Before you read any further I need to say this. This isn’t intended as a fishing for sympathy post or a “woe is me, I’m in a worse position than anyone else” blog. Everyone is affected by the current situation in some way. No-one is immune to the current deal from Mother Nature. This is my own very personal experience. I’m in the fortunate position of financial stability thanks to my husband’s job and, being furloughed, I’m able to be with my kids full time. Everyone else will have different experiences and feelings out of this, so please don’t judge yourself against my own experience. Your thoughts and feelings are your own and no-one else’s, own them, accept them.
I’m sharing here because, from experience, it often helps to know you’re not the only one experiencing feelings or emotions. Humans have become the successful species that we are because we share knowledge and experience.
I hope this post helps someone. It’s certainly helped me by writing everything down…………….
Yesterday I went out for a walk. A really long walk. Probably not the kind of walk sanctioned by government right now. The kind of walk I see and hear friends and many others in society judging and condemning………….but I did it anyway because I really bloody needed it and it’s helped me get a lot of this out of my head and written down. (By the way, if you’re judging me right now, that’s cool, we all have our own internal prejudices and judgements but please keep it that way, internal. I judge myself harshly enough as it is, I don’t need others to feed me at the moment, thanks ;))
I told my husband I was going out for a walk. Probably won’t be back for tea. To which he replied “OK”. It felt a bit weird. An odd look of submission and pity on his face. I know he struggles to understand or get his head round the way my head works sometimes. It feels more acute at the moment. His life hasn’t changed hugely. He’s lost his commute, the social side of being in an office, his climbing night, we’re bumbling around in the background all day and I know CV crops up in work conversations but more importantly work is still happening, he’s still very much got the 9-5. He’s sat at his desk in the spare room by 8am, briefly appears to make some lunch and disappears again until 5pm every day. He’s good at switching off from things. Probably a good way to be at the moment.
My life meanwhile has changed somewhat.
This year was supposed to be a positive one. I had plans. Things were panning out OK, I felt I had a firm handle on my monthly emotional rollercoaster and my brain wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by the myriad of things I hoped to achieve this year. Quite the contrary, I was excited at the prospects of the year ahead. I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t let events in 2020 frustrate me as they had done in 2019 and I was seeing through on that promise. Putting aside disappointments, working to overcome hurdles and moving on. I was positive, optimistic. I could turn a difficult situation around, rationalise it and logically find a solution………..the kind of person that I know is in me and who I love and enjoy being but whom is often kicked away when hormone changes or stressors rear their ugly head.
I’d made my weeks busy. The private lessons I’d started were exactly what I’d dreamed of when I took the plunge and re-trained. Working towards the summer I was looking forward to introducing those clients to open water once the water warmed up.
I felt in control and like finally, finally, after six years of uncertainty that maybe this could be a valid career path. Working outside a lot, in nature, maybe subtly encouraging others to be more mindful of our fragile environment. I would be useful, worthwhile, needed by people. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be really…………useful. To have my views, knowledge, experiences and actions appreciated and valued. I’ve come to accept that I need a fairly constant, gentle ego massage this way to stop me delving into my deepest negative thoughts.
Being at home full time with my kids just doesn’t hit that button. I’m just Mum, there and just doing stuff. It’s not until you get older that you realise how much parents do for you. As a child I think it’s fair to say most kids take their parents totally for granted. It’s why I knew I needed something other than just looking after my children. I needed to re-build my self-worth and I felt like I was finally getting somewhere with it.
And then March happened. A month of slow unravelling. Not quite knowing from one day to the next what was going to happen. Was Coronavirus going to be just a mild bug doing the rounds or was it going to cause life-changing upheaval. The suspense left me on edge.
Things started to change, slowly but then at a quicker and quicker pace. Social distancing, reducing contact with others. Should I continue teaching or not? My gut said no but whilst my leisure centre was still open I felt pressure to keep working. In part to help out because other staff were going off sick or were isolating because of existing conditions. It still wasn’t clear how bad it was going to get at that time.
I will always remember my last shift before lockdown. Quiet, a bit weird, other teachers a little on edge. Not knowing whether I’d need to sort out childcare so that I could come to work the following week because schools had closed that day. The relief when a child came onto poolside and announced that government had asked all leisure centres to close.
OK I thought, I can do this. Financially we’ll be OK and as long as we can leave the house I can manage with the kids off school. I have lots I can do with the boys within walking distance of the house. I’ve always wanted to get the kids outside more.
Then the rapid decision the following Monday to induce a proper lockdown.
The realisation on my part that this really was serious, it really was going to mean upheaval for every part of life, for everyone. That my carefully crafted plans and life for 2020 were rapidly falling down like a tower of bricks. This wasn’t just one thing being cancelled, or postponed or an occasional rejection email. This was the whole rug being pulled from under me in the space of a few days.
The first couple of weeks I rallied. I started the attempt that is home schooling. I tried to keep the boys entertained. There were tears all round. Confusion at the work being sent home. Trying to find ways that they were willing to engage in any of the work………or anything I suggested for that matter. We were all very, very bored and became more and more fractious!
My youngest returned to the anger and frustration that he’s had since he was a toddler and that now seems to rear its head whenever there’s change. Growling, screaming, pulling at his face, stomping around the house. He refused to leave the property. Willing to bounce on the trampoline but unwilling to go beyond our driveway. Perhaps he was scared by what was going on and staying home was his secure space in a time of weird change. I don’t know but I found it hard to be locked up with them both all day.
It brought back tough memories of when we first moved here and I felt trapped by a new baby, a toddler and a village where I knew no-one. When depression first took over my life. I’ve spent the last few years trying to escape that feeling and BOOM, overnight it was back again.
I started having meltdowns. And they kept building. Irrational tears, snapping, usually over nothing. I stormed out of the house one lunchtime and didn’t come back for four hours. I needed out.
I eventually realised this was just my usual monthly rollercoaster. But it was on steroids, illicit drugs, Red Bull and a whole load of strong coffee all mixed together. Dialled up to the max. The return of proper down and out big depression.
I’ve built tools over the last couple of years to manage it. Tools I now realise I don’t even consciously implement anymore, they’ve just become a part of my normal everyday life. Giving myself quiet time alone when I feel the need, exercise, mental stimulation, interesting conversation, work, friends, most importantly swimming. Tuned in so subtly to what I need that I, by and large, was doing well. But because life had been so swiftly turned on its head, most of those tools disappeared.
I no longer had the house to myself for peace and quiet, no work, no face to face contact with people, exercise as and when and wherever I felt like it and needed it suddenly felt restricted and scrutinised by others.
The intensity of it passed, as it does each month. I had a week of feeling better, rational, more able to deal with the boys, coping better with the oddity that is now negotiating a supermarket shop. It’s building again now on it’s regular cycle……….that’s part of the reason for my epic walk.
But there’s still a nagging feeling, a more long lasting, underlying bubbling away depression than the peaks I get at certain times of the month.
Fairly constant feelings of sadness, frustration, jealousy, anger, annoyance, rejection, rage, loneliness. So much loneliness.
A significantly greater sensitivity to other people’s words or actions. Their actions have often been no different to normal but my reaction to them has been more intense than usual.
I’ve largely pulled away from social media and the news, checking it every couple of days perhaps. I could feel its negative effect on me. I wanted to engage, I knew I needed to keep in some kind of social contact but it invariably made me feel worse.
Video and phone calls are OK, perhaps this situation will force some much needed change in the way we interact and travel and work. I’ve had some lovely chats with friends but they’re not quite the same when what I actually want and need in a time like this is a massive hug. To be around people, even if I don’t speak to them. To sit quietly in the corner of a busy pub or café and just listen and watch. To feel the breath of humankind.
Life feels kind of pointless. The many things I probably could do to help me I just can’t be bothered with. A lethargy, boredom, lack of motivation. I often wander round the house, wondering what I could do to while away the boredom and distract myself only to discover that I’ve wasted much of a day doing only that, wandering. I haven’t achieved anything to alleviate the shit show that is currently my brain.
I know this will pass in some shape or form. Happiness and joy in my head will eventually replace the negatives again. The likelihood is I will be able to do many of the things I’d hoped to this year in 2021 instead (I hope). I’ll adapt and learn from this, I always do. Right now though I’m really struggling to see beyond the end of each day and that, to me, is in itself depressing. Again reminiscent of the days when I felt trapped and could barely see beyond the next baby feed, meal or nappy change. My focus only seems able to work a few hours ahead. Surviving each day is all I can do.
But maybe that’s all I need to do at the moment. Survive each day. Keep my boys content. Put aside my own plans and frustrations, live in the moment.
I’ve always found living in the moment hard. Too busy a brain. A friend often reminds me to live in the moment and enjoy what today brings. Maybe that’s what I need to get out of lockdown.
And to end, all I’m going to say is be kind. You don’t know what another persons brain is thinking, their circumstances, their worries. Everyone is slightly sensitive in some way right now. The best thing we can do for each other is to be kind, on ourselves and each other. That’s what I’m trying to do.