Looking after my mental health at home

Katy Newman discusses the challenges she’s facing, coping with the changes during lockdown

Credit: Finn Souter

I used to work five, sometimes six days a week, so being out of work for over a month has affected my life drastically. With so much time at home, I have had to establish a new routine, to help abate my anxiety and depression, while staying safe.

My job was enjoyable, and it served as a good distraction from some of my negative emotions and internal issues. With a pretty abrupt end to work, I was overwhelmed by lots of difficult emotions. I can’t even keep track of how much I’ve cried within the space of a week.

I’m finding social isolation very difficult, as I’m an extrovert. I draw on other people’s energy to help boost my own, so being by myself has been a shock to the system.

I know it helps me to calm down if I read a good book, put pen to paper and make an effort to surround myself with simple stuff I like. Pretty flowers make me happy. I have only just started to read more, and write down my thoughts; it feels good.

I miss hugging my loved ones, and going out with them during my free time. I miss going clubbing in the gay scene, and feeling connected to the LGBTQI+ community for emotional support and love. I’m still developing an understanding of myself and who I actually am, and my friends help me explore that.

Like everybody, I have had all my social events – which give me so much to look forward to – cancelled. It’s totally gutting. However, I suppose it will make me cherish the parties, gigs and festivals more, once they start again.

In these last weeks, it has been much harder to renew the prescription for my antidepressants. According to my pharmacist there is a national shortage of Sertraline, the medication I take. It’s tricky even to request a prescription from my GP, because the phone lines are constantly busy. This doesn’t fill me with confidence. How is the NHS going to manage to provide for all the vulnerable people after the pandemic, if there are such difficulties already?

My mother is a key worker. I’m very nervous of her extra exposure to the virus. Lots of her colleagues are regularly not able to work at the moment, so she feels obliged to do double shifts, and has weeks of working without a break.

I feel awful for her, and wish I could take her place so she could take a rest. Sadly, due to my furlough agreement, I’m not even allowed to volunteer free of charge to assist anyone.

One of the most difficult aspects I’m finding during furlough is being paid a lot less. I used to work plenty of overtime to make ends meet, so that I could contribute to my family. I had the highest wage in my household. With my overtime I used to work between 40 and 60 hours, but my contract was for only 16 hours per week. So the 80% of my wage I receive, is based on just the 16 hours. This is barely enough to pay my bills. I’m still receiving some money, which I’m thankful for. A few of my colleagues have actually had their contracts terminated.

So, I’ve been relying on my mum to cover my end on rent, food and toiletries. Obviously, this makes me feel terrible. I really don’t think she gets paid enough for the hard and essential work she is doing.

I’ve gone from being totally independent, to relying on my mum’s wage to put food on the table, and keep a roof over our family’s head. She doesn’t expect anything in return, although I still feel like a bad person for depending on her, even though I’m nearly twenty. Sometimes I do feel
unhappy and like I’m a burden.

Taking responsibility for the cooking and cleaning has given me a routine, and helped me have a sense of purpose. Hopefully it has eased things for my mum too. Even if I just make her favourite meal, clean up, buy her some flowers, or pop out to post a letter; I think she appreciates it.

Never have I been so grateful or aware of how strong and resilient my mum is. I only wish I could do half the things she does.

I have definitely become more conscious of my family, and what is important to me. Perhaps with this time in isolation at home, I will become stronger and more self-reliant.

Expressing myself through Exposure has been a good way to manage some tough emotions. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, why not try and get your thoughts and feelings down on paper?

For more information: exposure.org.uk

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