Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Starting Anew Before My Course Was Altered by Coronavirus

Mary details her experiences as she has to give up her life abroad and go home during the pandemic. 

- Mary Flannigan

I faced a lot of hardship from being in treatment from ages 13 to 15, and walking by the hospital I had spent 5 months in at the psych ward on my way to school every day. It was hard to feel like I could thrive in the city where I grew up in, when I had constant reminders of my troubles, no solid friend group - as I had begun at the high school mid-way through year 10 and 2 days after leaving a treatment facility - and doubtful looks wherever I went. 

I set my sights on moving abroad to study, as. I'd always had a dream of blossoming in my career as an actress, which I’d been working at since aged 5, but had put on hold when I couldn’t function due to my depression and anxiety. I needed a fresh start where I could feel like I could breathe, make mistakes, and let go, and be free as an individual with a future entirely of my own making, where a past wouldn’t haunt me, and I could be beginning something new on my own accord rather than thrust into new situations I was unprepared for. I flourished abroad, having built a real community of people I felt connected to and inspired by. 

Upon recently graduating, I decided to stay abroad as I had the opportunity of work. In the next year I would build a stronger community, and meet someone I hold very dear to me. But two thirds into my visa the pandemic hit. This meant I wouldn’t have the resources to afford to remain, and would need to return to my home city. The future would drastically change for me, as it felt like all my hard work to get where I was crumbled. My depression hit me really hard, as the future, who would be in it, and where I would be living all became a giant question mark. 

As of right now, I am living in uncertainty to where I will go after this pandemic. I don’t intend to remain in my home city too long, but will have to save up to move out again. I am making moving out again a priority as I know it’s what’s best for my health - I can’t live in constant unsettlement and trauma or fear of seeing people that hurt me. My mental health is in constant fluctuation - but I am remaining focused, and use the same methods that have kept me going in hard times before. I make daily to do lists, and live by the mantra that I must ride the way of life as I have no control on said circumstances, and am not at fault for experiencing what is happening. Whatever happens, I will continue to prioritise my mental health. 

For more information on looking after your mental wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic, click here. For information and support with depression, click here

Growing up in Vancouver, Canada, I always carried a passion for the arts. I've had a lifelong battle with mental health but have learned to effectively cope with hard work, DBT, and a positive outlook. Work-wise, I have held membership with an improv company, and acted in Iphigenia Among the Taurians.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Staying Close Whilst Staying Apart

Emma shares her tips on how to look out for each other during these strange times and reminds us to take care of ourselves. 
- Emma McAndrew

It feels as though the world is on pause, but for many our minds are working overtime. Emotions of stress and anxiety are understandably dominating many of our thoughts right now as we experience this unprecedented period of uncertainty. Overwhelming thoughts and worries should never be bottled up, even when we can’t physically be near those who we may bravely choose to confide in. Perhaps now it is more important than ever that we keep talking to our loved ones. We need to ensure that we are staying socially close whilst staying physically apart.

Take advantages of virtual connections.

Despite being plunged into a “new normal” of separation and social distancing, it is principal that our loved ones are aware of our presence. At a time when we cannot physically be within two meters of anyone except those in our household, virtual connections can help us stay socially connected while keeping a safe and responsible physical distance.

Thinking of these strange times in a positive sense, the year is 2020 and access to remote communication is available for many of us in the society. We are living in an age where 93% of UK households have access to the internet and 96% have a mobile phone. For those of us who have those accesses, although we can’t physically visit our loved ones to make sure that they are well, it is possible to virtually invite them into ours by using the power of modern-day technology.

Support the most vulnerable amongst us.

Thought should always be spared for those in need, but especially now we should be ensuring that the most vulnerable amongst us are cared for. For those we know are elderly or at high risk, perhaps leave some shopping on their doorstep, or pick up their prescriptions and other necessities. Compassion and kindness in our communities may be the most powerful thing that keeps them going. Undoubtedly we cannot forget about those who are unable to participate in virtual contact activities. Maintaining social connections with them is equally as valued during these times. Chatting to them in an outdoor setting from at least two metres away is a viable method of ensuring them basic conversations. Similar actions can be taken for those who live by themselves. We are all facing these months of abnormality together.

Prioritise your mental wellbeing.

Whilst keeping up to date with others, please prioritise your emotional and psychological well-being. Weighting yourself with unrealistic pressure during these troubling times is only going to damage your mental wellness. It is okay if you haven’t completed a home workout every day. It is okay if you haven’t mastered a new skill. It is okay if you haven’t painted every room in your house. Sometimes all you need to do is breathe and be thankful for every breath. Life is precious. Never take anything for granted. Try to close all the tabs in your head, look into the mirror and be proud that you have made it this far—and we will make it even further together.

Remember that you are never alone when it comes to struggles with mental health problems. There is no shame in sharing your thoughts and concerns with others; there is always someone who cares. You may be a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a friend, a neighbour—you are an individual who holds great significance in the lives of so many people. Reach out to mental health charities that can offer help on protecting your mind during these difficult times. Take notes of numbers for SAMH (0344 800 0550), Samaritans (116 123) and Young Minds (0808 802 5544). Speak to them if you feel that you cannot talk to anyone you personally know.

Keep the conversation alive. Ask each other how they are doing. Offer help to those who need it. Take care of your mental wellbeing. We will pass through these times with the support of each other. Let’s ensure that we are staying close whilst staying apart.

You can find more resources on looking after your wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic here

Hi! My name is Emma McAndrew. I am a journalism student at Edinburgh Napier University. I believe that mental health is important to talk about and understand that these times may be difficult to deal with. I wanted to share my tips on how to look out for loved ones and also highlight the need to be kind to ourselves