No, you’re not losing your mind, week five really is the worst week of lockdown – here’s why
20th Apr 2020
This lockdown is forcing me to sit with my feelings… and it is not going well.
We’ve been trudging through this rather admirably so far. We’ve established new ways of working, become teachers to our children and found ways to show people we love care and affection in nuanced ways: an An Post postcard, a sanitised box of brownies at their doorstep, Zoom quizzes and games every Saturday.
But this experience is also taking a toll on our mental health. It has to. We are social creatures, we need community and social interaction to process and contextualise our own internal conversations. These shared experiences take us out of ourselves, establishing perspective and empathy.
However, the lockdown has stripped away so much of these purest of comforts. A loving cuddle from your mum, her hand making slow strokes through your hair. Enjoying the banter of your friends as their collective humour dissipates your worries. Turning to a loved one for advice and feeling shored up as they support and guide you with affection and trust.
Our closest relationships are manifested in their familiarity – they know our subtle cues, how to read our body language and the life experience that buttresses our approach to the world. Zoom is a wonderful tool that bridges lives and continents but it can be difficult to host a meaningful conversation while staring into glitchy, pixelated eyes.
Instead we’re forced to sit with our feelings, and without the highs that community and a sense of place within the world can bring, we are left to feel the fullness of the lows as they wash over us. Being solely responsible for your mood is a significant burden. It’s hard to dig yourself out and is made even more difficult as you lambast yourself for ending up there in the first place.
We’re told that being productive and getting work done, whether household or occupational, will help lift our mood, give us a sense of purpose and achievement. Or, alternatively, self care will do the trick, a face mask and some quality time with your Netflix algorithm perhaps.
These are both valid solutions, but they also have their limits in the current situation. We are living in the worst global pandemic in a century. The lives of loved ones are at risk and life for everyone is truncated and complex. It is almost impossible to be productive under these conditions and sometimes the guise of productivity can only reinforce the ennui as we struggle and fail to achieve the simple goals we set ourselves.
The same can be said for lounging on the sofa for the day. While it can help you feel better, prolonged stagnation is not the answer and if it goes unchecked it can result in wallowing. Trust me, I know, I spent a large chunk of my weekend wallowing.
Even if you are lucky enough to be in a household with a loved one or two, they can’t be expected to be all things to you and you for them. Different relationships sate different appetites within us. We have people we turn to specifically for advice, others for comfort and more again for perspective.
The expectation that one person can substitute an entire community, and in return demand the same from their partner is an impossible responsibility. If you find your relationship is starting to fray at the edges this week, don’t take it as a sign that your relationship is crumbling. It’s just par for the lockdown course.
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So as we crawl through this week, as home school begins again in earnest and we come to terms with the fact that there is no magic switch for returning to normality, be as conscious of these situational shortcomings as you are of your own.
Treat yourself as you would your best friend. Tell her these are difficult days for everyone and that her feelings of isolation and loneliness are actually communal, even global ones. Editor Laura Brown pulled the above quote from a great piece in The Atlantic and I was humbled to feel a community humming within these difficult times.
In summary, be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can.
Read more: ‘Everyone else seems to be doing isolation better and more fashionably than me’
Read more: ‘I’ve embraced doing (almost) nothing during quarantine – but it hasn’t turned out as I hoped’
Read more: Angelina Jolie’s advice is more important than ever during Covid-19
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