Covid-19 diaries: Navigating mental health provision

By Iulia • 7 September 2020

In this instalment of the Covid-19 Diaries we revisit Iulia, who shares with us how her life has changed over the past 4 months. In this follow-up blog Iulia shares her experience of navigating mental health provision during lockdown, being made redundant and her hopes for a future post-Covid.

The lockdown has had a huge impact on my finances, my family dynamics and consequently, on my mental health. When I wrote my first blog, I had just started working from home, just moved in with my mum for the duration of the lockdown and was just prematurely discharged from a mental health programme which was paused for a better distribution of NHS staff towards the pandemic needs. Today I am still with my mum, getting ready to move to a new town, start a new job and a master’s degree.

Being made redundant

When the government announced the schools were shutting down, I anticipated I would be working from home for two months at best or become unemployed at worst. I worked in International Higher Education and the sector was already seeing its first glimpses of what was to come when travel restrictions were put in place.

After two months of working from home I was put on furlough and after another two months my employer announced they would be reducing the team by a third. The process of redundancy was really stressful and quite lengthy. Like many other people facing redundancy in the middle of a pandemic, I found it hard to plan for the future as it was and still is unclear what will happen. Once I was announced my role was indeed deemed redundant, I started looking for a new job right away without a clear vision of what might happen next. I knew it was only a matter of time until there will be a massive spike in unemployment and I wanted to move as fast as possible. I spent a month applying for jobs in the same industry all over the UK without much success, but at the end of August I was finally offered a role in a similar position as my last one.

Managing my mental health

Working from home helped me keep a routine in place while getting used to my new situation. I took all measures possible to take charge of my mental health, I went on a daily one hour walk in a park to make sure I got some fresh air, I made a conscious decision to eat healthily, I took Vitamin D supplements and I started doing yoga 6 days a week. Work kept my mind busy and it gave me a reason to get out of bed every morning. I still struggled with low mood but I managed to keep afloat.

This all changed when I was furloughed and all of a sudden I had nothing to do. At first, I tried to keep myself busy with different hobbies, I tried painting, baking, I got more involved in my volunteering role, I started teaching Chinese twice a week and I made a point in contacting at least one friend a day. Nothing worked, so I called my doctor and I asked for medication since therapy was not available. I had been avoiding medication for years as I have a number of chronic diseases and the side effects of antidepressants are more likely to gravely affect me. This has been one of the hardest decisions of my life as I know I am gambling my physical health for my mental health but I felt like I had no other choice and I had to take a decision for short term wellbeing.

August has been particularly hard this year because not only I was made redundant and had to start looking for a new job but I also tried to the best of my abilities to support a teen mother of a 6 month old flee domestic violence.

Looking to the future

I am now two months into taking my medication and I am more able to cope with the consequences of the lockdown. I have been accepted in a part-time postgraduate programme at Birkbeck, starting October, I shall study a MSc in “Education, Power and Social Change”. My plan was to start this master’s degree in a few years time but the announcement that starting 2021 EU citizens will not be eligible for student loans really pushed me into applying this year. I am really keen to start and I hope it will push me forward in my career and enable me to make a real difference in the UK Higher Education. Sometimes, I am concerned that a new job, a new course and the ongoing pandemic might be a bit too much but I am also excited to have a new challenge. I am also very happy my friend and her baby are safe and I hope I will be able to support them for as long as they need.

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