Well, there’s no escaping the biggest thing going on in the world right now, is there? Usually my blog posts are decidedly inward-focusing, so of course I am offering no change here. However it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the wider situation caused by the COVID-19 virus. Life is very different for many of us at the moment. The UK is in lockdown. We aren’t supposed to go outside other than to pick up essentials, health reasons or for exercise. For many of us this is an extreme change from the norm. For others, unfortunately, it’s not so different. There are many, many people for whom lockdown is the norm and before I launch into self indulgent whinging as is my usual wont, I just want to say that to those people, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that your existence is continually belittled and marginalised until it suddenly becomes a problem that everyone else has to deal with too.
I’m sorry to the many chronically ill and disabled people for whom work isn’t an option, never mind working from home or furlough. One thing the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light is how easy it has been for companies to facilitate work from home for their staff when previously they’ve declined to do so for their chronically ill or disabled staff. If any changes are brought about in the wake of this pandemic I would certainly hope that this is one of them.
Equally before bringing the tone down into incessant personal ramblings I would like to say, not that anyone reads this, how grateful I am to our NHS and everyone who is working so hard and risking their lives to keep us safe at the moment and always; as well as this the obligatory acknowledgement of any and all key workers who are still working hard in difficult and increasingly dangerous jobs. I didn’t vote for the Tories, and I’m sorry that they’ve left our NHS and other services in such a terrible state before this happened. Another reality I would strongly advise the government to recognise post-coronavirus is the cruel and inaccurate branding of ‘low skilled’ workers upon whom we rely not just at the moment but every day.
Amidst the uncertainty, panic, grief, kindness and heroism that’s been prevalent during this pandemic it’s natural that our mental health is going to experience more ups and downs than usual. This post, apart from being embarrassingly futile and patronising in the opening, is going to dive into some of the lockdown highs and lows I’ve experienced. I’ll talk about the good, the bad and the ugly and how my brain has been coping.
I’ll just dive straight into it. Yes, a global pandemic is very scary and lockdown is a new way of life for many of us. Thankfully, the kindness of family, friends and strangers has been a real breath of fresh air. It’s strange (for most people) to be cooped up by yourself or with only those with whom you’re residing. Fortunately for me, I’m used to being at home. I lost my job in 2018 and since then I’ve worked from home/been at home being mental or having a broken leg. When I started work again last year I was based remotely. So, I’m very much used to being here. My partner works at home most of the time too, so it wasn’t too much of a change for us.
That’s definitely a good thing, although admittedly learning how to do your job from home, if you’re office-based, isn’t the highest mountain to climb. There are worse things, such as being a key worker or NHS staff during a global pandemic. Unfortunately my fixed term contract finished at the end of March so I am once again out of work and there’s very little to apply for. This makes the good stuff even more important.
First up, entertainment. Lockdown is, as I’m sure you know, very very boring. Since we’ve been instructed to remain indoors I’ve found the time (obviously) to watch more shows and films that I’ve been meaning to watch. I’m currently nearly at the end of the US Office, having watched the UK series beforehand and steering straight into this. I’ve watched more beloved random crime dramas. I’m reading more and, rather sadly, playing more games. Including Animal Crossing Pocket Camp – don’t fight me. Obviously watching TV and films isn’t life changing but it’s a really good distraction and it keeps me indoors. Some very kind people have bought me books from my Amazon wish list and at this rate it might take me less than a year to get round to reading them!
Since lockdown started I’ve been doing a full face of makeup most days. Not for any real purpose, but it kills time and I enjoy doing it. I’ve learned some new techniques and tried different things that perhaps I wouldn’t have before. It also stops me picking the skin on my face if I’ve got makeup on, which, with it being a particularly anxious time is never a bad thing. Wearing makeup means that I keep up with a skin care routine which is also a bonus. I see a lot of people saying that lockdown has been great for my skin because they’re not wearing makeup. Well, apparently it’s the opposite for me. Plaster myself in makeup so I don’t pick my skin, then take it off nicely at night like a good girl.
I’m enjoying being more creative and I find makeup application quite soothing (when it goes right). I’ve also been joining in with Nicole’s weekly makeup challenge where she gives a different prompt every week. That gives me ideas for at least one or two days and it’s fun joining in knowing that other people are doing the same and being able to see what they come up with.
Speaking about Nicole leads me to smoothly move on to how positive I’ve found my online social media presence to be during lockdown. Yes it’s scary and there is news all over the place, but people are being very kind to each other. Before lockdown commenced a Twitter buddy set up a group chat with a bunch of other Twitter people and we’re still going strong now. It’s nice to have a group of people to chat to every day about all kinds, and it’s become a really supportive and meme-filled place. We’ve had Zoom calls to see each others’ delightful faces and hopefully we’ll get to see each other for real one day.
Having additional people to talk to has been beneficial to me during this period. I don’t have much else to distract me and it’s nice to have places and people that make me feel safe and supported. Having orchestrated these relationships online isn’t really much of a shock nowadays but it’s important for me to note that just because we haven’t met in person doesn’t mean it isn’t positive. In general I’ve found people on social media to be kind and supportive during this time which is a nice change from the usual nit picking and one-upmanship.
IRL friends and family
Of course, I do have some friends that I didn’t meet online and that I’ve known for many years and an excellent family. My family and I have a group Zoom call every Saturday evening to catch up which often features at least one of the following: a very cute baby, a dog or a cat. Sometimes all three. My parents live in Yorkshire so during lockdown I can’t see them and video calls are a great way to check in on them, make sure they’re not up to no good.
My friend has a baby son and although I can’t give him a squeezing right now I have got to see him show off his attempt at crawling and smack me in the face via a video call. Another friend hosts a quiz every week and this past weekend another group of us had another quiz (which I am pleased to say I won). Many of my friends and I don’t see each other much at the best of times because we live in different places. Boredom and having no idea when we’ll be able to see each other again are making us more inclined to use video calls and maybe we’ll continue past lockdown.
It’s definitely encouraging people to be more creative with communication. I wonder why, when the technology has always been available, we don’t utilise it more but I suppose we’ve just been used to doing things a certain way. Lockdown in the face of a global pandemic definitely shakes things up when it comes to keeping in touch.
Obviously being forced to stay indoors isn’t all full of rainbow sparkles. It’s not the staying indoors that has me riled up, but rather the anxiety that hits when I do go outside. Honestly I am probably coping better being shut inside than some people simply because I’m used to it but the realities of being out and about now are harder.
Being outdoors amidst social distancing and a closed down city centre is the cause of much of my recent anxiety. For some reason doing the weekly shop is fine; I suppose Aldi and its bargains provide the necessary soothing to get me through.
Going to other shops has pretty much stopped although I’ve had to visit the post office and chemist which have both riddled me with anxiety. Last time I had to go to the chemist I nearly had a panic attack which was pleasantly ironic as I was, of course, picking up my anti depressants. It’s natural to feel anxious at a time like this, of course, but that doesn’t make it easier when you already have pretty bad anxiety.
It’s a strange situation when there’s tangibly something to be anxious about. Although I am young, healthy and spending most of my time indoors it’s difficult to forget that all these safety precautions are for a reason. There is a very real pandemic and people are getting ill. People are dying. I’m less concerned for myself than I am for others; I would hate to inadvertently be responsible for passing something on.
Walks to the park are a nice distraction and for the most part people are being sensible with keeping their distance. That certainly doesn’t mean that I want to do it every day – far from it – because quite frankly I am too cautious to be around even socially distant numbers of people for too long. The situation provides a real focus for anxiety even if at first it doesn’t appear to be directly related.
Yes, I have excellent friends and family and it’s been great seeing them, albeit virtually, more. Mr Seeds is still working so I spend most of my days alone watching TV, playing games, reading or maybe going to a shop if I’m feeling wild. Of course we have the evenings to spend together but during these rather unprecedented times we’re both stressed and tired. Mr Seeds because he’s still very busy at work and, you know, global pandemic and me because I don’t have work and, erm, global pandemic.
Of course there’s WhatsApp and social media to keep me chatting with people but obviously I’m missing face to face interaction with others. Boredom is difficult to combat because there are very few jobs to apply for and although I’m entertaining myself there are times it’s still a pretty lonely situation. It allows for more time to think which for me breeds more anxiety. I’ve got upset over things I was ignoring (which is actually good) purely because there’s more time to do so and fewer distractions.
Everyone’s finances have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Whilst many people are still working full time keeping the country running – and no, I do not mean the government – many others are working reduced hours, have been furloughed or lost their jobs entirely. I am in the latter camp although it wasn’t related to the pandemic. My temporary contract was due to end on 30th March and end it did, leaving me jobless in a very difficult time. I knew the contract was ending so of course I’d been applying for things but unfortunately nothing came to fruition and now here we are.
I am still managing to squeeze some applications in and I’m picking up some work online again but I’d be lying if I said things were easy. DWP won’t give me any money at all. I’m not entitled to Universal Credit because my partner works and has some savings. Nor am I entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance because I had one year self-employed where I didn’t earn enough money to contribute. Despite me doing my tax return to demonstrate this they decided it would still be prudent to use that financial year rather than, oh I don’t know, the last one where I contributed fully, to assess me and deny me that sweet £74 a week. So, thanks for that. Very helpful indeed.
My last pay cheque has thankfully lasted a lot longer than it normally would because I’m barely spending anything but not knowing how or when I will earn money again is a constant source of worry. I understand others are in the same and worse situations. There is a roof over my head and food in the fridge. That doesn’t mean it’s comfortable. Relying on handouts to pay my rent does not sit well with me and teeters me on the edge of you’re-so-useless-why-can’t-you-do-anything territory.
I don’t know what the future holds for me or the country. It’s definitely concerning and confusing. How we get ourselves out of lockdown, and indeed whether we should, is a looming decision and I’m sure it will be dealt with very competently by our fine leaders.
How we continue after lockdown is almost impossible to imagine. Obviously we can’t return to normal straight away, opening all the shops and bars and enjoying a non-at-all-intrusive four abreast walk down the pavement. There’s talk of social distancing lasting past 2020, and of course we have to do whatever it takes to keep everyone safe, but it’s difficult to know how being jobless fits into that.
It’s difficult to know how anything fits into that, really. From a selfish perspective I want things to get back to normal so I can get back to normal. I was approaching that and had everything ripped out from under me quite quickly. From a far less selfish perspective, however, I want things to get back to normal because then it’ll mean we’re safe. The world has changed a lot and as someone who is scared by change that’s quite a lot to deal with.
I hope the changes are more positive than negative but it’s pretty unpredictable and absolutely out of my control. Again, not something a chronically anxious person deals with well.
Amidst the incessant uncertainty are glimmers of hope and joy for which I am grateful. I know there are many people for whom life has been irrevocably changed by this pandemic and for now I am not one of them. Please don’t underestimate how grateful I am for that. My loved ones and I are safe and that’s about all we can hope for. There’s not much left for me to say other than I hope you’re dealing with this as best you can and that you remain safe and as well as can be.
If you are struggling with your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak there are some resources at Mind that may be useful.