Before we start - CW/TW: Anxiety, Depression.
If, like me, you’ve been through therapy, you might be familiar with critical, evidence based thinking as a method of combatting anxiety. If you aren’t familiar, let me quickly explain.
Let’s say you notice you’re having the thought “My friends and family are going to die if I leave the house”.
If we take this evidence based strategy into practice under normal circumstances, you might combat that intrusive thought as such: “ I notice I’m having the thought that my friends and family might die if I leave the house. There is no evidence to support this thought and therefore I can let go of it without forming any attachment.” Then you’d take a deep breath, and continue with your day.
But what do you do if the evidence does in fact, suggest that this might be true? What do you do if the best thing you can do for the people we love, and the greater good, is to stay indoors.
When I wrote my previous blog post entitled “A Creative Quarantine”, I has become apparent that I was taking an altogether too soft gaze into the future of our lives in lockdown. I didn’t know what it was going to be like. I assumed that I’d be able to carry on pretty much as normal - still doing bits of work for Second Home, reading, painting, maybe even gaining new skills, dutifully practising yoga and mindfulness, and generally becoming a more well-rounded, balanced person.
I did not however, account for my mental health being slowly skewed in the way it has been through the past month. I wasn’t entirely sure what was wrong. I was trying to relax, minimising my exposure to inflammatory news, reading, and trying to be creative, but something was amiss. My motivation for work had gone. I would set off to do one task, get sidelined by something else and achieve absolutely nothing. My memory decreased and I felt as though I was becoming obtuse. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then it hit me: I have no way of looking into the (even quite near) future and knowing what it holds, and therefore there is no way to plan for said future.
Not unlike clinical depression, an inability to see any future can be more harmful than we realise. Earlier this year, I experienced a mild and (thankfully) quite short bought of depression. The future had become clouded in almost every aspect of my life and I trudged through the slog of everyday stresses with a much increased degree of difficulty.
Planning through a seemingly never-ending quarantine seems futile. I’ve been finding my day to day tasks near impossible, and so on Sunday April 12th, I decided to do nothing.
Almost exactly one month since I started isolating, Sunday just passed is by far the best day I’ve had yet. I woke up slowly, with no pressure to adhere to any time restrictions. I read my book in the sunshine on my window seat with the pane wide open. I enjoyed the longest breaths of fresh air my lungs could inhale while listening to the neighbours two doors up enjoying their Easter egg hunt - the father in his typical khaki dad-shorts, boring his son with details of his new vegetable patch, the adoring grandparents on FaceTime who subsequently cannot figure out the logistics of ending the call, and the kids asking if it was too early to tuck into their foraged Easter goodies (to which the answer is no, it is never too early to eat chocolate on Easter. Same rules apply on Christmas and generally throughout December). I ate whatever my body needed me to eat - which included a healthy porridge breakfast bowl followed by Reese’s pieces. I sketched without any agenda or purpose. I FaceTimed my mum. I watered the herbs and did the dishes, the small everyday chores still demanding my attention. I scrubbed with my favourite body scrub (The Coffee Orange Scrub by Solasta Skin), had a little glass of wine, and watched RuPauls Drag Race.
I’m not saying this is my perfect day, but on that day, I did everything I needed to do in the moment, when I felt like doing it. I did not organise my day into routine segments - which paradoxically in my normal everyday life, usually keeps me sane.
Life has been flipped on its head and it is okay to feel a bit strange.
It’s okay to not know what it is specifically that is making you feel strange.
I’m not trying to write an advice article. I can’t tell you what will or won’t work for you. I can only share my new found piece of knowledge which I don’t claim to be profound or new but it is keeping me sane: now, more than ever, we must take it one day at a time. Not even one day at a time, but an hour at a time. Listen to, and trust yourself. What do you need in this moment? If you need a cup of tea and a seat then do that instead of trying to power through the next task. Let go of any expectations. Catch and correct yourself every time you have self critical thoughts. These things are all vital to self care in normal times so now it is crucial that we practice self-compassion during these difficult times.
Like I said, this isn’t mean to be an advice article by any means - I’m no expert. While shouting into the endless void of the internet, I hope that someone somewhere finds peace in the knowledge that they are not alone in their feelings.
Until we meet again.