reflections on lockdown

grafitti text saying '2020 is cancelled' sprayed on a dark wall during covid-19 lockdown

Hi, how are you all doing in these incredibly uncertain and surreal times we find ourselves in?

I haven’t been writing. At all. Writing about anything other than covid-19 or lockdown seems wrong. That belongs to other days, to other times. But I didn’t know how I felt about this new world I found myself in. I’m not sure I do now.

Covid-19 terrifies me. Washing my hands has become obsessive even though I rarely leave the flat and live on my own. I couldn’t eat anything directly with my hands for weeks. I am fearful for my friends and family, worried for strangers and about where life goes from here. Mourning the loss of heady nights under flashing lights, talking nonsense with friends in bars, the smell of coffee as I sit in my local Starbucks.

There have been tears and anxiety attacks. Too many hours spent in bed.

I have lost the routine I fought for so long to find. My daily life has not changed too significantly yet the knowledge of the world falling apart around me has caused me to falter. My poor motivation has become flakier than shredded coconut. Setting goals and making plans – already challenging – now feels almost impossible surrounded by all this uncertainty. My thoughts telling me there is no point.

There are days when I feel things slipping. When I have to look hard and question my reasons for stepping back. Is it a day when things really are too much and I need that retreat, or am I simply using this as an excuse to be lazy or give in? Finding the balance between not letting myself go under and not pushing too much is tricky.

My insomnia has returned full force. My sleep is fleeting, broken, unsettled. I see the sunrise more times than I would like after spending hours with the stars.

Social anxiety still finds a way to rear its head. I struggle with online get-togethers. Question how much I am talking to people in messages. Feeling pressure to say the right thing. The perfect thing that will make someone laugh or feel better. To be that person always there for others. All the time wondering who is there for me.

As much as I want this lockdown to be over, I also fear it. Staying isolated inside is one big anxiety avoidance behaviour for me. I fear re-engaging with life outside of my small and safe home. How hard it might be. How much of the ground I gained in the last year or so facing my anxieties will I have lost? The world will have changed and I will be playing catchup all over again.

And yet for all this, I have not drowned as I worried I might do when this all started. So far anyway. Depression has walked with me more than I would like but my anxiety has been calm in a way that is slightly unnerving, to be honest.

I feel like I have been preparing myself for a situation like this for years. Or at least my anxiety has. The big bad nasty I have constantly been on my guard for. The thing my anxiety warned me would stop me living my life so there was no point even trying to have one that meant anything. I have lived in the style of Alastor Moody from Harry Potter for years. Constantly on edge, looking for the threat. And now it is here. I know how to live like this.

Those unhelpful avoidance behaviours and habits I hid amongst rather than face my anxieties now seem to be what is keeping me (relatively) calm. I am used to diverting my thoughts away from those that terrify me, used to spending hours in imaginary places to avoid reality. Used to spending time on my own. It is where and how I feel safe. Many of my usual triggers are simply not present in these times. My self-esteem is not battered every day as I struggled to find my place in this world and too frequently found myself lacking. My introversion is no longer a source of anxiety and loneliness, it is now my saviour.

I strangely belong in this time. More than I really want to.

And I am not alone in feeling like my anxiety is better.

Acceptance:

Remember I said I was working on acceptance? Well, life has become more uncertain than it already was. Become a perfect lesson for practising acceptance.

Acceptance of the situation. I am trying to face it realistically rather than panic or live in a optimistic bubble. There will be an end. Most of us will survive. But these are horrible times. Some won’t come through the other side. And those who do will carry scars, be slightly broken in a multitude of ways. There will be grief and I imagine few of us will be untouched.

Accepting that this lockdown is open-ended, that this is how life is for the foreseeable future and even once lockdown is eased, it will take time for this to all be over. Assuming it ever actually is. There is no point holding out for ‘normality’ to return. And so, if this is now my normal, what do I want to do with this time? How can I give this life meaning?

Most importantly perhaps, I am accepting it is okay to feel this maelstrom of emotions. Whatever they are that day. That minute. To go easy on myself. These are times like no other. It is okay if it is overwhelming. Okay if the panic comes. Okay if the thing I need to do is drink whiskey in bed and cry at sad or beautiful films.

Some days are going to be awful and I am going to let them be.

I am going to enjoy the calm days. The happy moments.

I am going to show up each day. As best I can do.

Stay safe everyone x

 

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