It’s day 1000 of the millionth week of lockdown. The last time you wore jeans was to buy snacks from the supermarket. In fact, you already had heaps of snacks at home but you needed desperately to get out of your joggers and to feel normal again.
You’ve woken up today with this inexplicable sense of malaise. No matter where you go in the house, each room brings with a sense of annoyance. When was the last time you went for a walk? What did I even do for myself before all of this?
Despite the fact it’s Saturday night, you’ve turned your phone over to ignore your friends. You haven’t properly seen any friends now for days, maybe weeks, but you just can’t summon the energy to reply to anyone anymore.
You might have experienced some of these, or not. You might be sitting wondering now if your mental health has declined during the lockdown, and if so, what has it looked like for you? Begrudgingly, I’ve had to accept a lot of losses throughout this period. From 2017-2019, I’d really gotten into shape. I’d held a talk on mental health at my university, and to a lot of people on the outside I must have really looked like I’d cracked it. I myself probably perpetuated this myth by only ever sharing the wins on social media. During the lockdowns of 2020-21, I’ve slowly come to realise that there’s no more running away from the losses that have come my way. You’ve probably already guessed it but all three scenarios at the top have happened to me at some point during all this.
I look at myself in the mirror a lot more than I used to, aware that my body is a reflection of my mental state. I don’t much like what I see. I build myself up to start a positive routine again, but my mind right now would rather grapple with the weight of my excuses than grapple with actual weights. Plus, there aren’t actually any weights to grapple with these days. I view myself at one and the same time as a victim of forced circumstances and a shadow of what I used to be. Instead of taking action, it’s easier sometimes to contemplate where the blame lies for my own stagnation.
Then again, how do you take positive action for yourself when the world feels upside down, nothing makes sense, and the pubs are still bloody closed. My situation is markedly different from some of my wonderful friends and family who have made great strides for themselves during all of this. And there are people worse off than me, too. As I go further along, I’ve began to see this as a journey. Previously, I’d seen my recovery from panic disorder and subsequent revival as a linear path. I’d been at the bottom, built myself back up, and surely I would just stay there? Absolutely not. I haven’t hit bottom again, far from (luckily), but I’m definitely not where I was. Sometimes I pick up again, building momentum until Boris Johnson comes onto the TV to blunder through another reminder that life is really shit at the moment. Sometimes I genuinely just lose the motivation to do anything, purely because I’m tired. You see how I can’t pin the blame for my stagnation on any one thing? I’ve given up trying now. I now try to take it one day at a time, embracing every success that comes my way. My success for today was waking up at 5:45am and doing 10 minutes of skipping in the cold.
Everything is a mess, nothing makes sense, and it is absolutely fine if you’ve suffered a decline in your mental health during all this. You might look at yourself now and wonder ‘why can’t you be this person again?’ But that person lived under a totally different time. If, like me, you’re a bit unsure where to start again, just do one thing tomorrow that you couldn’t today, and then you’re back on the right path… just this path is on fire right now and is covered in spikes so don’t be too hard on yourself if you jump off sometimes.
And your friends still love you even though you’ve been a bit distant.