2020-06-07

Mental health

I am no expert, and as I get older I start to understand some of the issues that can happen - but just touching the surface.

It is a strange subject in some ways - so many things in life we can try out and see for ourselves. I love that science and mathematics are things you can try and test and see and intuitively understand if you try. But mental health is not quite so easy.

You can't really experiment on others, or yourself, and see how it works. I wonder how people that do work with those with mental health issues cope themselves even. They may not be experimenting but they are experiencing the issues of others.

The lockdown, and isolation, we all face in the last few months has been unexpected, and is pretty much unprecedented for most people alive now. It is a change in the way we interact with other people, and that is new and different for most of us.

Interacting can be face to face, or via telephone, email, video call, irc, chat, etc. I am someone that does not interact a lot face to face - I spend my days in my "man cave". I do interact a lot by text means normally, but not a lot face to face. I am not a very social person, usually. Someone said I was asocial rather than anti-social.

So I expected that the degree of isolation would be no problem - I was not quite right on that. Just the little bit of social interaction almost every day (mainly cycling to Costa and having breakfast and a coffee) was enough, and now that is gone. Should that matter?

Video calling is a boon, it helps, but even that is more effort that it seems it should be, even just a few clicks on a portal. Going for a walk, even with no interaction with others, does help, but feels like hard work.

These are strange times, and I expect this is all something we can work to live with. I find some days I am fine, and some days I am not. I have my wife, and some of my family, here with me, but there are people that are really on their own. I wonder how they cope.

It is strange finding mental health is a thing I can observe and study in my self, but not an easy subject to study, and one that may mean drinking too much on occasion as well.

This must be a huge issue for those considering manned space missions in the future.

9 comments:

  1. As someone that has had their fair share of challenges with mental health, particularly in recent years, some of your recent posts have certainly shown you reflecting on your own.

    Many still think of mental health in respect of mental illness, but they are not one and the same.

    Each of us has own ups and downs in mental health in much the same way as we do our physical health.

    Looking after it can help problems developing into longer term illness.

    I'm one of our Mental Health Champions at work and can highly recommend this course: https://mhfaengland.org/individuals/adult/2-day/

    Many would like to see mental health first aiders becoming a requirement in the workplace, in much the same way as is the case for physical health first aiders.

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  2. I've never been big on frivolous social interaction and I feel like I can carry on like this for much longer if need be. But there are certain specific people (parents, etc) that I'd like to meet and that I can't. And certain places and holidays I'd like to take that I can't.

    I feel like this state of "I can't go enjoy the sea side in Portugal AND I have no idea when I'll be able to ever do that again safely" is the biggest weight in my mental health at the moment. That and being stuck with a pre-schooler at home, as we gave notice to the nursery as soon as the lockdown started since we knew it'd be a while until we'd be comfortable mixing socially with the corona situation.

    Anyway, stay safe, stay well, and for anyone reading this, however bad the situation may be, reach out and talk. You can find help, you matter, and we won't be in this situation forever. Things WILL get better.

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    Replies
    1. You always could visit the seaside safely — there has never been any significant risk of catching the disease in large outdoor spaces like beaches and parks. The scientific consensus has been clear on that from the start, so I'm not sure why such activities were ever restricted. I'm guessing governments just felt the need to lock down everything as quickly as possible to get the disease under control, then open specific things back up carefully.

      You're far more likely to be killed on the road while driving to the beach than you are to catch (much less die from) COVID once you get there. Which for me is one of the strangest aspects of this pandemic. People are acting not only like COVID is an automatic death sentence for everybody (which it isn't, even if you are over 80, and certainly not if you are much younger than that), but also like COVID is the ONLY risk that humans have ever faced.

      People die all the time from road accidents, falling down the stairs, electrical fires, choking and numerous other causes. But nobody is saying "I don't know when I'll be able to drive to work again safely: the number of fatal road accidents hasn't yet been reduced to 0!". Nobody is moving out of their house into a bungalow until the number of stair-related deaths is reduced to 0. But for some reason many people are terrified to leave their houses because a few hundred people across the whole country are dying of COVID every day.

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    2. @InfiniteDissent - that's why we went into lockdown, to reduce the pressure on the NHS caused by unnecessary journeys. Not just to restrict the level of contact people have.

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  3. I found the whole lockdown thing didn't really affect me that much. I have a decent home office, and we are all setup to work from home just fine and well before lockdown came in anyway.

    Only annoyance I have currently is not being able to get into the DC's to carry out non-critical work! Hopefully that will ease soon.

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  4. It might come as a shock to men reading this, but it's OK to have feelings and it's also OK to show that you have them. Toxic masculinity doesn't have to get in the way.
    Lockdown came at a really bad time in my life, but talking about how I'm feeling really helps. OK, I pay money to a psychotherapist which works very well because she is trained in listening, but talking to friends helps too (and is free).
    I agree with Adrian - it's not easy trying to debug yourself from the inside, you really need someone on the outside who you can bounce ideas and feelings off.
    I read somewhere that therapists have to try and look "behind the mask" of their client. If that's true, then you might have to make yourself a little more vulnerable when talking to others in order to get the most benefit.
    Hey, the important thing is for everyone to stay safe and stay calm.

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  5. I used to think that loneliness was primarily a disorder of thought. I tended to rationalise that I could do without social contact if I chose not to prioritise it. To me, loneliness was a consequence of being too self-critical; of seeing a personal flaw where it wasn't necessary to do so.

    But personal experience at university taught me that social contact is a basic need, on a level below that of rational thought. I found that loneliness sits alongside hunger, thirst and tiredness as a very basic, almost physiological response to the environment. I assume it has something to do with brain chemistry.

    I have not been living alone during lockdown, so loneliness hasn't really struck. What I have found is a sense of lost independence.

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  6. Being alone is the best plan. You have nothing more to lose.

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