Recovery in lockdown

I haven’t written anything for a while because I feel I’ve explained what I needed to and leaving my blog at 2 years later seemed a perfect way to end. I often wondered if anything would bring me back and whether I’d have anything to add to My Recovery So Far but I never dreamt it would be about dealing with my mental health whilst the whole country is in lockdown!

Like a lot of people, it took me a while to take Coronavirus, Covid-19 (whichever you prefer) seriously. In fact, we still went on our holiday to Gran Canaria on 14th March although, JT wasn’t very happy with this and would have preferred to stay at home. I convinced her to stick with the plan as we contacted the hotel the evening before we were due to fly and the receptionist assured us that everything was running as usual over there. Obviously, I knew this could change any moment but I was prepared to take the risk (I’d been looking forward to this holiday for weeks) and we had travel insurance. Everything was fine at the airport and our journey out there was pretty much the same as the previous year when we went for my 40th (we loved it so decided to go back). We had a fabulous first day and then bam, the worst happened. The whole of the island went into lockdown from midnight! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared but to keep me sane and stop me overthinking I tried to make the best of what we had and enjoy some time in the sun. We were allowed to walk around the hotel, sunbathe in our garden and shop at the local supermarket across the road, but unlike the UK lockdown, exercise wasn’t allowed. The hotel wasn’t that big so our only walk was around the grounds which would last maybe 30 mins max. I probably came across like I didn’t give a shit but I honestly had to make the best of the situation and stay positive because once my negative overthinking starts I find it really difficult to get out of that thought process. To cut a long story short, I had a lovely few days in the sun but JT struggled a bit so we decided to come home early. We managed to get on a rescue flight on Wednesday cutting our holiday short by 4 days. It was the most surreal journey home of my life so far and quiet scary really. The difference in people and the way we all started to go about life was quiet scary and this was only after a few days. The media doesn’t help as it insists on spreading negative news and concentrating on the death tolls rather than how many people are recovering from this awful virus. Anyway, it’s a good job we did get on that early flight home as JT received a text when we landed in Manchester saying our return flight on Saturday had been cancelled. I most definitely had my tail between my legs and will listen to her next time! Lesson learnt …

I was back at work the day after our holiday. I felt fine and was just glad to be back home to be honest. Taking the pandemic a lot more seriously now, reading more in the news and anxiety sets in. Seriously, social media has a lot to answer for when it comes to mental health. It’s alright using it to spread awareness, but jeez, some of the stuff I’ve seen online recently would send anyone into meltdown.

On Monday I went into work as usual but was feeling extremely anxious. It usually takes me 1 hour 15 mins to get into the office and I was there in 45 mins, due to the roads being very quiet. A bonus for my commute but still very surreal and something to get the negative thoughts going. I spent the first couple of hours trying to calm myself down. Once anxiety sets in, some people find it difficult to get out of that negative thought process and rid of the physical symptoms. I know I have in the past and it’s one of the things I really struggled with. I’d get anxious about getting anxious because that brought the symptoms on, then I’d be worrying that I wouldn’t be able to get rid of them. With what I’ve learnt from previous therapy, I was able to sort myself out pretty quickly and get back into work mode. It was a very tough week as the virus spread quickly and our office block which is part hotel became more and more deserted. My boss made the sensible decision to work from home and put the office staff on the government furlough scheme. I know this was the right decision but almost instantly I was starting to worry about how I would keep myself busy and from having some kind of meltdown through the boredom of being at home with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I’ve always said our own mental health makes us selfish but sometimes we have good reason to be that way.

Then on Friday evening, Boris Johnson closes all pubs, cafes, restaurants, gyms and leisure centres. After seeing this happen whilst in Gran Canaria, I knew lockdown wasn’t far away. I work in the transport industry and although I’m not on the front line myself, I was still able to go into the office and work from the safety of my desk, which I was very thankful for. At times like this, keeping busy is all we need sometimes and with work being so busy (supermarket & NHS deliveries) it was the only thing keeping my mind away from the negative news and crazy social media articles.

I’m on week 3 of lockdown at home and I can honestly say I’m enjoying the free time. This horrific situation has given me the chance to spend quality time with JT (we’ve definitely had our moments) but we’re still smiling, having time to find new interests and generally having time to myself and enjoying the simple things that are free. The first week was a bit strange because I got bored and didn’t really know what to do with myself at times but I’m definitely into the swing of things now. I’m back into my exercise and going for a run or walk every day. I’ve started an online learning course about mental health, I’ve been catching up an all the box sets I’ve been making lists of, playing Scrabble and generally keeping myself busy to stay on top of my mental health. If anything good comes from this awful situation then I hope it’s given people the chance to realise how lucky we are and to focus on the important things in life. I’m missing my family like crazy but I know it won’t be forever. I can’t wait to see my mum and give her the biggest hug ever. We live 20 miles apart so I can’t justify travelling all that way to sit on the wall for a chat so I’m being patient as I know we’ll see each other soon. Social media can be an awful place at times but what would we have done without it over the last few weeks?

Being on lockdown has also made me realise how far I’ve come with my recovery. In fact, thank God for my recovery because I’d have been a total mess without it at the moment. I was talking to JT about how the old me, drinking me would have managed lockdown and being at home. It’s quite scary to think about it really because I know how much I’d have struggled. I would have been drunk most days, made alcohol my priority when shopping, not stuck to any of the government advice, woke up anxious every morning due to my alcohol consumption, suffered with depression due to not being able to handle my overthinking and beer fear, made my mum’s life a nightmare because I’d have been on the phone all the time saying how crap I feel and ultimately, been a complete mess and continued on a downward spiral into God only knows where.

I’m so thankful for my recovery and I’m proud of myself for achieving what a lot of people said I wouldn’t. I’m not pointing the finger and saying “I told you so”. Instead, I’m saying that if you want something enough and you’re committed to making changes, then you can achieve it. I’m still drinking alcohol in moderation and that’s the way things have been for a while now. I strongly believe that recovery doesn’t mean sobriety but I would advise staying sober for at least a year before considering moderation. My problem was binge drinking and it’s completely different to alcohol addiction. I was in the habit of using alcohol to deal with my problems which in turn became an addiction. I now deal with my problems without alcohol and enjoy alcohol in moderation when I’m feeling fine and positive. My whole thought process around alcohol has changed and I don’t feel the need to drown my sorrows or drink when I’m sad. I’ll have one bottle of beer maybe two or three times a week when I feel like one. Just as you would with tea, coffee or a can of pop. It very rarely goes onto a second bottle and my choice of tipple at the moment is Bud Light. You’d have to have a few of them before you got the fuzzy feeling!

Anyway, I’m back, it felt good to write all this down and I hope you enjoyed the read.

Before I go, I’d like to thank every single person working on the frontline and a big thank you to all the supermarket staff for keeping us in bog roll! Thank you to the amazing staff working for the NHS. You’re my real heroes and I genuinely don’t know how you’re getting through this nightmare. It takes a very special person to do what you do and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Take care, stay HOME, stay safe and hopefully next time I write, we’ll be allowed out!

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