There’s a myriad of posts about mental health under lockdown at the moment, so here’s yet another one.
After a rocky start involving two weeks of isolation, I settled into in lockdown reasonable well. I don’t really do much anyway, as I’m always too knackered due to work. In the old days, weekends were mostly for catching up on sleep and my financial situation leaves me unable to get out as much as I would like. Lockdown was, at first, basically a very long weekend, but one that left me with a bit of spare cash due to not travelling to and from work, and spending money on lunches, coffee etc…
Then I realised I was missing the tiny social interactions. There are four adults in our family household and we all get on so while conversation hasn’t really been a problem, cabin fever does set in eventually. I was missing my friends that I would see through work (though not actually missing work, but that’s an issue for another time) and other daily interactions. It was odd to discover that I really wasn’t as anti-social as I thought.
After the initial two weeks of isolating (a precaution due to household interaction just before lockdown with someone who developed symptoms), I did leave the house for a walk around the block to the post box. It felt great at first, but the anxiety kicked in having to negotiate the queue for the local shop winding across a wide pavement, along a curb and past the post box. By this time, social distancing rules were being impressed upon everyone and going to the post box would mean breaking them. Thankfully a very nice gentleman in the queue saw my dilemma and just waved me through to the postbox ahead of him as the queue moved forward. Still, the niggle of anxiety was there and I felt unable to get out after that. I tried, I really did, but the result was tears, snot and occasionally a bit of throwing up.
We are lucky and have a garden so I have been able to grab some fresh air, but everyone being at home, understandably, has led to a lot more mowing of lawns and general gardening in the area and my allergies blew up big time. It didn’t seem an ideal time to be sat in the garden coughing a lot! They are under more control now, but I have discovered a whole new allergy symptom – after I go inside I develop an itchy rash on my arms. It seems the tree sap in the air is causing it. Aloe vera gel has been a godsend!
All of my friends have been amazing. I know I can turn to my two best friends at the drop of a hat, but they are going through all this too and with the added stress of them both adjusting to working from home. Our group chat has never been more important, but it comes with the realisation that I would have seen both of them in real life, with hugs and chats and face to face reassurances all round. There are several other amazing friends I would have been to see by now too.
May arrived and I think that broke me. Several birthdays including some significant ones, my beloved International Pop Overthrow Liverpool and my best friend’s wedding – all thrown into turmoil. Birthdays were celebrated online, my niece’s 21st significantly reduced to just our household, IPO was celebrated in a Facebook group where we all shared memories of past events, and Ellie and Marcus had a pre-wedding commitment ceremony via Zoom. Not the May I was expecting at the start of the year!
Last Tuesday I felt like I reached peak anxiety. I got up with a determination to go for a little walk but was barely up an hour when I was back in my room, lying on the bed just staring at the ceiling and feeling unbearably numb. I can’t even remember what triggered it, but I felt like I was going to pass out in the kitchen, then just cried in my room till I ended up throwing up that morning’s coffee. I eventually went to sleep for a few hours, felt able to go and eat in the living room with my family and then watched my ultimate comfort film, Fierce Creatures, before falling asleep for the night. I had lots of online support, which I appreciated but didn’t feel able to respond to properly.
Thankfully the next morning I awoke with a sense of determination. I had a bag of sweets to deliver, it was my friend’s birthday, they work within walking distance and there was social distancing in place at their work anyway. I knew the route well, knew where the wide pavements were, where there was likely to be more people and I was up early enough to avoid most people. In retrospect, a three-mile walk on a very warm sunny morning in inappropriate footwear after weeks of inactivity may not have been the best idea, but it was the perfect tonic for my general malaise. Fresh air, exercise and actual real-life interaction with a person not in my household. It made me realise that isolation can be in the mind as much as just staying home away from people. It also made me realise that I am better at motivating myself to go for a walk if there’s a reason to do so. Just wandering off around the block, or to a fixed point and back again lacks purpose for me. Getting to have a chat at the end of my walk felt like a reward, something to aim for. I realise it sounds pretentious or over-emotional, but it gave me a purpose. Wednesday was actually a great day!
Yesterday I had a wobble, I’m not going to discuss the cause but while it affected my day it didn’t bring everything good crashing down around my ears for a change. And the fact that it didn’t helped boost me too. I feel like I am better able to cope for a little while. I am harbouring anxiety about the next few weeks, but I am currently better equipped to cope with that. When that changes I can’t guarantee that I won’t end up back where I was on Tuesday, but bad days don’t last forever, and I just need to remember that.
Sorry for the long and waffling post. Sometimes it’s important to get this stuff down I guess. And hopefully, I’ll post more here. I’ve been watching lots of films lately so I really should post about that. There’s going to be other personal posts to, but that’s the beauty of the categories I guess, you can choose to read about the non-personal bits with ease.
I’m off to sit on the patio and catch some sunshine. Take care, stay safe.