Jess Levine, Together service user, reflects on her experience of Covid-19 and life under lockdown

Jess Levine at easel

My background:

I live in Together’s Elva Court supported accommodation service in Bexhill. This placement has enabled me to build and broaden my life skills, build confidence and make friends. The placement was secured after leaving behind many chapters of admission to psychiatric hospitals, where I was treated for schizoaffective disorder and bipolar.

The impact of Covid-19 and lockdown:

My own mental health has faced many challenges whilst living under the fears of Covid-19, and the restrictions of lockdown have presented several specific hurdles.

My emotional wellbeing has been a delicate journey, and one dominant emotion throughout lockdown has been uncertainty. I work as an artist and art tutor, and was both unable to teach – within a mental health service and privately – and lost work exhibiting my own art in several galleries.

The consequences of this uncertainty were mostly financial – but also affected my confidence, self-esteem and resilience. The ability to find motivation, when the days and weeks have lacked structure, has been really tricky. In that sense, I have had to draw on my determined streak to try not to take knockbacks overly personally, and remember that they are actually as a direct impact of lockdown.

I think that by employing time to consider, reflect and evaluate, I have managed to adapt to the shifts and changes affecting us all, and have a deeper sense of the value of time. I have also enjoyed the sense of a global village, making new contacts in the art world and re-establishing old friendships through the internet.

I think that as a sufferer of depression I have maybe a heightened sense of the colour draining from the sky and life feeling foggy and grey. With this in mind, I think people can more easily enjoy the colour of life by accepting a different sense of time, and enjoying fresh air, flowers, healthy food and a compassionate routine – albeit one that may cause frustration.

During the last few months, I have relished making Elva Court’s communal terrace garden area peaceful and serene – with flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables all flourishing. To have an outlet and focus, particularly when the day may feel shapeless, has contributed to positive mental health.

In terms of other methods of self-care, this can take many forms. I think a person-centred approach is always preferable to generic advice to the public – like doing a series of crosswords quizzes and word searches, which I find a rather patronising response.

Personally, this chapter of lockdown has focused my attention on the many selfless and wonderful acts of humanity done every day by key workers. It’s also sharpened my sense of the value of life, and how fragile and sometimes vulnerable we all are.

I think there’s a sense of community within managing Covid-19 and the lockdown. People may have been physically isolated, but I truly believe there is warmth, connection and immediacy in safely sharing and being united. Unity makes sense and always overcomes labels, prejudice, hostility and fear.

From this chapter I think I appreciate time differently, and feel more of a sense of clarity in my goals for the future. I also value the need for diversity and balance to give life sparkle.

Find out more about our Elva Court Accommodation Service.

Discover Jess’s art on her website.

Read more about how we are supporting our service users during the Coronavirus pandemic.