What living with mental illness has taught me about self-isolation
The key to maintaining our mental well-being during the coming months lies in transforming loneliness into a space of solitude.
I didn’t expect much to change in my life with the new decade. Most of my twenties have been overshadowed with depression and that colours my view on everything. More precisely, it denudes it; creating a monochromatic emotional lens through which every aspiration and optimistic impulse is tempered.
However, even during my worst bouts of melancholy, I never expected by March to have not only been forced to self-isolate because of a mysterious virus but also eschew contact with anyone. This seems to be the new status-quo for the foreseeable future; in late March, we in Britain were informed that this lockdown would continue for at least 6 months — if not longer.
This is not unique to the UK; on the mainland, countries like France, Spain and Italy were ahead of the game and had imposed their own lockdowns earlier in the month. As the world awakens to the threat that Covid-19 poses more nations have fallen into a familiar global pattern; first panic, then begrudging curfews, and now a period of indefinite extension. The raison d’etre for these measures, unseen in Western Europe since the Second World War, is to “flatten the curve” (here’s a helpful info-graphic by Harry Stevens of The Washington Post on what that means).
Being forced indoors, however, is taking its toll. In countries with necessarily harsher restrictions like Italy, social distancing has led to frayed tempers. Across the board our emotional and mental health is being impacted by being cooped up; the initial bonhomie at the chance to finally watch that series on Netflix your mate has been banging on about has steadily depleted like the contents of your kitchen cupboards.
The things we once took completely for granted — like even stepping outside for a walk — have to now be planned out in advance. I remember my last excursion outside prior to the pandemic; a commute into Central London to consult some archives for work and followed by a quick pint with a mate. It was completely unmemorable because I had done it a hundred times before and…