2020: Locking Down My mental Health

Covid-19, Josie Quinn, Mental Health

A ‘Chronically Fabulous’ post by Josie Quinn

Addiction is sneaky like that; it reminds you of the brief rush you felt, not the days and weeks of regret and shame after, and definitely not the years of help and work it took to get to a stage where it finally felt under control. More than anything, that moment of temptation scared me and made me realise just how far I could backslide if I were to give up.

I remember saying, on New Year’s Eve last year, something along the lines of “2020 is going to be my year!” (Finished laughing yet?! Good). Having spent the last several years putting in a lot of work towards improving my mental health, I was determined to keep making progress. I was volunteering at an animal shelter whenever able, had joined a regular D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) game group in town, and was even cast as the Cheshire Cat in a local theatre company production. So all in all I was feeling pretty good about things for the first month or so of the year. Then March arrived.

the new york times newspaper

When lockdown first started, I’ll be the first to admit I did not cope well! My depression and anxiety seemed to be vying for my attention at all times, locked in a battle which left me constantly bouncing between two states: either I stayed in bed for days at a time, listless and crying, or I was in a state of absolute panic, terrified that the isolation was going to undo years of therapy and hard work.

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Not long into the pandemic, I caught myself, after a decade of not giving in to the urge to self-harm, looking at one of the knives in the kitchen and hearing that little voice once more, telling me how much better I would feel afterwards. Addiction is sneaky like that; it reminds you of the brief rush you felt, not the days and weeks of regret and shame after, and definitely not the years of help and work it took to get to a stage where it finally felt under control. More than anything, that moment of temptation scared me and made me realise just how far I could backslide if I were to give up. I needed to find ways to feel connected (and, subsequently, sane), and it turns out that my fear of regressing was exactly the fuel I needed to motivate myself to do just that.

Despite having been a member of a number of online groups for some time, with the exception of ‘liking’ the occasional post, and having attended precisely one Book Group meet-up, I had never been particularly active in any of them. The first thing I needed to do was narrow these groups down a little, in essence creating a shortlist of those which (A) didn’t have an overwhelming number of members, (B) seemed more friendly/welcoming than argumentative, and (C) where I had something in common with everyone in the group, be they LGBTQ+, cosplay enthusiasts or tabletop gamers.

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Next was practically forcing myself to start commenting on other people’s posts; even if that meant setting myself reminder alarms to do so, or drafting and rewriting the comment multiple times until I felt comfortable enough to submit it. Admittedly, there were days where my anxiety would get the better of me, and I’d rewrite a comment ten or twenty times, then delete it completely, feeling like an utter failure. But on those days where I did manage to engage with other people, it began to feel like I was really on the right track.

“A small step forward is better than any in the wrong direction.”

Beginning to join actual online events and video chats was a little more daunting. In pre-covid times I’d managed to attend one meeting of a local LGBTQ+ Book Group, so when I saw that they were still meeting via Zoom it seemed the perfect place to start, and hopefully build from. Though incredibly anxious in the build-up to the first group video call, once it started I soon began to feel much calmer, and afterwards was so happy that I hadn’t talked myself out of attending.

macbook pro displaying group of people

Ever since that first online meeting, things have just snowballed in the best possible way. Not only am I still attending the (now bi-monthly, and slightly expanded) Book, Film & Music Group, but also regular online D&D and board game nights; recently I’ve even helped set up a new group and have hosted some of our online game nights.

Somehow I have made more friends in the last six months than in the previous six years, and my diary is fuller now than it was before lockdown and social distancing began.

So maybe 2020 isn’t going to be the year of glowing progress I hoped it would, and that’s okay. In all honesty, I’m a little proud that I managed to make any headway whatsoever considering all that has happened in the world this year; a small step forward is better than any in the wrong direction.

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

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Surviving Abuse: Finding My Strength in Breaking My Silence

Josie Quinn, Mental Health, Surviving Abuse

A ‘Chronically Fabulous’ Post

By Josie Quinn

Content Warning: Domestic abuse, sexual assault

The more I spoke to people about it, the more I realised just how prevalent domestic abuse is in the UK. Most of the people I spoke to had some personal experience of violence, abuse or sexual assault in a previous relationship. According to the ONS, nearly 1 in 3 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

My experiences of domestic abuse and sexual violence are something I never thought I would write about; for a long time it was something I didn’t think I would even speak about. After all, I was away from my abusive ex-partner (whom I will refer to simply as he/him from this point on for anonymity), so shouldn’t everything feel okay again now? Then, after a few years of denial, and probably one too many cocktails, I spilled the whole sordid story to a close friend. I’d been afraid that no-one would understand, that I would be judged for staying in such a toxic environment for such a long time, but she empathised completely, even sharing her own experiences of domestic abuse with me. Our conversation lasted for hours, and wasn’t the awful, shameful confession I’d been dreading; instead it felt like a catharsis. Suddenly, I was not alone.

The more I spoke to people about it, the more I realised just how prevalent domestic abuse is in the UK. Most of the people I spoke to had some personal experience of violence, abuse or sexual assault in a previous relationship. According to the ONS, nearly 1 in 3 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

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Many years after the end of the abusive relationship, I was still suffering from flashbacks and night terrors, as well as having panic attacks when I saw anyone who resembled my ex-partner. When I finally spoke to a mental health professional about everything, and they told me I was suffering from PTSD, I nearly laughed! “Surely PTSD is only for serious trauma, like people who have served in the military or been violently attacked?” But when they broke it all down for me, the last fog of denial finally lifted: just because the sexual assaults happened within a relationship did not make them any less traumatic, nor any less a violation of consent. This was not something I would be able to just push through without help.

Suffolk Wellbeing were able to provide me with a course of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing) and, being the science nerd that I am, I thoroughly researched the treatment first! As well as finding it fascinating, I also found it helped my understanding of PTSD. Basically sometimes, when trauma is experienced, the brain is unable to process this information properly into long-term memory. This means that when something triggers a memory of the traumatic incident, the brain responds as if it were happening now, rather than in the past. EMDR uses rapid eye movement to try to assist the brain in processing the trauma into long-term memory, emulating REM sleep where this would usually occur naturally.

Following on from that, I was enrolled in the Freedom Programme, a 12-week course for survivors of domestic abuse, which is run by Lighthouse Women’s Aid (a fantastic charity, and brilliant resource for people who are either currently in a domestic abuse situation or who have left but are still feeling affected). It taught me all the different, subtle ways in which an abusive partner exerts control, how they can make us feel like we are going insane, or that we have no choice but to stay with them. The programme also allowed me to speak openly with other survivors, and to realise that there is no weakness in not being able to cope alone, in needing help. 

At the time, I had somehow managed to convince myself it wasn’t really happening. After I finally left, I was disgusted with myself, ashamed that I had stayed so long, allowed these things to happen. Now I’m just angry; he manipulated me, gas-lighted me, controlled me. And the words I still can’t say aloud, even after a decade: he raped me and sexually assaulted me. I’ve been told by my current counsellor that my anger is a step in the right direction, as I’m now finally putting the blame where it belongs.


So I know I have a way left to go before I reach a stage of acceptance. Even saying or hearing the word ‘rape’ still makes me feel nauseous. But thanks to a lot of work, EMDR treatment, and the support of Lighthouse Women’s Aid, as well as my family and friends, I can finally say these words aloud: “I am not a victim; I am a survivor. And it was not my fault.” Perhaps most importantly, I now actually believe them.

Lighthouse Women’s Aid provides advice & support for women in Suffolk who are experiencing, or have experienced, domestic abuse: www.lighthousewa.org.uk or call (01473) 228270

24hr Freephone National Domestic Abuse helpline: 0808 2000 247

National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline 0800 999 5428

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

Read all of Josie’s Chronically Fabulous posts

Read more blogs by incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us

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2020: Locking Down My mental Health

By Josie Quinn: “Addiction is sneaky like that; it reminds you of the brief rush you felt, not the days and weeks of regret and shame after, and definitely not the years of help and work it took to get to a stage where it finally felt under control.”

Chronically Fabulous: Coming Out All Over Again

Bi-sexuality, Disability, Josie Quinn

By Josie Quinn

I was a proud, confident, bisexual woman, with every future stage of my life and career meticulously planned. At that time I had no idea that a few years later I would have to come out all over again, as someone with disabilities.

In my early twenties I thought I was done with coming out: the long, awkward heart-to-hearts, the well-meaning friends who wanted to be supportive but weren’t quite sure what to say, the comebacks prepared and my skin thickened ready for the ignorant remarks and judging looks of strangers. I was a proud, confident, bisexual woman, with every future stage of my life and career meticulously planned. At that time I had no idea that a few years later I would have to come out all over again, as someone with disabilities.

Before I turned 30 I had moved back in with my parents, after Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as well as the associated pain and medications, brought my legal career to a halt. Due to worsening mobility and pain, I had also started having to use a walking stick or wheelchair at all times, and although these helped me get around, they also effectively outed me to the world as a disabled woman.

Anyone who saw me could also now see that there was something “wrong” with me, and although in general people try to be kind/helpful, I have lost count of times I have been asked, by total strangers: “What’s wrong with you then?” or “So what did you do to yourself?” or similar questions. People would talk to the person pushing my chair rather than to me, lean on the back of my wheelchair, and even push me out of their way without speaking to me at all!

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At first I thought the best way forward was to simply appear as able-bodied as possible; I tried to avoid taking my wheelchair places, and would force myself to walk with my cane despite excruciating pain. Eventually I nearly stopped going out altogether, and I remember how depressed I felt at the time, believing that my disabilities were stopping me from doing so much.

It took a few years, some hard work, and a fantastic support group to bring about the now obvious epiphany: it wasn’t my disabilities stopping me, it was just my anxiety about how the world views my disabilities.

So now I wear wristbands proclaiming Chronically Ill & Chronically Fabulous, and am so thankful for my wheelchair, which gives me the freedom to still go out and have fun. I’ve used my wheelchair on the dancefloor, I’ve even used it to see Pompeii! And most importantly, I now speak up when someone thinks it’s okay to treat a wheelchair-user like a piece of furniture!

Check out art to ease the mind by Nicola Copsey

Because I realised that my disabilities are just like my sexuality: I didn’t choose them, but I can choose to be proud of them.

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

Read all of Josie’s Chronically Fabulous posts

Read more blogs by incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us.


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