How lockdown has helped my mental health
Jessica talks about her mental health journey and how lockdown gave her time to look at how her mind works
Written by Jessica O'Grady
Voices - Experiences
Young people share their personal experiences.
I cannot remember a time where I would look in the mirror and truly love what I saw. I may have liked my outfit or my make up on a certain day but never liked my whole self. Of course, there are still days where I look and see the flaws in my reflection, but instead of criticising these flaws I now embrace them. I certainly did not have this mentality at the start of 2020. My mental health spiraled downhill during the COVID-19 pandemic but this pandemic has also made me realise my worth and love myself for who I am.
I am generally a very happy person; I am naturally sociable and chatty. I never thought I had any mental health issues growing up as a teenager. I was always self-critical and somewhat of a perfectionist, but I just thought “that’s just me”. It was only when I reached my 20’s that it became more prevalent. I would always put myself down, outline and criticise every flaw to the point where I had little to no self-esteem. I began getting anxiety attacks while out socialising with friends and getting into very low states of mind, where all I wanted to do was lay in bed.
For the last three years I have battled with a roller coaster of emotional and depressive states. I have gone to therapy and confided in family and friends which always helps, but I constantly found myself slipping back into old thought processes.
The impact of COVID-19 on my mental health
Once lockdown started, I began working from home right away. The three months of lockdown turned out to be some of the busiest, most stressful months I have ever experienced. I was working nonstop, working overtime and my mind was never switching off. I would go for walks or runs in my local park as my daily exercise and see people social distancing with friends in the park enjoying the sunny weather. This became a constant sight on my walks. I got more jealous and felt lonelier as the days went on.
Between feeling undervalued in work, not seeing anyone outside my household for months and social media being overactive, I began to spiral into negative overthinking again. I felt like I had no friends, I was not good enough at my job so my self-esteem plummeted. I felt trapped physically and mentally.
Reaching out for help
After work I was going straight to bed with my mind racing, drained of energy. I began to see old patterns setting in. Although family and friends were there for me, I decided I needed to reach out and speak with someone professionally before things got any worse.
When lockdown restrictions began easing, I reached out to a therapist in my local area. She arranged an appointment for a socially distant chat. Our initial meeting was lots of tears on my end and I did not have any answers to the questions she was asking me. “I don’t actually know why that is” was my main response. She validated all my feelings and at the end of the meeting gave me her thoughts on why I build up my thoughts and get into depressive states.
Before I left, she asked me “What if you owned your own magic for once?”
Realising my value
That question really stuck in my mind. I have been told before “love yourself” or “embrace who you are” but there was just something about the way she put that question to me. So, I sat down with myself, a pen, and some paper.
Over many days I had hard conversations with myself to try get to the root of my negativity. I wrote lists of my qualities, my flaws, my values, my skills, what I like and do not like about myself, as truthful as I could possibly be. Ultimately, the answer that kept arising was that “only good things can come if I own my magic!”
I realised that I managed quite well working from home which was something I have never done before and it was hard for many people. I realised that I had not seen other family or friends as that was necessary to slow the spread of Coronavirus and the people who I was jealous of in the park were wrong to be socialising at that time. We are living through a global pandemic, that is the least of the world’s problems right now.
Try look to the positives
With all the time we have had to think and over think these past few months, I think it’s important to at least try to take something positive from it. Families, friends and even strangers have been more supportive than ever as we are all the same, all in this together.
There is no denying that looking after your mental health can be an uphill battle, but what is the harm in being confident and owning your magic? Once you begin to accept yourself, flaws and all, own it. No one can take that away from you as it is what makes you magic!