An Honest Talk On Mental Health During Coronavirus

Updated: Mar 31

I tried to write this post at least 10 times now. I put down a couple of paragraphs and then cancelled them over and over again. In a time like this, it's difficult to put words together to make them make sense. I have never been so speechless, and this is scaring me. I don't want to alarm anyone or make it more tragic than what it is, but I think that the time has come for me to talk honestly about how I feel during this Coronavirus pandemic.

I suffered from a head injury at the end of February, and although I went multiple times to the hospital to find out what had happened and why my post-concussion syndrome was getting worse by the days, I was often ignored and even told that I was exaggerating my condition to get free consultations. To be clear: I wasn't. And adding to this, I started noticing troubles with my vision, which have been consistent since I hit my head. I had to decide what to do last week. After a peripheral vision test, it was determined that I might have neurological issues that arose from my injury, as I am unable to see clearly in certain parts of my field of view. I was told I needed a CT scan, but they couldn't tell me when they could perform this procedure, even though the developments of my condition were distressing. At this point, I knew what to do.

Italy was closing down every type of movement in and out of the Country. My mom and I booked a plane ticket to Pisa on Wednesday 11th. We packed everything we needed in a few hours and went to bed. In the morning, after we woke up, we received a message from the flight company. All flights to Italy had been cancelled. I can't describe what I felt at the moment, but we had to do something quickly. We decided that the best thing to do was to try and get as close as possible to Italy and then get back by another mean of transport. We booked a plane to Nice, and from there we travelled to Genoa through Ventimiglia, the town closer to the French border. It took us 18 hours to get home.

For those of you who are worried we might have done something wrong: you must understand it was necessary. It was a health emergency. We travelled with masks and sanitized our hands and faces multiple times during the journey, to protect ourselves and others in case we were infected. Italy is currently organizing rescue flights for people abroad, so we would have come home anyway. I only ask you to not judge our actions. We traveled from an area which was not infected at the time, to get to a country where the virus was already rampant. If anything, we put ourselves in a worse situation. In any case, if you're wondering, we are now following the Government's directives and we are not going anywhere.

I have always been an anxious person. I tend to get worked up about things and I play with thoughts in my head, sometimes too much. I think that this has helped me at times, especially when I had to make tough decisions in my life. My decision to come back to Italy has been one of those. I took this responsibility with a heavy heart, and sometimes I struggle with it. I know very well that this might mean I might not be able to go back to the UK when the Easter Holidays end. The University of Southampton decided to finish the spring term a week earlier, which talks a lot about the actual situation there. The UK Government is being weird about it and I'm still trying to understand what their strategy is to tackle this. In any case, my situation right now is still to be determined.

I spent the first 3 days of isolation catching up with all those things that I had to postpone during the university term and the worst part of my recovery. I finally recorded the Pilot of my podcast and managed to publish it in just an afternoon. I kept busy. On Sunday 15th it hit me. I started thinking about the consequences of my return. That I might not go back in time for exams. That I don't know if there will be any exams at all. That I was going to get my driver's license this year. I was going to learn how to sew dresses. What of the academic year? What if the virus in the UK keeps spreading until 2021 as UK Public Health predicted? What about my future?

I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and other related mental issues at the beginning of the year. It is partly due to abnormal electric waves in the temporal lobe in the brain, which in change affect my ability to process emotions. Most of the people in the world will get some form of anxiety at least once in their lifetime. However, my condition is physiological and can only be managed by taking a specific medicine that targets those brain waves.

I had to tell this story so many times now that I'm not even afraid to share it anymore. I know the stigma surrounding mental illness in general and I'm aware of the fact that some people, even those closest to me, might treat me differently after I acknowledge this publicly. I just want to assure you and them that this does not change whatever relationship we have. I bet that most of you have not even noticed that something was going on, and this is because my disorder only affects me internally. At most, I will cancel the plans we made. Don't be upset by this, it's just my way of telling you that I'm going through a crisis and I just need to recharge my emotional batteries.

Why am I sharing this right now? Because at times like this, when we are stuck inside and left alone with our thoughts, things can get ugly fast. And I think that people who are struggling as well can benefit by knowing that someone else is going through their same thought process. We cannot escape from our minds as much as we would if we could carry on with our lives. Our mind becomes louder and it gets harder to stop listening to what it's saying.

Even though I'm working on my blog posts, or recording for my podcast, or studying for my degree, I still feel that voice inside that tells me that, if something went wrong and my studies were compromised, it would be my fault. Sometimes, I hate myself for this. I hate that I can't stop thinking and my mind goes around the same issues over and over again. And I get angry because I can't control this and I don't know when it's going to end. Because I feel like those who should protect us are just turning their head the other way, not as much in Italy, but in the UK. The more I think about it, the more I panic about my future. I need to plan things, or I get even more anxious, but I can't, because I don't know what's going to happen. Do you see where I'm going with this?

I can't help it. My thoughts walk around in circles. And then they start running and spinning until I have to stop and try to mend what my anxiety has destroyed in the process. I guess that now you can understand why I love Giacomo Leopardi.

It's not easy to discuss this, especially as I know that some might look at me differently from now on. In any case, I wanted to be of comfort to those who are feeling the same. This is a difficult time if you're struggling with any mental health condition and knowing that they are not alone should be of help. I'm thinking about those who are living alone or could not go back to their families on time.

You might think that this situation is favouring us, but it's doing the complete opposite. I like to stay inside, but only if I decide to. I feel less able to create and express myself because I don't have external stimuli that keep me going. I like to take in the mode of action of people and their purpose so that I can produce. I observe and absorb their characteristics and get inspiration from them. It might be a difficult concept to grasp for those who are not writing, painting or doing anything that needs to draw out something from you. Also, it's a way to distract myself.

In the meantime, as I'm trying to focus on something else other than isolation and its consequences, I do what for me is therapy: I write. This is the tip I would like to give to anyone who finds themselves in the same situation: find an activity that relaxes you and takes your mind away from your problems. I'm refraining from activities that might trigger me. I will have to start studying again in a couple of days, but I'm concentrating on tasks that do not make me think of my fear of not being able to go back to the UK for a while. For a person who struggles to think of the positive things in life, I try not to think at least of the negative, which is indeed a step forward.

I want to send a huge hug to all of my friends out there. Just know that you're not alone in this and that, if we stay together, we can make it, even this time.

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