Lockdown Life (Part II)

Personally, I think Lockdown 1 was the toughest for me. I was on holiday from work and en-route to meet a colleague for a drink in the city centre that evening when I received a text from my boss advising we were working from home as of the following day. Within a handful of days, our whole nation was stripped of its’ freedom and cattle-prodded into the first ever full lockdown. Too afraid to leave our homes. Adjusting to the loss of routine and the heart-breaking separation from those we love. Some, like myself, were drowning in an uproar of work while figuring out the ‘working from home’ fiasco. Meanwhile, others were frantically scrambling for every penny they could find to ensure they could feed their children, unsure of when they’d be able to work again or if they’d receive financial aid, as well as the rapid decline of our country’s economy. Most devastatingly of all, some were losing their lives; some were losing loved ones, both to Coronavirus and to other conditions whilst being unable to hold their hand at the end. Our key workers risked their own health and safety to attempt to treat the seriously ill and continue with our essential services. Also, hats off to those dealing with the lockdown loons who hoarded enough ‘essential items’ to open their own mini-mart! I thought working in a gadget shop on ‘Black Friday” was brutal enough… I’d choose folk fighting over RC drones over denying Sharon the three 24-packs of loo rolls any day! (I think I’d have found it hard to resist asking if she planned on eating nothing but laxatives for the next three months…).

On top of feeling immediately overwhelmed at the prospect of having no access to a gym (which, for me, has been my outlet to relieve stress and always gives me a mental boost), being unable to see my close family, my best friends or my (now ex) boyfriend, and being completely confined to my shared flat where I had grown accustomed to spending quite little time, my anxiety enjoyed a ‘blast off’ whilst my motivation and desire to do anything ‘productive’ simultaneously dive-bombed. Did anyone else react this way? Was anyone else over-ridden with fear of the unknown, fear of everything changing so instantly and the prospect of our loved ones or ourselves getting ill with the new mystery virus?

Some days I sat in front of my laptop staring absently at the screen, the walls, the rug or my phone, my mind completely in overdrive. Sometimes I sat vacantly, numb, unable to process our new reality. Just not knowing what to do or how to feel. At times, tears tarnished my cheeks and sprinkled my notebook for apparently no reason. My eyes were just spontaneously leaking, my mental distress escaping down my face of it’s own free will (something we no longer had). I tried to conceal it from my flatmate, because, let’s face it, I was embarrassed and trying to deny that I was an emotional disaster. No one likes to admit they are struggling, let alone attempting to explain why they’re crying at random – especially there’s no specific trigger and they don’t understand it themselves. To admit you’re having problems clearing your plate takes a lot of courage and often feels like you’re admitting defeat. You’re not. You’re actually taking the first step to regaining control and the first leap towards winning the battle.

Throw in the sudden realisation that I was miserable in the relationship I was in at the time, it’s unsurprising that I was quickly overwhelmed. I felt powerless. I felt obliged to ‘cope’. In fact, I felt guilty for not being ‘strong’. Upon reflection now, I suppose I had considered myself to be ‘strong’ and ‘independent’, yet I felt like more of my stitches were being yanked out as each new day arrived. That realisation alone was a tough pill to swallow. In all honesty, I was terrified at how rapidly and deeply my mental health seemed to have swan-dived. I was lost in the woods, unsure of which direction would lead me back to the path to “normality”.

 Again, analysing my situation now from a much clearer and more knowledgeable standpoint, I believe one of the main roots of my flourishing anxiety was due to being unhappy in my relationship. I had been on the bus to denial-ville for a while, and due to being unable to see him in person, I was intent to stick out the journey; determined I would eventually feel better about things once I had adjusted to the “new” way of life. ‘It would all be “fine” once I had a clearer head.’ As ridiculous as this now seems, I still agree with my rationale at the time – it would’ve been unwise to make any big decisions while there were so many other variables at play, tugging on my other strings. Waiting to see how things were between us in person seemed like the fairest thing to do – especially for him. I’d like to explore this subject on another level in a specific post, so I’ll leave it there for now. However, it did deeply affect my ability to adjust and deal with the obstacles in lockdown 1 – and I anticipate that many others across the country were thrown into unforeseen and perhaps awkward situations in their relationships once the lockdown was announced. The relationships which have survived or even blossomed throughout the past year are definitely special and should be celebrated!

One of the ways I tried to cope was by meeting my parents for socially distanced walks in our local countryside and golf course. As nice as this was in the grand scheme of the seemingly apocalyptic situation, the walks weren’t enough. The desperate loneliness tightened it’s grip on me day by day. I soon stopped working out at home due to the lack of structure and enjoyment – bodyweight exercises weren’t fulfilling as I’d thrived on increasing my strength with weights – and my diet started to resemble that of a 13-year-old at a sleepover – takeaways, crisps, cakes and chocolates by the dozen. Funnily enough, the binge-eating and lack of exercise made me feel worse, and I was just plunging deeper into my pool of self-pity.

Other prominent happenings from Lockdown 1 include the jigsaw puzzles phase (my favourite was a 500-piece Harry Potter one, because duh, it’s Harry Potter). Many redecorated their entire houses, re-vamped their gardens and some even built their own home ‘bar’ or ‘pub’. This was also the period of the infamous ‘Tiger King’ docu-series on Netflix, which I’m sure many of us watched out of sheer shock-horror, unable to peel our eyes away from the guy losing his arm from being mauled by a tiger, Joe Exotic’s eye-watering outfits, Carole Baskin (that bitch!) practically suggesting she fed her ex-husband to her tigers and parading around walking her current hubby on a lead, and one of Joe Exotic’s two husbands fatally shooting himself in the head. (Note: for those who somehow evaded it – yes, you read that sentence correctly – I wish my imagination could run to such wild planes). It was also the phase of no toilet roll or fresh meat; 90% of the population became skilled at baking banana bread and virtual quizzes which were basically the new weekends at the pub and the ‘social’ excuse people needed to binge-drink.

After several weeks of only seeing my parents for walks in the local countryside, I decided to move in with them for a few weeks. I actually had more space and time to myself than at my flat as my family were all still going out to work and I had the added bonus of the garden to enjoy the early summer we’d been graced with. I had initially been imprisoned in my garden-less flat working from my laptop, whilst the furloughed population were enjoying daily barbeques, day-drinking and paddling pools in Costa-Del-Glasgow. As grateful as I was to be working and earning my full wage, a part of me was a little green that I was missing out on such glorious weather and unprecedented yet precious quality time with loved ones. I was lucky enough to experience more of the ‘good’ aspects of lockdown once staying with my parents, but the anxiety gnawing at my gut still wouldn’t fully shift.

Lockdowns 2 and 3 have almost blended into one for me. I’m attributing this to the fact that the winter months are rather bleak and felt like several months of never-ending darkness and relentless cold, wet and windy weather! Although, I do feel like I’ve kept myself in check and coped significantly better during these times. During the period of relative ‘normality’, I ended my relationship once I was sure and so that stressor was no longer at play. However, I think the other main thing keeping me going has been focusing on my health and fitness. I enlisted my personal trainer to help keep me accountable, and having goals to work towards as well as a proper structure to my life again has drastically improved my response to the ongoing restrictions. I’m not suggesting that focusing on health and fitness is a solution for everyone, BUT, I am proposing that staying active in some way and getting some fresh air can go a long way. Eating a balanced diet will also help with tiredness, feeling sluggish and demotivated. It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, I feel like a different person than I was a year ago. Perhaps, in many ways, I am. At the end of the day, these things are all to do with self-care and staying healthy, which I believe should be a priority for everyone – because we’re worth it!

The winter months are harder and tend to be even more of a struggle because of the longer, darker days irrespective of lockdown. The poor weather conditions also confine more people to their homes under normal circumstances, so being unable to have visitors will have had a detrimental effect on many, particularly the vulnerable populations. I struggled at times too – often missing out on daylight altogether during the week due to a hectic work schedule and such few hours of sunlight. I generally tried to go out for very long walks on the weekends in an attempt to counteract this but it wasn’t always possible, and the permanent darkness definitely took its toll. My heart breaks for those trapped at home alone, especially when most aspects of life currently feel equally as shadowy, and for some, rather frightening.

As I’ve discussed rather a lot of the doom and gloom we’ve experienced throughout the past year, I figured it would be nice to end this post on a more positive note (the good kind – not the covid-test kind, of course).

Positives from lockdown:

  1. Immersing myself in the local countryside and nature, sometimes for hours at a time on weekends in the nicer weather really helped to clear my head. It quickly became a renewed hobby for myself and also for my dad. We fell in love with the local wildlife and took pleasure in looking out for deer and birds to photograph with his camera. Once the travel restrictions were lifted, this escalated into a love of hiking and we bagged our first 7 Munros as well as a few other big hills before we were imprisoned again. We’re (impatiently) waiting for the travel ban to be lifted to venture out to the hills again. I have also noticed significantly more people out walking in the local areas and seeing others tackling bigger hills on my social media over the last several months, which is a great benefit to the health of many. It’s also refreshing to see as I think technology has really masked the pleasure outdoor activities can bring over the last several years!
  2. When staying with my family for a couple of months, I got to spend quality time with them that I never would have otherwise, and I’m very grateful for it. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that our loved ones, time and time with our loved ones are truly precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I literally cried the first times I got to hug my parents again as it felt so special. We got to laugh together, have barbeques, cook together, watch trashy movies and support one another (whilst winding each other up and frustrating the life out of my poor mum – just as we did before I moved out 5 years go).
  3. Flexibility – the whole world has had to adapt due to this virus to make our day-to-day errands, outings and work safer, which for many, has been a huge advantage. Many people are able to have a much better work-life balance with the flexibility to work from home, are saving not only their precious time but also money on commuting to the office and some may be saving money on childcare too.
  4. Technology has advanced and made communication easier for families and friends who perhaps live far away from one another – like my family; some of us are in Scotland but largely, we have members dispersed throughout England and even in Wales. This will be useful for us going forward, even once it’s safe for us to visit them again. We unfortunately can’t drive 5 hours each way on a regular basis, so my grandparents (who are 84 and 88 years young!) now being able to use Zoom to video call is a great development.
  5. Largely, people have been incredibly kind and caring towards one another – whether it’s rushing to the aid of others who are in need, dropping off shopping for neighbours who are isolating or shielding or simply sending a text to check in on someone. Many, like my lovely mum, provided some home-cooked meals and groceries for families in need while the children were being home-schooled. I very quickly realised that being home alone when you have nothing to do and perhaps only a few people to keep in contact with must be extremely lonely and so I signed up to become a ‘call companion’ through a charity called ‘Re-engage’. I call my elderly ‘companion’, who lives alone, each week for a chat. It’s been both rewarding and humbling to realise that a gesture as small as a simple phone call can make a difference to someone’s day. Also, it’s lovely to hear someone else’s story and find out about their life.
  6.  Some people have also learned to slow down and embrace life instead of being ‘go-go-go’ twenty-four-seven. I imagine there are a lot of working parents who will also have had significantly more quality time with their children than they ever would have due to being home instead of in the office (although, I also imagine some parents would understandably find this perhaps a little too much quality time…as I said in my previous post, you people are heroes).
  7. A lot of people have had spare time to learn new or rediscover old hobbies and passions – such as myself. Thanks to lockdown, having extra time on my hands and also from resorting to writing as a coping mechanism more than usual over the last year, I decided to create this blog for myself to start documenting my adventures and clearing my head of “junk”. I’ve also discovered a love for photographing nature and for hiking up mountains.

As England have more lockdown restrictions lifted today, hopefully Scotland stay on track to cross that line as planned in a couple of weeks’ time.

Stay safe and take care everyone.

Aimee x

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