“I wish I could tell the scriptwriter they’ve gone too far”: life in a time of Covid-19

Gary Coyle

Nobody to be outside. Freedom on pause. Blue skies with occasional clouds, which I hope have a silver lining. Sunshine on the streets but an uncomfortable empty stillness. Fear escalating and anger rising. I’m sure there isn’t a single person who hasn’t been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Newspapers state that domestic violence reports have escalated since lockdown, with nowhere for the victims to escape to. In one article, I read about how a woman said she felt safer living on the streets than she did at home. But the streets are not an option now. Violence in the family home can have a devastating effect on children and adults who are exposed to it. It can cause severe psychological disturbance leading to significant and long-term mental health issues. I know this first-hand. In fact, I can still hear the thumps of male fists alongside the screams and cries of my mother, upon whom my survival depended. It’s trapped deep inside my memory.

I have been on strong antipsychotic medication for ‘schizophrenia’ for over twenty years. But for the past six months, after a hard-fought battle with my consultant, I have been gradually reducing my antipsychotics. I intended to be drug-free by the end of July. However, due to the possibility of relapse I have put my drug reduction on hold until this lockdown chaos has settled. I felt it would be selfish to risk relapse when the NHS is so overworked and short staffed. I had a phone consultation with my psychiatrist last week, instead of the scheduled face to face meeting. It felt strange – distant and impersonal. I wonder how others are coping with changes to how they normally seek or receive help.

Paranoia was one of my original symptoms and now it appears there is mass paranoia. Nobody knows whether they have coronavirus, who else has it, or whether they are being infected or infecting others. It seems we are both the cast and the audience in this sci-fi movie. I wish I could pick up the remote control and make it stop, or tell the scriptwriter they’ve gone too far.

This lockdown period has also reminded me of when I first became unwell and quit my job. I had so much unstructured time on my hands. I sat alone dwelling on the past, trying to work out a way to make it better. I wanted to make sense of the trauma and pain from childhood. I wonder how many people are doing similar things now that they are trapped at home without the distraction of their employment and social life. On top of this, there’s the insecurity of not knowing if you or I will still have a job when/ if the coronavirus pandemic ends.

The sky has been so unusually blue for much of this period. I can’t help but wonder, is nature kicking back at mankind? We have been abusing our planet and its resources for so long, as well as mistreating our fellow human beings. Now, everyone is getting a taste of not knowing if the next piece of food will be coming.

Thankfully, however, there does seem to be a silver lining. Many people are coming together because of this shared threat to our survival. It’s just sad that it takes a tragedy to bring out the best in some of us.

Gary Coyle is a survivor researcher at the McPin Foundation

If you need help or support with your mental health, or are worried about somebody else, there are a number of organisations listed here that may be able to assist you. There are also links to information about staying well during Covid-19 on this page.