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COVID-19 and Mental Health

I’ve always considered myself a strong individual. I guess I’ve tried to teach myself over the years that there’s no point worrying until you have something to worry about.

That was until the COVID-19 pandemic hit the whole world.

My life in the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown

It was the end of February 2020, and we had just returned from a 3-week vacation in India. I was feeling upbeat and looking forward to meeting with family and friends to discuss our adventures. Then, in March of 2020, the whole of the U.K. was put into lockdown. I hadn’t yet had a chance to meet up with family as I came home with a bit of a “tummy bug” and didn’t want to pass it on. I watched the news and was shocked and bewildered; this COVID-19 had affected pretty much the whole of the world. The world was in “lockdown”. No one allowed to go out of their houses except for food or medical supplies. This was scary stuff!

Receiving a letter from the NHS

About a week or two after the lockdown was implemented, I received a letter. The letter was from the NHS (UK National Health Service). It stated (in over 6 pages) that I was deemed to be in the most “vulnerable” group and therefore I MUST "shield”. This shielding involved me staying at home and seeing no one from outside my own household. I mustn’t go outdoors for ANYTHING. This was to last initially until the end of June, but the letter said that this could change.

I was terrified

The letter gave lots of information on what I should and shouldn’t do. But the most terrifying bit for me was when the letter stated that, should I contract COVID-19, I would most likely end up in the hospital due to a weakened immune system. I felt physically sick, and to be quite honest, I was terrified.

Life in lockdown

At first, I didn’t mind having to stay at home and see no one. But then as reality kicked in, I started to wonder if I would ever be able to socialize again. Both of my sons were living abroad in the Netherlands. My parents lived in a different district. I began to think, "When will I be able to see them again?" I sat, and I cried and I cried. In fact, I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes now, as it’s still so raw. Life without seeing my family didn’t seem worth living.

The start of my depression

I guess my depression snuck up on me. My sleeping habits were all over the place. My own personal hygiene had gone out of the window. And all I was doing was staying in my bedroom, watching TV, and feeling sick with worry, both for me and my family. I lost all interest in everything. I couldn’t bring myself to work, write, or even continue with my bladder cancer advocacy work. These things had been so important to me. Now, nothing seemed to matter. My life just felt so empty.

Acknowledging my depression

One day, I looked at myself in the mirror, and I looked awful. My eyes were swollen with crying, my hair was a mess, I hadn’t gotten dressed for weeks and overall, I just looked absolutely dreadful.

Giving myself some of my own advice

I’ve supported and worked with bladder cancer patients and urology nurses and doctors. I’ve spoken and supported people in their darkest of hours. Now, it was time that I supported myself. These are my first steps, to start writing again, to get back to advocating for others, and to remember that things will get better. And to understand that currently, we are all dealing with a “new norm."

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