Jessica has personal experience of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She also cares for someone with an anxiety disorder and a functional neurological disorder who can’t leave the house alone and requires 24-hour care and support.
Here, Jessica shares her thoughts on what she has learned during the period of isolation, how she believes the easing of COVID-19 restrictions will affect her and what she hopes life in the future will look like.
What lessons from the period of lockdown do you personally hope to take into the future?
I’ve learned a lot about my resilience and my ability to figure out alternatives when things don't go as planned, or when the person I care for and I can't access the services we need. I’ve also learned new strategies for managing my mental health through online courses and online-based supports.
I’ve become more grateful too, which has helped teach me to be happier and less pessimistic about the future. I’m not as hard on myself when my plans get derailed by things out of my control, and I’ve learned to accept the things I can’t change.
What do you think the person you care for has learnt during this time?
They have learned to open up to new supports, because their usual ones are unavailable.
Together, we’ve realised that the key to managing their mental and physical health is establishing trust in different providers and professionals.
Finding the right treatment, for instance, involves a lot of trial and error, and if one provider isn't right for them it's not the end of the world. We just have to keep looking, trying new things and seeing different people.
How do you see the easing of COVID-19 restrictions changing your daily life?
I’m hoping the easing of restrictions will mean I can access more support in my role as a carer (outside of the house), and that the person I care for can receive more treatment. I’m also currently looking for a job and I hope it will be easier to find one when the restrictions ease.
My face-to-face volunteer work has been difficult to perform and I think eased restrictions will give me more opportunities in that sense. Getting back to it will benefit my mental health as I find volunteer work extremely rewarding, and it also provides a much-needed break from my role as a carer.
I’m also really looking forward to being able to do the things I enjoy again, like shopping, going to the cinema, and visiting my family and friends.
Lastly, fewer restrictions will mean I have shorter distances to travel to access certain services again which will be good, because not many are open in my area at the moment.
And in relation to your mental health?
With restrictions being wound back, the possibility of future outbreaks of the virus makes me anxious, particularly as some of my caring and volunteer work involves going to high-risk areas.
I’m also worried about the uncertainty regarding the economy and what kind of work will be available. I have fears that, as someone who was seeking employment before the pandemic, it will be hard to compete with people who’ve lost their jobs recently.
I’ve also heard universities may offer fewer places for postgraduate courses when applications open again. If this happens, it’s not great for me because my goal was to eventually do postgraduate study.
I do think there will be positive effects too though.
It’s been hard for me and the person I care for to stay at home for long periods, so I believe more freedom to move will have mental health benefits for both of us. Visiting our loved ones and accessing additional treatments – ones not available online or in the home – will be great.
Lastly, what do you hope the world will look like when we come through this uncertain and difficult period of time?
I hope we can all be kinder and more compassionate to one another.
I hope employers will be more accepting of flexible workplace arrangements, like allowing employees to work from home if they’re able to.
I also hope the economy won’t be impacted too much and that there’ll be more funding towards healthcare services, support and respite for carers, more mental health services, and that the online-based mental health sector can grow.