Heather Cobb’s #MadCovid Diaries, 16.7.20
I began volunteering 15 years ago. The dim memory of the halcyon days before the Tories got elected in 2010 flickers. I no longer fit into the neoliberal world of work but my experience of losing my mind – then my home, my family ties and my dignity – is gold in the volunteering scene. Nothing about my old life made sense after going mad. The doctors insisted I’d never work again. The jobcentre staff gave up on trying to market me. So I plunged myself into making sure other people didn’t suffer alone like I had. Austerity broke my heart but it also forged me into a powerfully skilled volunteer.
I stopped my voluntary work this week. This is just for a bit, I tell myself. COVID-19 has devoured the future and now I really can’t predict what will happen next. My body is tired and aching and wracked with hopelessness. Every governmental act of neglect makes me sink lower. This can’t be real. I lie in bed with tears leaking over my temples into the pillow and I’m just so desolate, so fucking heartsick. I’m empty.
My experience has been that a volunteer needs hope. That’s the animating force of volunteer work. I don’t care whether you are the steadfast introvert who shyly says you know a guy who might help us source what is needed or whether you the big hearted, loud mouthed, local legend activist we hear long before we see you walk in the room; you’re powered by hope. Hope moves us to work for free doing the things polite society devalues.
I’m all out of that kind of optimistic hope juice. I ran on righteous anger as a back up for a bit. But it frazzled my system. Anger is a different fuel and I respect those badass activists strong enough to run on it long term. I need to find hope again, a real source that means when I tell my peers that we won’t suffer like this forever, I say it with rock solid conviction.
It’s time to rest and I find that hard to do when there is so much to do and people – my people, my peers – are being abandoned by this government. Post COVID-19 fatigue is grinding me down. My psychiatrist is trying to discharge me. I’m tilting into deep depression, now is time to rest like life depends on it. Audre Lord said that self care is warfare and so I am taking a strategical break. When I plug back in to hope, I promise you, we’ll survive this together. We have a power source that is real. We have so much to give each other. We can survive it.