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"Lockdown is tough, but so are you"

Flo Sharman is a website content creator, public speaker and an MQ Ambassador. She spoke to us about her experiences during lockdown as someone living with mental illness, as well as the coping strategies that are helping her during this time. 

I have suffered from mental illness since I was eight years old after having a mental breakdown. I was diagnosed with OCD, Panic Attacks, Depression and PTSD. For years we didn’t know what caused the breakdown. Twelve years on we discovered that all my mental illnesses stem from having lifesaving surgery at just four months old, spending a considerable part of my early life in and out of hospital and having traumatic experiences there. It took this long to find this out due to a lack of research in the early part of my mental health crisis. This just shows how important mental health research is, and why MQ’s work is invaluable - now more than ever.

Lockdown is challenging and tough time for us all. We are all in a situation we haven’t had to deal with before. One of the things I’ve found the hardest is not knowing when this whole situation is going to end. But I know it will end and we will come out of it stronger than ever before. Setbacks in your road to recovery are hard, but they also remind you that you’ve faced them before and you’ve come out the other side; so you can do it again. 

When lockdown started, my mental health was spiralling. My usual coping mechanism of going to the gym or the stables were taken away from me. I’m not going to lie, the first two weeks of lockdown were incredibly difficult.  I’m not saying by now that I have it nailed because I definitely haven’t, but I’m now taking each day as it comes and I know I will have good days and bad days. Lockdown has made me realise more than ever that it is vital we feel all our emotions. It’s completely fine, to feel your feelings, in fact, it is very important.

The key for me at the moment is controlling the things I can control and not worrying about the things I can’t control. I’ve also set myself a new normal daily routine and looking after my physical and mental wellbeing. 

Something that I find important is to exercise. I need to workout for me and my mind; not to work out to earn the right to eat my food. Fitness has been my saviour for many years. But at the start of lockdown, it became a complete obsession due to my OCD and anorexic thoughts. I thought if I wasn’t working out 5-6 times a day, I couldn’t eat and I wasn’t doing enough. These thoughts are still creeping in, but I’m getting stronger every day. Working out will always be my happy place, and it is an essential part of my day to day life. I won’t let lockdown change that. I’m so grateful to have the health and ability to train my body daily and get those endorphins flowing, and that will never change. I can’t wait to get back to the gym when this is over. But for now, I will cherish the HIIT, strength and yoga classes I’m doing from home.

My four tips for lockdown are:

  • keep moving
  • share your emotions
  • workout for you and nobody else; and
  • do something that makes you happy every day.

 My five personal lockdown daily non-negotiables are:

  • start the day with a yoga flow and ab circuit
  • long walk with no distractions
  • Facetime the ones I love
  • cook healthy meals and;
  • restrict myself to only two workout classes per day.

Remember: do what’s right for you and nobody else. 

Lockdown is tough, but so are you. Just getting through each day in lockdown is a great achievement. Never forget that. Never be ashamed of your mental illness; it is just as important as physical illness. That’s exactly why mental illness research is so important, now more than ever. Even in the tough times there are positives and happiness all around you just have to look a little deeper.  

Last updated: 27 May 2020

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