The last few months have been really really tough for a lot of people in our community. But for EAC supporter Lumi Winterson, the pandemic has given her the freedom to explore activities that are great for her mental health and wellbeing.
Corona is a little like an earthquake fault line – our lives have been shifted and everything is not as it was. In true apocalyptic style, no longer are we able to go to the shops, hang out with friends, go out for dinner, go to the hairdressers, or even go to doctor’s appointments.
Whilst Corona has definitely put the scare into us, it has also given us an opportunity to grow within ourselves.
Yes things have changed, but some things remain the same.
We are learning how to be more open to others, and we do this by reaching out to friends and family.
I keep my regular psychology appointments via Zoom, I pick up my meds from the chemist and I do my grocery shopping keeping 1.5m distance from other shoppers.
NDIS weaves a web of support
I am an NDIS recipient and have been for the past few years.
I am an artist, a writer and jeweller.
Prior to Corona I was holding monthly stalls at the local markets. I make jewellery, embroidery and watercolour paintings. Before lockdown, my NDIS plan provided me a support worker to pick me up in the morning and stay with me at the markets and then drive me home afterwards. This was helpful because the only other help I have is my mother and she is getting old. I also get really anxious, and having a support worker there just for moral support means a lot.
Also prior to Corona, in an effort to keep fit and do more exercise, I had an NDIS support worker take me to the swimming pool once or twice a week, and I saw a Personal Trainer twice a week. As we meet at the park, this has been able to be continued even during the Corona pandemic.
My NDIS plan also pays for my psychologist who I have been able to keep seeing via Zoom. Rather than having one full hour session a week, we are now having two half hour sessions. This spreads out the support a little so that I feel more sustained and stronger within myself. The two half hour sessions is enough at this point because it just gives me someone to check in with about my mood and what I have been doing to look after myself during this time. I try to look after myself mentally by not putting too much stress on myself. I practise self-soothing by doing things like having a sauna with my mum, spraying myself with perfume, eating a little bit of chocolate when I want some, by participating in my hobbies, such as arts, craft and writing.
Before I started receiving help from NDIS, money was tight due to me being on the Disability Support Pension. My mum supported me financially. Not having financial independence took from me my sense of worth and purpose.
With the help of my NDIS support workers, I have been able to do things that I couldn’t do without them before, such as having the market stalls and keeping up with my psychology appointments. At one point, I was also seeing an Art Therapist, which too was funded by NDIS, however I stopped having art therapy because I felt like I was stable enough on my own. I already see my psychologist and my psychiatrist and I felt that that was enough therapy for me!
I am grateful for the help that I receive from the NDIS as it fosters my independence and allows me to participate in social situations more.
Restrictions won’t stop me
I know most people have struggled with the Corona isolations and restrictions, and when asked how I deal with difficulties, I had to think for a moment.
I have been staying with my Mum during isolation as she is elderly. I don’t want her going out unnecessarily and exposing herself to the virus.
Luckily for me, many of my interests lie within the home. I make jewellery in my craft room, I do watercolour painting in the dining room, I do embroidery and knitting in the lounge room and I write on my laptop.
I find myself handling my mental health quite well at this point in time. I think seeing my psychologist and psychiatrist so often helps, and being open about any problems I find myself facing. The medications I am on seem to be keeping me somewhat stable, and as long as I keep any stress down to a minimum, I haven’t been having any of my psychotic symptoms. Being able to work on my hobbies helps a lot.
Usually when I am not housebound, I find myself feeling guilty that I am spending time on these interests which I feel are typically not considered productive by a lot of people. So it has been wonderful however to have the time and freedom to do whatever creative thing I want to do, and to find myself creating masterpieces.
Angel in the Mirror
As it’s not been possible to go to the markets, I have been selling my art and crafts online.
I have also written a book which I am trying to get self-published called Angel in the Mirror: Road to Recovery. It tells about my life with schizophrenia and aims to educate the reader about mental illness as well as to give hope that it is possible to have a fulfilling and worthwhile life.
I first started writing it as a form of therapy. Due to my illness and numerous ECT treatments over the years, my memory has been severely compromised. I had been writing journals since I was 12 years old, so I decided to go through them all and rewrite it all in logical order. I found that my life made quite an interesting story, and I realised that I could help others in similar situations.
I had my first book published in 2016 called Girl in the Mirror, but since then I have been working with a mentor from the NSW Writer’s Centre to edit and rework the book. It is now a lot more comprehensive and informative. I have created a mailing list to keep people in the loop and I have just finished my Kickstarter campaign which raised over $4,000 to help me get it published. The next step is to wait to hear back from the publishers who are doing content evaluation on the manuscript.
This is an exciting time for me, and I can’t wait to hold the book in my hands. I hope that it turns out to be all that I have dreamed of.
Corona won’t stop us
Although life has changed in the last few months, we are surviving as only human beings can.
We have technology to keep us in touch with others, we have home delivery on almost everything you might want, we have ways to entertain ourselves such as Netflix, reading, listening to and making music – but most importantly we still have our humanity to care for others.
I have been using my blog to try and reach people who are vulnerable right now, it’s something little I can do with my time. I check in on my friends daily, and help them in any way that I can.
I continue to take time to look after myself these days. Simple everyday things like having a shower, getting dressed, taking my meds, keeping up my sleep hygiene and looking after my pets, all go towards making my life meaningful. Part of looking after myself includes focusing on my writing and my artwork.
If I could give my younger self some advice on the matter, it might be something along the lines of,
“You don’t need to be like everybody else, you are beautifully imperfect just the way you are. Your legacy will be the stories you leave behind you. Don’t lose hope.”
If you could benefit from some support for you mental health at the moment – please reach out to one of the services listed on the mental health supports on our NDIS and Coronavirus resources page.