Moving forward in miserable times…
Oh hello, lockdown #753! Pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable. It doesn’t look like you’ll be leaving any time soon.
I’ll be honest, the first lockdown was an odd time, but there was also this united, mutual understanding that we had to just sit tight, look after ourselves and each other, and do what we could to get by. I actually embraced my new routines, enjoyed the slower pace, even relaxed a little and took time for myself… I had faith that things could only get better. It was a bump in the road; a barrier that held us back from our normal lives that would soon resume.
Yet, here we are. Nearly a year later, still trying to settle in to a different way of life, to find a way to stay positive and keep believing that things will work out. I am usually a pretty capable and realistic person, but even I’ve slipped in to negative thinking lately. I’m feeling the effects of lockdown fatigue, trying to find the balance of staying sane but also following the rules.
Every day feels the same; a timeline of ordinary events until we make it to bedtime. That is, if we even manage to get a good night’s kip. Sleep just seems like a time machine to the following day… when it all begins again. Groundhog day on repeat.
This is the worst I’ve felt so far, despite finally being busier with work, longer days on the horizon, and feeling in a better position than I was a year ago. I struggle with guilt a lot; always wondering ‘am I doing the right thing?’ Is it okay to avoid my packed local park to drive a few miles down the road to a more secluded place I know will make me feel safer? Can I go to my best friend’s home to check in on her, make sure she’s coping okay after living alone and losing her job this past year? Is it okay to just want to sleep through the work day when hormones and life get too much?
I definitely don’t check in enough with my dad, who has been stuck in Australia on his own for well over a year. The time difference is tricky to manage but alongside that, I feel like I have no news to share. Nothing to fill the silence while we’re both grieving someone who we loved with our entire being.
I haven’t seen my family since after my mum’s funeral, November 2019. I can’t imagine when I’ll see them again, and once more the time difference makes it tough to have regular catch-ups.
And then there’s the technology overload, I’ve absolutely reached my limit as far as my phone is concerned. I’ve all but thrown the thing in the duck pond in Queen’s Park. I’ve switched off all notifications so I don’t get a single alert flashing up and I try not to pick my phone up unnecessarily either (a very hard habit to break, FYI! Some praise would be appreciated). That means no WhatsApp messages, no Instagram comments, nothing to keep me from getting on with work or reading or spending time with a friend. As much as I rely on technology to bind me to my loved ones right now (not to mention, pay my bills!), sometimes the constant chatter is too much. Like white noise that only serves to create distractions that can’t be ignored. I always feel overly attached to my phone, as if I can’t switch it off because I have a duty to be reachable. I like to be the reliable, dependable person for whom my friends can always reach out to, but the constant checking and refreshing gives me horrendous brain fog. Like I can’t quite put my finger on what I was supposed to be doing – I get distracted easily, walking in to rooms and wondering why I went in there in the first place. My phone is essentially turning me senile at this point. And then at night I struggle to sleep because I’ve spent too much time staring at the blue light at bedtime (although we could also blame that on my afternoon naps…)
Despite the days being the same (wake up, walk, coffee, breakfast, shower, work, dinner, TV, read, sleep), I never know what mood I’m going to be in that day. Ideally I know I’m at my best when I’m busy, when I have content to shoot and deadlines to work to. That way I’m distracted and I don’t overthink things, but sometimes it just seems exhausting having to get dressed, run errands, be in photos, live my life.
Other days my hormones take over, flooding me with anxious thoughts. All I want to do is sleep and ignore everything and every one. This is, in part, due to my having PMDD; premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Similar to PMS, but more intense – causing unbearable depression and anxiety for two weeks, right up until my period arrives – imagine actually looking forward to your period! Absurd.
I try to remind myself that it’s my hormones causing these unwelcome thoughts, but it’s tricky when you’re in a bad place mentally. I’ll touch on PMDD more thoroughly in a separate post, but I know a lot of us have been experiencing different, unfamiliar and more emotionally-charged periods throughout the pandemic. A stress reaction to the uncertainty we’re currently faced with.
I would say I’m a proactive person – I know enough about myself by now to understand that even if it’s the last thing I want to do, getting up and getting something done will improve my mood a million times over. Even if it’s just a wander outdoors with a playlist, a trip to the supermarket (genuinely the highlight of my week), posting on Instagram or planning content for the month ahead. I try to write up to-do lists at the start of the week and slowly work towards them, not putting pressure on myself to go crazy ticking everything off – after all, if you don’t complete a few, that’s next week’s list already done. An interesting approach, but you can’t fault that logic.
So with the above in mind, I feel like I really want to change my thinking and do what I can to make sure I’m looking after myself, staying safe and nailing the work/life/self-care balance. I’ve had a tough few days and it’s really made me reassess my thought processes, and I know I need a bit of an overhaul!
I’m lucky in that I can still work, I can keep busy and keep to a routine (or ditch it altogether if I really want… and often do). I know not everyone has that; most of my friends work in the music industry and have no idea if their careers can continue the way they used to. Some of my loved ones are essential workers who I haven’t seen at all throughout the pandemic, I wish I could do more for them.
As you’ll probably know, Jord and I own a small coffee shop and we’ve had to find ways to keep it open throughout the various lockdowns. We initially closed from March until June, only opening again for a weekend to raise money for a Black Lives Matter charity event, and then we decided to stay open just at weekends. At first we could do take-away coffee and cakes only, with one person allowed in the shop at once, but the new regulations have meant that Jord’s had to change the way he works completely. No one can enter the shop, so he’s had to move the entire cake display to the doorway and bear the chilly January temperatures while he runs between the entrance and the coffee machine just so he can keep his business going. I’m aware this doesn’t come close to other people’s struggles, but it’s still just one thing amongst a long list of adjustments we’ve had to find a way to make work in order to get by. I think we’re all just trying to find ways to get by right now.
I know I have it better than a lot of people, but even so I’ve found these latest restrictions almost unbearable. It’s the feeling of merely existing, never really moving forward or making progress and instead, just doing what we can to make it through the days. An entire year lost.
I’m really trying to find ways to stay upbeat throughout all of this, so I wanted to share how I’m navigating this incessant limbo period.
I do think, as hard as it is, a good attitude really goes a long way in helping to keep the negative thoughts at bay. When I’m struggling with my hormones, I’m all over the place – it’s almost like mini episodes, where one minute I’m thinking “I can’t wait to finish this blog post, get cosy and watch a film” and a minute later out of nowhere I’ll think “what is the point? I just want to get in bed and sleep”. It’s a bit of a tipping balance at times, trying to keep your emotions level. All I can do is try to keep myself busy, even if busy means running a bath or putting on a load of washing – moving forward and distracting myself does a lot for helping me get out of my own head.
I try to use my time effectively; writing and working on projects, reading as much as possible, setting time aside to chat to my friends over FaceTime rather than picking up my phone constantly throughout the day. I make sure to spend quality time with Jordan, doing actual activities together like playing Jenga (not a euphemism) or going for walks, and not just sitting silently in front of the TV every night. Usually on Friday nights we’ll drink cocktails and sing (I use that term loosely) along to 2006 tunes on YouTube, using the remote as a microphone. Our neighbours are used to it, it’s just what we do.
I keep to a rough routine; still setting my Lumie lamp alarm as I would pre-pandemic, going for my daily walk, making a smoothie for breakfast, getting work done and keeping on top of all the boring admin that comes with being an adult. I’ve actually never been this organised in all my life, the pandemic boredom has done wonders for my filing systems.
Pre-lockdown, we used to have a ‘no alcohol during the week’ rule, but that went out of the window sometime around March 2020. Where there’s wine, there’s a will. Or something.
I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting you’re not coping, but I also don’t think we should feel guilty that some days we prefer this slower way of life; more time for relaxing and Netflix and baking.
Every day brings a new set of emotions, hurdles and problems. My moods vary so much, not just day to day but hour to hour, minute to minute too. Some days I seem to find motivation and do triple the work I would do on a normal day, and other days I need to escape my flat and go for a drive, or just sleep away the afternoon. However you cope, I think it’s enough to just keep on keeping on.
There’s been times I’ve enjoyed lockdown; less travel, less chaos, more time at home, a healthier lifestyle. Either way, when life eventually resumes, and it will, there will be a time when we’ll look back on the last year and remember a foggy, nostalgic version of it. When that time comes, there will be parts we’ll take from this era and use to somehow assemble a new life – one where we maybe don’t give over too much of ourselves to our work, where we continue with our lockdown hobbies or keep up with regular Zoom quizzes or catch-ups and even virtual meetings. I do believe we’ll come out of this and see a positive change in ourselves, we’ve just got to find a way to get to that point first.
So here’s some love for anyone who needs it; you’re not alone, this lockdown has been the toughest of them all. January is a miserable month and winter is an insufferable season, but we’ll get through it! Brighter days are ahead, that much I do know.