's driving me crazy, I still think I'm learning something, more social skills, more ability to cope with outside irritations and so on.
So if you had the option(space, mental capacity, etc), roommate might not be the worst thing in these crazy times.
 
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