Nick Ray Morgan is a Mental Health Youth Worker and participation expert, as well as a mental health campaigner in his own right. He works tirelessly to bust the stigma around mental health in men. This Mental Health Awareness Week we spoke to Nick about relationships and how to overcome the challenges of living in lockdown with a partner.
When asked to write a blog around mental health and Covid-19, I honestly felt a bit stumped, I was struggling to find a nuanced point/direction to take, it seems like an obvious thing. But the more I wrote and thought about the great work Brook does, the more it fell into place.
So let’s get the basics out the way, I struggle with undiagnosed anxiety, low-mood, and my favourite, ‘low frustration tolerance’, which I like to simply call ‘the inability to control my anger chimp at all times’. All of which I take medication for and have seen numerous counsellors and therapists for over the years.
The anger chimp is the most familiar in my life, and I had many a bloody knuckle as a child and into my early adult life, from punching walls. This is due to the inability of knowing how to express my emotions, after all, I am a boy and as a child was told I couldn’t get upset and talk about my feelings, but that’s a whole other blog.
For now I want to focus on Covid 19, lockdown, my own mental health and stopping my girlfriend from leaving me(!). I am a passionate, highly functioning, high expectation-setting idiot (see, I’m already putting myself down).
The high expectations I set on myself massively impact my mental health, often to the point where I just suddenly crash, like a computer, and have to have a day of curling up in a ball and watching TV whilst eating pizza.
None of this has changed during lockdown and the pandemic, but what has changed is how much time my beautiful girlfriend (fiancé) now sees me at my worst, my very worst and my best.
Lockdown has not been easy on us, as I’m sure is the case with a lot of relationships. We are both very independent people and firm believers that we need our own space, projects and socials, so there have been quite a few difficult times for us (amongst the awesome!).
One thing that has helped my mental health and ensure our future together, has been our ‘separate time’ either in or outside the house (within covid19 restrictions obviously). Protecting our individual time for self-care has played a huge part.
We’ve been making sure we take time out for things like drawing, reading or online socials, and completely respecting each other’s space by not interrupting each other during this time (as if the other was actually out at a drawing class or something).
We’re also making sure we practice non-shouty communication (usually me not managing my anger chimp).
For me, I’m a big runner (on my good days) and I actually learnt this from my mother, because she loves it when my father goes out for a 3 hour bike ride, my girlfriend also loves it when I go out for a big 1-2 hour run, giving her actual physical space.
The reality is that this isn’t easy on any of us and I have been no means perfect in my self-care routine, but my main advice to anyone living in lockdown with a partner, is to give both yourself and them a break right now.
We may not realise it but these circumstances are messing with all our heads and we need to be kind to ourselves and to each other in order to help each other to manage it.
Happy mental health week!