Category Archives: The world

What is safety?

TW – Trigger warning for detailed content about suicide and suicidal feelings. Please considering moving onto a different blog if you may feel particularly distressed reading about these subjects. It’s important to practice self care and only read content on the internet that will benefit you.

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While Covid-19 is spreading through our society, we’re being asked to stay at home to keep safe. But this is only keeping us physically safe from a virus. I do understand that this virus is especially contagious and virulent therefore physical safety at this time is a priority but I want to spend a few moments reflecting on the meaning of safety and it’s different forms.

A feeling of safety can be captured through routines and familiarity, this is why people so often struggle with change. Nearly all of us are coping with huge upheaval as Covid-19 is sweeping across our nations. Working from home, not working at all, stopping social activities, home schooling our children, doing more or fewer activities than previously – some of these may have positives, negatives or a mixture of both but change is always hard.

Cortisol is our stress hormone. Usually it is released to help us cope with a peak in stress and it aids managing the stressful situation. However at times of long term stress, cortisol being released over a prolonged period leads to all sorts of side effects such as fatigue, irritability, headaches, intestinal problems, anxiety, depression, weight gain, increased blood pressure, low libido and erectile dysfunction.

Lots of people are being brought to our attention as people who need care/support: the elderly, those living with an abuser, the unemployed, the homeless, people with chronic illnesses and many others – each group has its spokes people. But I fear for those we don’t hear about – who’s helping the people we don’t know about?

There have been many occasions in my life when I’ve felt unsafe and it’s been my own thoughts that have been working against me. Mental health crisis is hard to explain, trying to explain what it’s like being suicidal is like trying to describe colour to someone who’s been blind from birth.

Being suicidal feels like all your senses have been taken away included your senses of dignity, perspective and reality, it feels like one by one everyone is giving up on you and this makes sense because the situation is completely hopeless; you’re a worthless human being with nothing to live for, gradually the grey numbness you’ve been feeling for a while turns to an active hot feeling of desperation – “whatever this is, it is unbearable and it just has to end.” Eventually calmness and serenity is felt once a plan to end the suffering is in place. (At least, this is what it was like for me.)

So, this lockdown (in whatever form it’s taking in the country you’re in) is designed to prevent the spread of a virus but at what cost? I‘m definitely not saying we shouldn’t be following government advice – I’m the first to do as I’m told! What I am saying is we need to ensure we look after our physical and our mental safety.

Specific links about how to look after our mental health during the lock down can be found at the bottom of the page.

A “place of safety” is somewhere designed to help an individual through a mental health crisis, to support them while they’re feeling suicidal, to prevent them carrying out any plans they may have made to end their life. Usually this is a specialist mental health unit but it can be A&E or a police station. Unfortunately I have been detained in a police cell; I was scared, yes, but realising I was too unwell to make decisions about my care myself, it was a relief that they took over responsibility for my safety when I couldn’t do it myself.

I recently returned to therapy because my mental health has been challenged. For me, the therapists room is a place of safety because it’s somewhere I can be myself. Most people are different versions of themselves in different environments but when suffering with mental illness most people are familiar with the feeling of putting on a mask. Most of the time this mask ensure the world has no idea what’s going on underneath. At work I’m professional, competent Frances; socially I’m friendly, pleasant Frances etc. In the therapy room, my therapist doesn’t judge me for being anxious, confused, angry, annoyed – it’s safe to take my mask off.

As the weeks of this pandemic drag on, people start to talk about cabin fever or “going stir crazy”. These phrases refer to feelings of being cooped up too long. This place that was meant to be keeping us safe has become a prison! This is exactly why most lockdowns include being permitted to go out for exercise and it’s vital to take advantage of this if possible. If it’s not possible, sitting in the garden or by an open window as often as possible is really important.

So, if you’re doing as the government has asked and you’re staying at home, thank you for keeping your community safe from the virus. But it’s really important to spend some time thinking about what makes you feel mentally and emotionally safe:

  • Keeping busy? – try learning something new
  • Seeing friends and family regularly? – connect with them however you can.
  • Having time and space to yourself? – timetable 15-20 “me time” in a separate room and let other people in your household know that’s what you’re doing.
  • Keeping familiarity and routine? – build some habits into your day to build a new routine.
  • Having freedom to move around? – use the permission to exercise daily if possible.
  • A hug? – whether it’s someone you live with, a pet or a cuddly toy it’s ok to to give it a really good squish everyday!
  • Having autonomy and control? – focus on what you can control not what you can’t. I find the serenity prayer helpful!

If you’re feeling unsafe or uneasy, can you work out what’s missing? Whether it’s about feeling empowered and in control or being allowed to be vulnerable and looked after for a short time. Perhaps at the moment it’s not easy to get exactly what we need but can you simulate it? Maybe we don’t have freedom to move around but how about planning a holiday for when it’s over because, this is going to end. We don’t know when, but it will.

It may also be important to take things out of your daily routine that is harmful to your mental and emotional safety. These links provide really good hints and tips for looking after your wellbeing during this time of uncertainty.

Specific links:

  • Mind – a wide variety of information including managing wellbeing, work, anxiety and social care rights
  • Beat Eating Disorders – really good specific questions related to managing eating disorders and recovery
  • Mental Health Foundation – information including mental health tips, relationships, finances and talking to children

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Finally, people are respecting my personal space!

I’m not sure how many people this is going to be relevant to but this social distancing is suiting me! You may have read my blog regarding introversion and picked up I’m at the extreme end of the spectrum! This is not a blog about introversion, but another oddity altogether, my ginormous personal space and my general desire to avoid people!

I’ve found it mildly amusing that people seem to be experiencing the world as I always have, trying to avoid contact with people at all costs!

As we practice social distancing we peer down the supermarket aisle – are there too many people in it?! If I start down the aisle will someone box me in?! Maybe I can do without loo roll this week? I have running water at home… or maybe I could come back when the aisle is less busy! This was my normal pre-social distancing!

Now, I like being told were to stand and I like that other people are being told not to stand too close to me! Not only are there markings on the floor, they have announcements over the tannoy!

I’ve always been aware, my personal space is gigantic! (Unless you know your personal space is particularly large, I’d be willing to place money on mine being roughly twice the size of yours.) There are very few who can casually encroach on my personal space without asking. Some, I invite willing, others through social obligation. A lot of people invade my personal space uninvited, I feel uncomfortable, even anxious at times and this is my normal. I know others want to be close, to hug hello etc and I’m fine with this, I’ll conform with social norms, I just fit in with what the other person wants so as not to make a fuss!

As concerns about rapid spread of Covid-19 started, some churches started sharing the peace without touching, using eye-contact instead(!) and the reactions were mixed. Some hated it while others thought it brought depth to the exchange. We’re all different!

Pre-social distancing, out on a run I’ve been forced off the pavement, onto roads, onto verges, into bushes, at times I wonder if I’ve been seen at all as couples or family groups walk towards me and make zero effort to enable me to remain running safely on the pavement. Now we’ve got this wonderful 2m rule, people are being courteous and walking single file past each other – why did this not happen before?! Why is it, you have to be concerned you might catch a deadly virus from me to see me?!

Even just walking passed people in the corridor at work, if someone accidentally get too close, people are apologising and moving away. It’s as though the world has finally listened to the discomfort I feel every time someone gets too close to me and they’ve put a rule in and everyone has to conform, you seriously wouldn’t believe how much of a relief it feels!

Are we doomed to divorce?!

These are strange times! I’m aware I have readers from all over the world and each country is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic differently, restricting movement of people to varying degrees.

Lockdown, quarantine, self-isolation, restricted movement, stay at home, social distancing, flatten the curve, work from home, slow down the spread, protect the NHS – these words are all now common parlance!

Since the epicenter was in China, we may be able to gauge where we’re heading by what’s happening there…China are seeing a significant spike in divorce applications from couples coming out of isolation.

Steve, my husband and I, obviously, love each other but like any couple, have our ups and downs! We prefer not to have blazing rows but we’re capable of a few harsh words. We’re struggling with this situation for different reasons but we know we’re going to get through it together because we work at our relationship.

I’m writing this blog because it would be sad to follow China’s lead, relationships don’t need to be doomed. Some of these suggestions may seem common sense but I think it’s fair to say in these uncertain times people are acting out of character and we can all do with a bit of reminding that sometimes the simple things are the best things:

Hold onto the things that are the same

Some people are working from home, try to home school children and/or manage an unusual living situation, these things will feel destabilising but there will be some things that are the same. Can you eat meals together? Is your morning or bedtime routine the same? Is there a TV programme you both like to watch together? Anything that anchors your relationship will help you feel stable.

Date times

You may think “but we’re spending too much time together, that’s the problem”. But date time is special time. If you have other people in the house it might be difficult but it’s important to set time aside, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes for a coffee together (but the longer the better!) to set technology aside and focus on each other. If you’re fortunate to have more time alone, you could play a board game or give each other a massage.

Self care

If you’re giving to other people all the time, you’re strung out and exhausted, you can’t pour from an empty cup! Your relationship’s going to suffer because we always take our frustrations out on those closest to us. Living on top of each other can be difficult. Don’t underestimate how beneficial going outside for fresh air is, whether it’s onto a balcony, the back garden or for a walk if permitted. You take this opportunity to learn a new hobby, crafting or reading may not have previously been your thing but maybe give it a go!

Give and take

With so many routines changing it might be difficult to stay on top of the household chores or you might find yourselves bit more messy than usual. As the situation changes people might need change the responsibilities they have. I don’t envy the parents suddenly home schooling and those who’ve never worked from home suddenly have to adapt. Sometimes, stepping back from the situation and writing a list or a timetable for who does what when might stop the situation from getting out of hand.

Communication – I’ve left the most important ‘til last!

Understanding what each other need is so important and this is only going to come if you talk to each other! This next part is so important – no one can mind read! If you’re feeling grumpy, fed-up, overwhelmed, sad or pissed off just say so. If you’re not sure how you feel and you’re not sure why, just say so! If you want to be left alone, say so. If you want to have a cry, say so.

Talk to each other about what you need! Are you an introvert or an extrovert? I’m an introvert, so managing the isolation fairly well. My husband is an extrovert so the aspect that’s hit him hardest is not being able to see his friends. My husband uses technology every day whereas getting to grips with multiple platforms (to stay connected with various people) quickly has been overwhelming for me. As genuinely fantastic as technology is, I’ve found large WhatsApp groups intrusive and long video conference calls exhausting!

I don’t need to remind you the most important part of communication is the listening part! Most people listen to reply – don’t be most people, listen so that you understand your partner.