Coping in lockdown

(Image courtesy of Unsplash)

By Charlotte Woodard

*DISCLAIMER: This is purely advice from the author and in no way medical advice. Please seek proper advice if you are struggling, for example via Samaritans or your GP*

It is no secret that the commonality of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety is becoming increasingly apparent in our modern world. It is reported that 1/5 of people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. The level of education and communication around mental health today shines a ray of hope over the past bleakness of stigma and suppression. However, within all of the stories people share of their struggles, little is spoken of the aftermath of recovery and the sense of loss that comes with it.

Depression is a disease that can claim your whole identity, making you feel lost among people full of certainty. Often leading to someone to cling onto other people’s personality as a way to structure their own. As someone who struggled with mental health issues, without even realising it from the ages of 15-19, I believed it was just a part of my personality. Leaving recovery, I felt a disconnect with reality and my own perception, confused about what was my personality and what my anxiety told me I was. Recovery felt like being awake for the first time in years and I was confused to how I had let myself float through life for that long. As deflating as this loss of identity was, I was finally able to see clarity and feel properly like myself and what my family and friends had grown to love after years of self-destruction.

Here are my tips to rediscovering who you really are:

1. Make a list

The best thing to do is to write down the list of amazing qualities that make you, you. These could be things your family and friends have said about you; comments from teachers; skills you gained from hobbies or your general demeanour. For example, are you athletic? Witty? Are you impulsive or patient? Are you an organised person or prefer to thrive in chaos? It’s okay if you’re not completely sure yet. Making this won’t feel like much but it is a great start and it is useful to come back to or add to as you progress.

2. Rediscover or look for a passion

This doesn’t mean find your life’s purpose, otherwise we would all be completely clueless. This might mean a sport or a hobby you used to partake in, that makes you want to improve, challenge yourself with or put your energy into.

What did you used to love to do?

This could even be something from when you were child. Through making this list I remembered that as a child I was a big bookworm and since then have re-found my love for reading and writing.

Having something you’re passionate about, really helps with self-definition and lays a foundation to hold onto. This could help you discover even more about yourself. You can explore as little or as many passions as you like.

3. Keep a journal

This isn’t like a ‘Dear diary’ situation (but it can be if you want it to!). Commitment to writing in a diary every day is a lot of effort, and a lot of days are fairly mundane and don’t require a write-up. This journal can be anything you want it to be. For example, recalling or documenting happy memories; writing out thoughts when you’re overthinking; gratitude lists or it could just be a mixture of everything, it doesn’t need a specific purpose. As long as it is beneficial to you. It can help you stay grounded in times of stress. You could even write your personal qualities list in there as something to refer to if you feel yourself drifting again.

4. Re-engage with people

Mental health issues can lead to people withdrawing from members of their family and friends. It is important to remember the people who brought you joy in your life and try and reacquaint yourself with them. This doesn’t have to be people you are the best of friends with. You may want to reach out and have a conversation with someone who’s on the same sports team that you find funny or a generous mutual friend who takes the time to ask you about your day. Anyone who makes your day more enjoyable or who makes you feel like yourself.

5. Cut out people who don’t benefit you

This may sound harsh but if you find you’re around people who bring you back into old habits or a bad mental space, it may be best to stop associating yourself with them. It might take a lot of time to realise who those people are and that’s okay. Also, it can be difficult if they are a member of your friendship group. In situations like this, be subtle, don’t engage or talk to them as much as you used to or try to become closer with other people in the group. Just don’t place as much importance on that person anymore. This can be extremely difficult if it’s a whole group that defines your entire social circle. It may feel like leaving those friends will be end your social life, but it won’t. There are always other friends that you may have not even considered that appreciate you and want to spend time with you. If this is too scary, reach out and talk to your friends about how they make you feel. Their reaction with truly tell you whether they’re the right people to be around or not. Either way, it’s important to not let these people distract you from who you are.

6. Stay curious and enjoy the little things

This may sound like an odd one in terms of self-discovery but having a natural interest in life helps keep us attached to the world around us and not let us get stuck inside our head. Try to look at the world in awe instead of in a grey filter. Paying attention to things we so often ignore keeps you grounded. People often refer to this as ‘casual magic’. For example, the colours of a sunset, architecture or the simple everyday things that make you smile and laugh. This links back to your passion; if you love something, invest yourself in it!

Mental health is such an important topic on everyone’s lips nowadays which is so refreshing. It may seem like there are many important things in life to prioritise such as success and social life. But the most important thing in your life, is you, because you are the only consistent thing you are ever going to have.

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