Jenna Brown

Jenna Brown

Covid-19: Mental Health and a Lockdown

Mental health can be hard enough to grapple with on a regular day. Chuck in a global Covid-19 pandemic, a second lockdown and general uncertainty about what the hell is going on in the world, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

As I write this, Auckland is in week 4 of level 4, and the rest of NZ is now at alert level 2, which means we in Taranaki have a LOT more freedom, and I am grateful for that. This delta variant seems to be lagging around a little longer than the first round of covid.

I feel like this lockdown has been a lot more draining on the goodwill and “get it done” nature of kiwis; this lockdown seems to have knocked us all a bit too much; the team of 5 million is running out of chill. At least we weren’t so concerned about toilet paper this time; it was broccoli taking the top spot for the most sought after grocery item.

I was starting to feel like Covid was a distant memory for us here in NZ; things were still a catastrophic mess overseas, but for us, we were done with that and happily going about our regular lives, or so it seemed. I had no idea on Tuesday 17th August, we even suspected a new case until a friend sent me a message and told me to switch on the news, which I did, and Jacinda Ardern announced that we were going into level 4 lockdown that night. What the??

As it did last time, the first few days seemed a bit novel, could do with a break and all that, but then reality set in when week 2 rolled around. The reality of uncertainty and thoughts of “how long and how many times is this going to interrupt our lives”? come screaming in. I think that’s the worst part for me, the control freak in me likes to pretend to have a handle on my life, and random instant lockdowns were not in the plan.

I wanted to write a little bit about my feelings during an NZ COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The whole country changed. When you are at Level 4, it feels surreal, perpetually locked in your house until you are “allowed” out again, given the thumbs up at a post-cabinet press release and told what day you could go back outside to play. It’s like being grounded, but for adults, and thankfully you are still allowed wine.

I am not into being around loads of people, frequently, at the best of times, you can read more about my social anxiety here, but there is something super uncomfortable about having liberties removed in this way.

I understand the reasoning behind the health measures, but it doesn’t make the situation any more palatable. For someone who hates being told what to do, generally, it was never going to be an easy pill to swallow.

Homeschooling, for us over the COVID-19 lockdown, has been pretty smooth; my teen is at a wonderful school that is extremely supportive and great at communicating with us as parents and with students, too, which made the process a breeze. Other than dusting off an old laptop, it has really been painless; I could imagine this would be a lot more difficult for parents with younger children and families with multiple children at home; those parents definitely need a certificate from the principal after all of this.

We are fortunate that we have a safe, violence-free home, food on the table, and a business that can still run under these level changes; I am very aware that many are not in this position, and my heart goes out to them. I have heard that suicide attempt callouts for police have skyrocketed, and admissions to psychiatric teams show no signs of slowing. The mental health toll that this lockdown has taken on NZ is immeasurable.

Being a highly anxious person, I find the wider uncertainty very unnerving. I try to keep positive about the whole hell-ish situation, but some days I don’t feel “grateful” for it. When I drive around and see people masked everywhere, I feel like I am in some weird zombie apocalypse movie, like our humanity is fading away. Dramatic? Maybe but it’s just how I feel.

Wearing a mask makes me feel strangely self-conscious; it makes me feel like my personality is being stripped away. They say you communicate a huge amount with your eyes, but who knew so much communication was done just around the mouth and cheeks area? I find myself often smiling at people in shops and then remember no one can see my efforts … doh.

For me, one of the most destructive parts of COVID-19 is the divide it is causing amongst people around conspiracy theories (whether you believe they are or are not conspiracies), vaccinations, and lockdown measures. People are naturally fearful and naturally have differing views on the best way to handle such a situation.

This causes a lot of tension and seems to be forcing people to take sides. It makes me sad to see people I know tearing each other down online due to differences of opinion when it is time; we should be offering compassion and understanding of each other’s different views. Never in the history of ever have all humans agreed on a single source of action; it’s not going to start now, but is it worth creating more stress for one another?

If I am honest, I have no real useful information about the virus or its spreadability. If you are after that, you can find more info here. I don’t read the news, and I only watch the announcement highlights; I find it all too depressing and would rather focus my mind and time on more positive things; otherwise, I head down an anxiety rabbit hole that sees me useless to anyone. Some call this ignorant; some call it smart; I call it managing my mental health.

The conclusion I have made?

Well, Covid-19 is a really hectic pain in the butt. Way worse than hemorrhoids.

So in the spirit of creativity, I would like to sum up my final feelings with my first poem. If you are squeamish around profanity, do not read on. There is nothing pleasant about COVID-19 or my poem.

I am definitely up for feedback though, perhaps I have missed my literary calling.

You can Fuck off now Covid-19

Covid-19, you make me want to scream

I think you are grosser than a raw broad bean

Wearing a mask has become an unwanted task

I think you are a gigantic pain in the ass

Sometimes late at night, I think about you

When you run through my mind, it makes me want to spew

I hope you can tell by these words that you suck

From the team of 7 billion off, you should fuck

Take care – J

Disclaimer: The J Word NZ and its media content are created based on my own experiences and opinions, as well as those individuals who share their stories with me. I do not have any formal medical or mental health qualifications. If you are experiencing any issues with mental health, please consult your doctor or a medical health professional for advice.

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