Where were you when everything changed? What were you doing when the announcement that life as we knew it was over? Who were you with when you found out you could no longer spend time with colleagues or even your loved ones? Due to it surpassing a whole year since the first lockdown was implemented, I feel it is apt to discuss the lockdowns and how they have affected myself and those around me.
To me, each lockdown has felt different. Each lockdown has strangled us with new struggles and challenges. But, each lockdown has also presented us with new lessons. This is NOT a post preaching about how we should “use this time to better ourselves”. This is an honest account of how I have personally “coped” (or at times, conceded…) with our current series of unfortunate events. This is a mere window into the aspects I have specifically struggled with the most, the people and methods that have helped support me through the obstacles and the ways in which I feel the lockdowns have hit us differently. I will never patronisingly or ignorantly claim that “we’re all in the same boat”. More accurately, some are on a luxurious cruise whilst others are in a damaged rowing boat, frantically tipping water back into the ocean with buckets designed to build sandcastles.
Now, consider where we are today. In a similar position? Perhaps. But look at how we’ve adapted. Working from home, virtual quiz nights, video parties and catch-ups with loved ones, socially distanced walks in the park… It bloody sucks, doesn’t it? BUT, in saying that, it’s amazing how quickly businesses evolved and people adapted – we’ve even got my grandparents using Zoom and they’re in their late 80s!
Over the past year, I’ve begun to realise that it’s not always possible to be a pillar. It’s not always possible to be the spare chair in the corner that everyone dumps their coats on after a long, hard day. I’ve begun to realise that this isn’t selfish. It’s self-preservation. Self-preservation is crucial for our own mental well-being, and overall health – how do you plan to be a support network for anyone if you yourself are in a bad headspace or are teetering at the cliff-edge of sheer exhaustion?
Living through a global pandemic with our ‘normal’ freedoms being so severely restricted and controlled for such an extensive period of time is new to just about everyone. I will not deny that there are tragically some people who do live with terrible oppression for a variety of reasons, and these times are likely to have been even more isolating and traumatic for those individuals. However, the vast majority of us will have had an unimaginable amount of adapting to do – literally overnight. For any person, change can be unsettling – it’s human nature, a lot of us are suckers for routine. However, when you stir in more ingredients such as home-schooling, loneliness, lack of social interaction, financial worries and the fear of a new virus – which has such a wide range of effects from literally no symptoms to severe suffering and even death – it’s hardly a mystery as to why so many of us have hit saturation at some point. There is simply no capacity left for more ingredients in this stress stew.
Personally, I think social media has often focused on showing us all of the “positives” (sorry(ish) for the poor-tasted pun!) to come out of lockdown or pushing all of the ways in which you can “transform” your life. I have no issue with this in that, if people have the time and means to do so, then that’s excellent. It really is great if this period can be used to pursue our passions or work to improve ourselves. Personally, I’ve found focusing on my own health and fitness over lockdowns two and three has drastically improved my mental health too. However, I don’t believe there is enough focus on supporting those who may also have goals they wish they could fulfil right now but can’t due to the dangers of the pandemic or the lockdown restrictions.
Whilst some have had an overwhelming abundance of free time, others were extremely overworked or are struggling financially and do not have the means to support a new hobby. Some are isolated at home with their children with no reprieve (shoutout to all the parents and guardians – especially the heroes who are raising their little monsters alone – I am genuinely in awe!). Vast numbers have suddenly become unemployed or are furloughed and struggling to afford their basic living costs. Meanwhile, innumerable businesses – old and new – that have been built from the ground up are barely keeping their hairlines above water, never mind their heads. Some are grieving the loss of loved ones – many of whom won’t have been able to hold their hand as their final sparks burned out. And some are being choked by their own minds as they struggle in a battle with their mental health.
As appropriately depicted above by my handsome cat, Oscar (yes, he’s absolutely living his best life), lockdown has looked very different for everyone. Or, some may have experienced a cocktail of both. At the end of the day, no two experiences can be accurately compared side-by-side. It’s just unrealistic and unfair to do so – especially to those of the celebrities and influencers you admire. However, I know how difficult this is in practice. I, myself, and others close to me, have all coped differently, thrived at different times, fallen apart at others, scooped each other up (virtually or from 2 metres away, of course) and supported one another as best as we could’ve. One common theme I have noticed amongst myself and some of my nearest and dearest is that we feel guilty. We feel guilty whenever we are having a tough time or struggling to hit whatever curveball life has bowled in our direction. The guilt stems from the knowledge that we are in very “fortunate” positions in comparison to many others across the country. The lesson I am learning is that although things could be a lot worse, we are ALL entitled to our emotions, feelings and “bad” days. Your feelings are valid. My feelings are valid. It feels selfish to acknowdledge this to begin with, but accepting that you’re not always going to be on top of your game is a big step to actually conquering the mission.
Those who aren’t “thriving” in our newfound way of life may be using all of their might just to get out of bed and complete some ‘everyday’ tasks. I bet most of us have had days where even getting out of bed feels like partaking in an episode of ‘Ninja Warrior’. I’ve certainly had my fair share of days where I chucked together some scrambled egg and toast for dinner because I didn’t have enough mental fuel in my tank to trek the five minutes to the local supermarket and face people. I want to emphasise that feeling this way sometimes is completely normal. As much as many influencers like to portray on Instagram that life is full of flowers, cute outfits, free hand-crafted cupcakes with their name on and over-priced pink fluffy slippers, it’s simply not true for anyone. Every being is allowed to have their ‘dark’ days. In fact, it’s necessary so we can identify and treasure the brighter ones.
The problem falls when the number of days being suffocated by the gloom start to outnumber the sunny ones, or worse, when the negative fog starts to block out the light in your life completely. If you feel this is the case, please, I urge you to reach out and ask for help. Contact a family member, a friend or even one of the many free services available.
I think it’s important to recognise that showing up, doing your best on any given day is an achievement. Our energy levels, time availability and even just our mental capacity to process or cope with tasks and stress fluctuate from day to day and moreover, everyone’s circumstances are different. Therefore, making comparisons is basically redundant and rarely makes you feel good. Trust me, as a chronic over-analyser who has been her own life-long harshest critic, comparing my own progress or achievements (or often in my eyes, the lack thereof) to stars’ shiny Instagram posts generally leaves me feeling rather defeated and miserable about myself. I think it’s even harder to avoid nowadays since I have more free time with less options to fill it, and with that, my mindless scrolling and self-trolling increases.
For a lot of people, wading through the quicksand of lockdown-whatever and clambering out the other side IS the achievement. You may not have gained a ‘6-pack’, run 10km in 45 minutes, learned to crochet or bake a 5-tier cake complete with Disney characters and a gravity-defying packet of Minstrels on top to broadcast on your social media for a tonne of ‘likes’; but these ‘likes’ do not validate your strength, bravery or success. They do not prove all of the hardships and challenges you have overcome behind the curtains. You deserve to be proud of surviving the viral war-zone that was 2020 and the epilogue of 2021 (yes, I’m being naively optimistic that 2021 won’t be a full-blown sequel!).
As lockdown has taken over such a significant period of our lives, I feel one post is not quite long enough to fully discuss my views of life in lockdown. Therefore, I intend to post a second part soon where I will discuss my own personal struggles and a few ‘wins’ in case anyone can relate. For me, I always feel somewhat reassured knowing someone else out there has shared my feelings or experienced something similar. It helps me to pry myself out of the “why me” pity-party and also to accept that sometimes, life doesn’t go according to plan for others too, not just me. I’d also like to elaborate on a few things that have helped me through the dark days in the hope that maybe they could help someone else.
For now, take care and stay safe everyone.
Sending positive vibes and hope that we’ll have more freedom again soon.