Published: 30 November 2020. Written by: Sarie Taylor.
Psychotherapist and author Sarie Taylor asked five people ‘how is your mental health?’. The answers were eye-opening…
I’ve been a psychotherapist for 20 years, but this year an overwhelming number of people have contacted me saying they are experiencing anxiety or burnout for the first time in their lives.
When we’re in a place of feeling overwhelmed or stressed, all areas of our lives become affected: our relationships, the way we parent, our creativity, the work we do… the list goes on.
As a therapist, I see the long-term effects of not prioritising our mental health, particularly at the times we need it the most. It isn’t always easy to realise we are struggling or how to reach out. But all is not lost – thankfully, I am noticing an increase in others sharing their stories and struggles, myself included.
Here, I asked five people just how their mental health is right now.
Sarah, single mum, 29, from Herefordshire
‘Making the decision to have a baby on my own wasn’t the easiest. But, deep down, I knew it was what I wanted. What I didn’t anticipate is that before my daughter was even six months old, I would find myself in lockdown, isolated from family and friends at a time where I needed them the most.
‘For the most part, we were OK in our little bubble, but at times, the days and nights seemed so long and lonely. It’s often in the middle of the night when I feel overwhelmed and scared by the realisation that I’m on my own. What if my little girl becomes unwell? I find myself constantly worrying. I feel quite sad about the fact that close family and friends are missing out on seeing so much, as my daughter develops so quickly.
‘Now we are back in lockdown and – I suppose I have learnt this from the first time – we will get through it. We are stronger than we think.’
Jay, plumbing apprentice, 22, from Birmingham
‘I have struggled with my mental health. It’s the boredom more than anything that drives me mad. I’m someone who keeps busy and distracted to stay well. I feel lucky that I’ve been able to keep working for most of the time, but my hours have reduced a lot, and my outgoings haven’t.
‘I find it all frustrating at times as I don’t really know of anyone in my circle of friends who has had Covid-19. I appreciate it’s out there and a huge risk for a lot of people, but I feel that my mental health and financial situation is the biggest worry for me, rather than the virus itself.
‘I live with my girlfriend, so we’ve had each other’s company to keep us going, but we do miss our friends a lot. Even though we are in lockdown again now, I am positive that eventually we will look back on this time in years to come and say, “Do you remember how bad 2020 was?”’
John, dad and psychotherapist, 34, from Cheshire
‘The first lockdown started out OK, as I was fortunate enough to be able to keep working, albeit with some changes. Not only that, I got to spend some much-needed time with my kids in between.
‘In all honesty, I was doing really well. There were parts of my inner introvert that loved not feeling pressured to go out and socialise, or be at a certain place at a set time. However, over time, the headspace and the extra time I found I had on my hands – this, along with the fact that my world seemed to be getting smaller and smaller – meant that I began to overthink. It started out as a general reflection on my life, and ended up with me vigorously questioning every aspect of my life. This then resulted in feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed that I hadn’t had in years, sneaking up on me like an old unwanted visitor.
‘Now we find ourselves in a second lockdown and I don’t actually feel like I have fully recovered or reset from the first one. Maybe it’s time for me to stop trying to figure everything out and take things one step at a time.’
Roisin, specialist nurse, 41, from London
‘I am tired, stressed, overwhelmed. In all honesty, I am not sure how I am even getting by, but I am. I just keep taking one day at a time as best I can. I try not to watch too much news, and remind myself that I am not alone, we are all struggling at the moment in one way or another.
‘I am usually someone who takes things very much in her stride, and yet now, on reflection, I realise I am not as invincible as I like to think. The first lockdown just flew by, as we were so busy and overwhelmed with work. Then I ended up with Covid-19 and was hospitalised. My mental health took a dip. I was petrified and feared for my life.
‘I am now recovered from the virus, but I feel like my immune system has taken a hit, and this is again affecting my mental health. I feel on edge, worried and concerned as to how I will be able to effectively continue doing my job. However, I am grateful, and relieved that I have recovered and regained my physical health. It’s a roller-coaster, to say the least.’
Joanne, mum, grandmother and retired foster carer, 63, from Manchester
‘I am used to slowing down – I’ve done it naturally over the past few years. But I am finding myself worrying more about the things I have always just taken for granted. I miss my grandchildren terribly, and as I am the designated childminder for one of them, that weighs on my mind. I don’t get to see the others and it doesn’t feel fair.
‘I am also finding myself worrying more on behalf of everyone else, too; thinking and hoping my grown-up children will keep their jobs, and just wondering when it will all come to an end. I think, as you get older, you realise how precious time is and that we don’t have as much of it left. I feel as if I’m wasting this valuable time that I should be spending with my family.
‘One other thing that has taken me by surprise is how much more I have missed my husband, who died many years ago. I think it’s the idea of what he would make of it all, the security and reassurance he would have brought, and just generally how we would have talked things through. Life is so short and precious.’
If you or someone you know needs mental health support, visit the NHS website for a list of charities, organisations and support groups for expert advice. And for more of our articles about mental health, read our blog on why looking after our mental health is more important than ever.
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