The cogs in my head have been in overdrive; what life do I want after this crisis is over. Where does my energy go? What do I care about?

Sunitha’s #MadCovidDiaries 10.5.2020 

I’m feeling angry today, terrified, anxious. What did I expect after watching the waffling from our Prime Minster? I called my mum and I got really emotional, especially when her response was very much well we can’t be in lockdown forever. Last week I told her she couldn’t come to see me, if she has to come to London to care for my uncle, because it wasn’t safe and now the government is almost saying this behaviour is okay. She accepts that she doesn’t have any choice but to return to work if she has to, and I sit there worrying, telling her that she doesn’t have to just take it because I can’t bear losing her. Then I call my dad to get reassurance about all the data I’ve seen and the news I’ve consumed, and it just brings up the feelings I had right at the beginning of all this: feeling overwhelmed, taking on the feelings of the whole world and driven to madness.

Yet, as I write, I find myself coming back to my own thoughts, which aren’t all negative and it leaves me feeling a bit perplexed. Perhaps, my coping mechanism is that I don’t mind lockdown too much when I know that it’s the best thing for society and that I know I should continue doing what I was doing before, irrespective of government messaging. Or perhaps it’s because I spent almost a year avoiding people with limited face to face contact so this current situation is similar to a previous normal for me. Or perhaps it’s because the biggest worry I had prior to Covid was returning to work, and over the last week, I’ve accepted that  returning to work is contrary to my mental health when I am very much in crisis mode. 

The strange part for me is that in some ways, I feel like under lockdown I’m accepting the person I always was, peeling away the layers to realise that I’m a massive introvert meaning I have limited energy for my friends and my family. Plus the people who I genuinely miss and want to reconnect with, although the list is quite long, aren’t the people I cared for before this all started. Maybe, not seeing people for three years doesn’t really bother me that much because, well, I don’t have the capacity to maintain relationships without sacrificing needed time for myself. Strangely, that time has been activities such as gardening, which I could never do because I thought I was bad at it, and bugs really freak me out, but now I appreciate that progress can be slow and that the bugs are something that can live harmoniously alongside me.

The freedom I feel extends to being able to recognise that a lot of behaviour that I have been used to hide or adapt in society just wears me out. Equally, I recognise that I genuinely don’t have the capacity for people thinking and treating me poorly because I’m not the type to scream or shout. Time and time again, I end up in these situations and it just instils these ideas that I am a pushover and brings up trauma. My reclamation of this space particularly when I was often taught to work hard and be compliant, makes me feel confident that I can make my boundaries known if I do return back to work after all this. 

In this time, my whole narrative has been my mental health first and to me, part of my desire to disconnect from certain activities or people under this crisis is realising that they aren’t conducive to my mental health. Up until my most recent breakdown, I generally felt like I was broken, needed to be fixed. Whereas, this time, in order to rebuild myself and get out of the pit of despair I was in, I accepted that all my feelings were valid and that I couldn’t just do a band aid job. It’s a point of view but that’s been my life until last year, patching myself up and carry on. Pilates, swimming, meditation, therapy, choir, binge TV, partying, drinking. Apart from the latter two, it all seems positive, but for me, it was always pushing myself to the limit and doing something to release the pressure on the tap so I could get on with life. Now, I’m done with that mentality – Obsessive behaviour for me comes as an indicator of anxiety. For example, last night, I spent 3 hours watching videos about gardening and before this, I’ve been playing a lot of random quizzes online. Before I know it, it’s 5am and I’m then sleeping all day and not eating at all. Of course, under these circumstances, I offer myself allowances.

The last week, the cogs in my head have been in overdrive; my core focus is about the life I want to have after this crisis is over. Where does my energy go? What do I care about? What alleviates the anxiety and major depressive episodes I have? Ultimately, for me, it all comes back to finding some purpose and changing society for the better, to allow a world where it doesn’t take me almost 20 years to be open about who I am and that accepts people like me. However, I accept my illness is always there, just a part of me that I live alongside every single day for the rest of my life. In a weird way, I’m content. My legs are shaking as I’m anxious as anything yet smiling remembering how much joy I felt seeing a woodpecker in my garden.

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