MHAW2020: Peer Support and Volunteer Coordinator Jo Francis on Covid-19 and lockdown

Next up for our features for Mental Health Awareness Week, Jo Francis who is a Peer Support and Volunteer Coordinator at Together’s Swale Your Way service shares her lived experience of Covid-19 and lock down. Jo provides an honest and open account of the emotional impact the pandemic has had as well as new coping strategies she has developed. Thank you to Jo for sharing the experiences which we’re sure will resonate with a lot of people and prove heartening for anyone who has felt the same way:

For someone who couldn’t bear to be indoors and struggled to be at home even for a day. Someone with ‘’irrational’’ fears for her children. Someone who overthinks and ‘over feels’. Someone in nearly constant fight, flight, freeze and who’s daily routine seemed to be the only thing that kept her going.

For someone like me experiencing all that the onset of Covid 19 raised seemingly insurmountable challenges. With so much uncertainty my chanting thoughts exploded.

Continuous tuning into news updates seemed to provide evidence that my thoughts were right. It was just a matter of time before the worst happened and with my eldest, so far away at uni, I couldn’t be there for her. At the worst possible time I had let her down. I felt I couldn’t protect either of my children from this invisible terror and my thoughts ran riot. I didn’t know how on earth we would be able to get through this nightmare, as individuals or nations. It all seemed too big, too terrifying, too much unknown.

Two months in and the whole situation still seems so surreal to me. But, my little bubble has become my safe zone. Somewhere I want to be, rather than escape from.

I still struggle with fear for my children, but it’s become more manageable. I still find not being with people extremely difficult. And, I still have times where I feel panic of the unknown and dread of what will be.

On the flip side though, I’ve found relief in things that other people enjoy, but I could never understand why. I’ve tuned out from the news and instead tuned into my closer world. I have planted flowers and I love seeing them grow! I never would have thought I’d find joy in watering plants!

I have learned to take walks alone, something I wouldn’t have done before. I still have my demons around this and sometimes I’m unable to, but I don’t beat myself up (as often) when things don’t go as  planned. I’ve realised that although I’ve been through some horrendous times, I have many blessings to count and I try to refocus my attention to these.

I feel so lucky to continue working with such an amazing group of people including colleagues, peer supporters, volunteers and service users. I’m inspired daily by their kindness, care and strength. My manager has kept me going on more than one occasion and for that I’m truly grateful. My friends and family are still here, helping me smile and being there for me, if I’m struggling.

I can’t say I don’t have those doubting thoughts and fears anymore, because I definitely do.

My emotions are a rollercoaster, but over time, I do feel now we can get through this, Together.