Norman Walsh, 65, shares his experience of the coronavirus pandemic and the serious mental challenges of lockdown. Norman, from Bury, found a place of his own to live in last year after coming out of prison in 2015, and said his friends and poetry helped him pull through depression and loneliness.
“I’ve felt very isolated during the pandemic. I have a PlayStation here but you soon get bored of just being on that and I’ve found it really difficult. I was on the maximum dosage of anti-depressants between October and November last year and when I moved into my new place, they started to wean me off to the minimum dosage. When the pandemic came, I went off my trolley again.
“In September I contemplated suicide but luckily my friends got me through that. I don’t know how I survived doing what I did. One night, I took an overdose that would have been enough to kill three people but I woke up the next morning. I took that as a sign.
“My friends have been solid rocks for me. My partner, Stuart, and nephew, Stephen, are in the same bubble and we see each other two or three times a week. Stephen is a bit like a brother to me.
“I made my other friends during a short time as a chef at the Mustard Tree and through Manchester Street Poem. Street Poem is about creating awareness of marginalised people and offering them a chance to share their stories through art. It’s about letting you know that you might be in a low place now, but things are going to get better. We have meetings every week on Zoom and it always cheers me up to see everyone from there.
“I love creative writing and I’ve turned my hand to poetry and making a few stories but it’s all for my own benefit, really. Sharing worries in that way feels like you’re getting a weight off your shoulders and I’ve shared my story with so many people now and it really does make you feel better.
“September was the lowest point of my life, but I’m getting there slowly. I do feel really cheerful at the moment and I don’t feel like I miss my family as much as I normally do during the Christmas period. I always hope that my kids will come and visit me eventually. it’s been about nine years since I saw them. They could come and knock on my door right now and I’d welcome them with open arms. They’re my kids for God’s sake, but if they don’t come, they don’t come and I’m learning to live with it now.
“I think I’ve learnt that I’m more vulnerable than I thought I was. Being in prison and being on my own for those years taught me to deal with my own company. I felt like I had no control in prison, I had to be there. I’m a free man now and what I do is up to me, but the government are telling me to stay indoors.
“When I wasn’t free, I wasn’t bothered, but now that I am, I want to get out there. I’m back on to half dosage of the anti-depressants and I feel okay right now. I’m sleeping much better and my resilience has improved loads since September. I’m feeling very positive for the future.
If you are worried about your mental health, there are people available to help you:
If you need someone to talk to, you can call the Samaritans for free, any time, day or night on 116 123.
Shout 85258 is the UK’s first free, confidential, 24/7 text support service. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and need mental health support.
For more information on free programmes that suit your needs that can help to boost your mental wellbeing visit: https://www.gmhsc.org.uk/news/silvercloud/