Learning from The Body Coach

Yesterday The Body Coach (Joe Wicks) posted a touching video to his followers on Instagram following the blow of yet another national lockdown announced in Boris Johnson’s public address.

Drawing upon his own anxieties during this very weird time, Wicks reiterated that despite keeping himself occupied with work throughout the duration of the pandemic, the reality of the COVID-19 situation is really affecting him, particularly recently. Wicks is known for his fitness regimes and cookbooks, and has served as a strong advocate for keeping fit, for both physical and mental health benefits, throughout the pandemic. He founded a weekly, fancy-dress virtual PE class during the first lockdown, which was imperative for the sanity of many people, not just the core demographic of children exiled into studying from home. He’s provided consistent online content, spreading his positive/proactive take on muddling through the pandemic, and has been a crucial uplifting and inspiring figure for the general public when times have been dismal.

The nicest thing about this video was his complete transparency as a public figure, his very ‘human’ response to the trials of a troubling time. It helps to break the facade of ‘the grass is greener’ and shows that even those who appear to be doing well can be struggling.

Wicks’ main points of discussion were conversational, the kind you’d have with a stranger in a pub or a neighbour on your street. He talked about his role as a father and husband, as well as the inherent need to appear strong in order to support his family. He also became quite emotional as he reflected upon his current privileges, a consequence of years and years grafting away at his career, and the contrast between his current status and his childhood roots, which briefly consisted of living in a council house with his family who struggled financially. Wicks noted that the main cause of his upset, among all the disarray at the moment, was his concern for those living alone, unemployed and/or attempting to support families whilst financially strained and under the pressure of social restrictions.

He’s definitely not the only ‘celebrity’ drawing attention to the inequities of socioeconomic backgrounds in the UK. Recently, we’ve all heard of the fantastic work Marcus Rashford has done, but also figures like Ellie Goulding have used their positions to raise awareness for charitable causes that help to support an end to homelessness. It says a lot when our celebrities and TV personalities are capable of more compassion and action for those who are struggling in the UK than those who are in actual political power, with the capacity to introduce legislations and major changes that could really help on a larger scale.

But we don’t need to get into that.

This post is just your daily reminder to normalise talking about mental health, especially at a time of crisis like a global pandemic. Joe Wicks is an absolute hero for being real candid about his experiences with this whole situation, and I think his strong emotional response to the struggle of others right now is a testament to his strength as a powerful yet vulnerable man.

One positive of 2021, so far, is that amazing people like him are using their platform to start meaningful conversations like this. I believed him when he said we’re going to get through this and now I’m ready to smash my day: let’s abolish the shame culture around talking mental health. It ain’t helping anybody!

PERSONAL BLOG: Quietly disappointed, 2021 begins

The accompaniment to a very strange NYE.

It’s that time of year again: the time for reflection and for the sincere, albeit misguided, art of resolution-making for the year ahead.

Has this worked in the past? Not really, but then again, I’m not in the habit of ritualistically practicing what I preach or staying motivated for consistent periods of time. The problem is more likely to be with me than it is with the spiritual practice of reflection and setting manageable goals for the year ahead, so, with that in mind, I’ve decided to give it another go, if only to get my affairs in order and truly gain some closure from what can only be described as the never-ending shit-show that was 2020.

It’s a tough exercise: lamenting the mistakes and shortcomings of 2020, as well as looking back fondly on the few things I’ve managed to achieve in spite of the global pandemic, which has essentially pulled the rug from beneath my feet, not to mention millions of others. This is because there has been overwhelmingly negative events to look back upon and because a lot of the memories I would have created with loved ones were wiped out by the virus (thanks again, COVID-19).

I’ve never felt like this at the beginning of a new year before.

Usually I can find a way to focus on the parts of life I’m most grateful for or the positive attributes of the world. However, I realised last night, on the cusp of 2021, that just I don’t feel very good at the moment and it is especially hard for me to be receptive to gratitude or positive things happening. I would love to decipher why that is, specifically, so that I could try and fix it. Only, how I feel is complicated because it has no sole cause and is more likely due to a combination of various factors such as: Sertraline withdrawal, underlying depression/anxiety resurfacing in a Sertraline-free body, hormones, having no personal space and the big one, COVID-19. The destroyer of dreams, the taker of good times.

NYE itself was no reassurance. Like countless others with no option to go out or be with loved ones, I stayed in. I was generally okay in the company of my incredible friends, but the evening culminated in me crying at midnight, not the good type of crying, and having to take a moment to check myself. Even though I was in a situation where literally dozens of friends and family were virtually plugged in and trying to celebrate with their heads held high, my instinct was to crawl into a dark hole and be alone, because alone was exactly how I felt. I couldn’t feel their joy even though I really wanted to.

I fought through this and made the effort to stay sociable for a while, knowing that cutting myself off would likely make everything worse, before spending a considerable amount of time thinking dark things and toying with the idea of calling Samaritans, all while dressed up and drinking a bottle of champagne in the dining room on my tod. Eventually I decided that the best way to not feel so lame, aside from having my stomach pumped, was to go to sleep in order to turn the bad thoughts off. I ended up sleeping for about 12 hours and waking up this afternoon feeling even more deflated.

I have learned that as a person, I am very good at burning the candle at both ends and taking on commitments with a vivacity, as if I’d die without inhumane amounts of stress on my shoulders. As of recent years, I am excelling at also being so burnt out and incapable of positive thought, that I am immobilised completely by anxiety and can spend long periods of time literally doing nothing. It seems I am good with extremes, but severely lacking with the ability to balance.

Being at home for the last 9 months, left to my own devices in an environment with 4 other strong personalities, has been challenging. It has meant that I am neither progressing nor deteriorating in measurable terms: I’m just not moving at all, which has actually felt even worse. For a person who is so used to being really high or really down, the prospect of repetition, routine and static has been a massive shock to the system.

Presently, my living situation leaves much to be desired. This is not because I hate my family or I’m ungrateful for all that I have, including this roof above my head, but the reality of the situation is that I am now a grown adult living like a responsibility-less child in a place where personalities clash all the time, and with about the same seismic impact as a bout with one of the Klitschko brothers.

It was once a haven, when I was really poorly last year, but it’s now a nightmare for me: I sleep in a bunk-bed in a room I share with my sister, and overhead is an over-heaving loft of disregarded artefacts, weighing down upon the house, which has clutter crammed into every possible cranny. We have not one of everything, but dozens of spare duplicates, lost in the ether and about as much use to us as a Tory government during a global pandemic. As a person who is eager to transition into a plant-based diet with cleaner, more eco-friendly modes of living and a minimalistic space of my own some day, my main instinct is to gut the whole place out and start afresh, but sadly, I am fighting against very stubborn and dark forces, which makes this an impossibility.

On a less dismal note, and accepting that there are some things beyond my control, I think I would like to work harder at focusing on the things which are in my control.

Firstly, there’s the realisation that this isn’t my house to change and everyone here has their own issues as much as I do. And as much as there may be evident signs of trauma up in my grill every day (girl, we hate to see it), it certainly isn’t my place to diagnose or assist in other people’s journeys to better themselves, particularly if they have no desire whatsoever to embark on that path and are content living in oblivion. It may be an inconvenience which has an impact on me, but it is truly not my problem.

Secondly, I am in control of my fitness and clean-eating habits, of which I currently have none. On the plus-side, I literally have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the moment I pull my finger out and make a conscientious effort to try, in whatever capacity I can, on a day-to-day basis. Amen hallelujah, brother.

Thirdly, I would like to convert my frustrations at this current, temporary living situation into a real, tangible effort at making my vision of my own future home into a reality. There’s much saving to be done, many decor mood-boards to be made, dog shelters to be perused and other logistical obstacles to be overcome, so I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied, on that front.

Fourthly, though my mental health is pretty good at making this feel like it isn’t the case, I am in control of how I talk about myself and how I view myself as a person. In this moment, I would like to give myself kudos for actually just being alive right now, as there have been several times over 2020 where the black dog has pushed me into that dingy corner and made me seriously question mortality. I’m going to go full Snoop Dogg mode and thank myself for getting here, because ultimately, it’s all on me.

There are many more to note, but I think I’ll keep those in my notepad and perhaps this year, I won’t beat myself up for not hitting impossible targets by choosing not to make impossible goals and targets in the first place.

Disclaimer: In the time it’s taken me to write this, I’ve gone from feeling like a used Kleenex to actually pretty decent, which is a welcome change and a promising start to 2021, despite all the bad juju I’ve had in the last 24 hours. This is the power of writing and self-reflection. This was intended to be a private rant in a shelved Word document, but instead, it is my first statement to the world of 2021. It is an honest and tired account of a person who doesn’t quite know what she’s doing in life, but she’s come to terms with that and most other imperfections she carries, so I think that’s worth some celebration in itself.

I hope that whoever reads this is armed with the knowledge that struggle is inevitable and mental health is a rollercoaster that doesn’t necessarily correspond with what’s happening in the world. It could be the brightest day with the nicest encounters, but that doesn’t mean you feel it as such, if your head isn’t in that place. I am currently going through a bad patch, but I believe everything will be okay because it has to be okay and, even if you don’t feel this right now, know that I am believing on your behalf and that you’re never alone. Here’s to clawing our way through 2021 in the same way we did 2020 ❤