I’ve experienced mental health problems for many years now, but apart from a few close friends and family members, I found it hard to talk about. I felt that no one around me could understand what I was going through just trying to get through day-to-day life, at work and generally.
In 2018 I had a particularly negative experience in my workplace at the time. I disclosed my generalised anxiety disorder and social anxiety to my line manager. She gave a dismissive response and an unfortunate, repeated stigmatising attitude.
I have bipolar schizoaffective disorder. I’ve had it since as long as I can remember, it first rearing up in lesser form when I was a child. Of course, the older I get the stronger it becomes, so my actual diagnosis was when I was thirty one. That was for bipolar disorder, which became easier to deal with once I learnt Carrie Fisher aka Princess Leia had it; the schizoaffective bit was added on later. What did he say? Schizo? Hell no! Run for the hills!
I love summer. Lighter evenings, longer days, warmer weather, summer dresses, perhaps even some sun if we’re lucky. Generally speaking, as seems to be common with most people I speak to – when the sun is out, I’m in a better mood. However, as someone who also experiences periods of depression, I’ve found that this isn’t generally the case when it comes to my mental health.
I’m fortunate that I’m currently in a much better place at the moment but, when I think back to a few years ago, I found the summer months to be an immense struggle.
During the coronavirus crisis I have witnessed mental health being a topic discussed more than ever, not just limited to specific days of the year. I am pleased this discussion has arisen, yet as we ease lockdown, I see its influence already becoming diminished.
The discussion has not influenced parts of our society that are causing the most stigma and discrimination: culture, social norms, expectations, and workplaces. What I have been struggling to come to terms with is the concept of “returning to normal”, particularly as an individual with multiple mental health conditions.
When lockdown began, everything felt surreal. The threat of coronavirus had been building over the weeks, and apart from washing my hands extra vigilantly, I didn’t think it would get as bad as it did. My colleagues and I were gobsmacked when people started panic buying all the toilet roll. Even though I have several health conditions which make me extremely vulnerable to the virus, I never felt the full reality of the situation until I began self-isolating a week or so before the government’s full lockdown.