DOOMSDAY: COVID-19 Quarantine Countdown Begins

Ah, we live in a time of great uncertainty.

This weekend has been a challenge: for somebody who is already struggling with anxiety, I have a lot of coping techniques which I implement in order to manage my condition and therefore survive it. However, with the global pandemic of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and our government’s ‘interesting’ proposal to tackle the outbreak, it’s very hard to abate the general anxiety about what is to come.

Finding the balance between sheer paranoia and ignorance is difficult. On the one hand, we are being told to keep on carrying on, ensuing normality in the home/work/school place. The advice is to wash hands thoroughly and basically honour the common-sense rules of courtesy by not coughing directly on someone’s face or showing up, potentially carrying the virus, when you’ve spiked a crazy fever. Whilst on the other hand, we now have all news streams practically dedicated to COVID-19, a constant feed of growing fatality statistics, updated flight-bans and confirmation that countries are systematically locking themselves down.

The seriousness of this virus has transpired, we’ve seen trends of mass hysteria and panic-buying as people gear up for the inevitable period of self-isolation. Testimonials from other quarantined folks across Europe speak of heeding the warning and taking action immediately, if we are to avoid the impact that they’ve faced. Unions of teachers and a group of acclaimed researchers/scientists have written separate letters to Boris Johnson, questioning the efficacy of his current directions for the country and urging him to consider more serious actions, such as social distancing and school closures.

I have spent most of the weekend worrying about being fired, which is not particularly unusual as this has been a recurring thought-stream for a few months now. I’m a very insecure individual and there have been numerous factors behind this fixation. However, in the wake of COVID-19, I have been feeling even more anxious about taking precaution and deviating (a personal choice) from official governmental advice. As the government has not specifically advised to self-isolate, unless experiencing symptoms of the virus, I’m expected to work from the office. But isn’t my health, and the health of my loved ones, more of a priority than satisfying protocol about which seat my ass is sat on while I do my job and what I’m wearing while I do it? (Admittedly I work in my PJs or slacks when I WFH).

I don’t want to be a risk to more vulnerable should I become a carrier in the incubation period, with seemingly no symptoms. When the beast rears its ugly head, the reality is that I can handle a flu but the elderly folk I see dotted around on my commute to work can’t and immuno-compromised folk (such as my mum, with whom I live) will potentially be facing a pretty gnarly recovery. So, I’m in a moral conundrum as to whether I stay at home, where I can work efficiently (with the same capacity I do from the office) or go to work, with an above-average anxiety level as we await further advice.

All I can do is be patient. This decision is at my discretion and I should remember that numerous others are in a similar predicament, considering whether to follow current guidelines or follow suit with the examples of other earlier outbreaks across the globe. I’m still torn but I will follow my gut and be as conscientious as possible, if I’m out and about. Also, I’m planning ahead for all of the positive outcomes that may result from social distancing. There’s:

  • plenty of books to be read,
  • hours of yoga to be caught up on,
  • many classic films I’ve neglected to watch over the years; and,
  • quality family bonding time (daily domestics included) to fill the dark days ahead.

In a weird way, maybe this could be an imperative learning curve for the world, which feels as though it has literally stopped spinning as COVID-19 has obliterated every continent it’s touched.

This might be a period of time invaluable for many folk who need some space to partake in self-care and retract from the bustling pandemonium of “work-eat-sleep-repeat”. Perspective is important and I think we’d all fare better, myself included, if we were to be thankful at this time of crisis for the incredible things we have. Even in Italy, over the last few days, there have been videos of joyous dancing and singing as citizens take to their balconies to show their communal spirit. In the face of adversity, humans can break and bend and they can most certainly bounce back.

My agoraphobia last year made me very acclimated to literally living for months in the house and focusing on improving mental health with positive affirmations and routines. However, now that my mental health is generally improved, I do feel that cabin fever is more likely to make an appearance. Having gained the confidence to venture out, it will probably be uncomfortable to temporarily shut the door again but I guess I need to keep the bigger picture in mind.

We have a duty of care for each other and will only make it through this colourful shit-storm if we hold each other up, and check on our most vulnerable. We have to prop up the NHS, which was buckling long before COVID-19 made an appearance. We have to think of our neighbours, who may be struggling with the plight of isolation or getting the groceries they need. We also have a duty of care for ourselves: however, taking care of ourselves shouldn’t be at the detriment of others. Situations like this are no reason to abandon kindness. Period.

There are lots of feelings right now and all of them are valid. Fear makes us function in very different ways, often unexplainable. It’s instinctive behaviour in moments of uncertainty. As I’ve learned, just from writing this out and feeling some sort of small relief, all I can do is slow down my racing thoughts and take deep breaths. Maybe writing is the way through this all. Slowing everything down and being present, taking things day by day and each moment by moment.

SIDENOTE:

As I’ve been writing, I’ve also come across this new article which basically further summarises the causes for concern with our current plan of action here in the UK. This might be of interest:

2020 vision: a reflection of what’s been and a speculation as to what will come

A bathroom selfie from my first week at work, feeling indestructible!

Against all odds, I started a new job in November. It was significant and ultra scary after a year of unemployment, plus it had only been a few months since the final end of my master’s course. I was without direction and honestly lacking a sense of my own identity, with everything having changed so majorly. So it was pretty overwhelming, thinking about the fact I’d miraculously landed my first full-time job after the successful completion of uni. I got my own desk. I got my own laptop. I got my own telephone number on the company directory. It was surreal.

The commutes were great initially (let’s not talk about the train timetable changes in December…). The colleagues in the office were lovely and very patient with me. My family were supportive and encouraging, proud that I was settling in. It was really good.

However, the irony is that around the time I started the job, I stopped practicing all of the amazing self-care routines that I’d spent the summer creating. Yoga, healthy eating, daily workouts, hypnotherapy tapes at night, regular meditation etc. It was like, at the first sight of normality, I regressed into all of the bad habits that I knew had led me to ultimately feeling so low earlier in 2019. I threw myself into work whole-heartedly and did my usual self-destructive thing: juggling as much as humanly possible (finishing a distance-learning course alongside a full time job), working longer hours than I was contracted to (unpaid, might I add) and being silly enough to work straight through lunch breaks (taking no time to stop and do something recreational for myself). I bailed on plans with friends several times and beat myself up about it, constantly. I was drinking a lot of alcohol again and deeming it acceptable because I deserved it, after a hard day at work.

As a result of numerous stressors, predominantly ones designed by yours truly, I felt quite low during my last week at work and had a bit of a spontaneous cry at the office. I was exhausted. I also began to realise that even with numerous drastic changes in my life, for the positive, I was still feeling not so great. I think I’d felt guilty for a few weeks, constantly telling that internal voice to shut-up and stop being sad. I was starting to get my life together, so why was I feeling so bad? Why was it that, even with gratitude leaking out of every pore, it was still possible to feel so horrible and possess such a cripplingly low self-esteem? It turns out that depression and anxiety don’t just disappear overnight. They’re not purely situational diagnoses’ and they sure as heck defy sense. You can have all the components of a perfect existence under your belt and that won’t make a difference, if you have depression and/or anxiety. This is the sad truth yet when acknowledged, it can also be a liberating one. Sometimes resistance is futile and its more empowering to accept that you’re not where you want to be just yet, but you will be some day. That’s enough. Whilst I’d made undeniable progress in my journey to recovery, there was still so much more left to overcome. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s okay! There’s no bloody deadline date! It’s a lifelong commitment to preserve myself and be less of an asshole, where possible. I have to learn and I have to grow, yet to do both I also have to suffer sometimes because life can’t just be rainbows and butterflies. Humans aren’t infallible- they break and they bend and need to go through stressful environments and situations in order to take a stronger form.

Over Christmas, a busy period of time spent catching up with a never-ending conveyor belt of family faces, I realised that I had to commit to change. It was so nice to be able to savour the time with loved ones and it gave me a much needed reality-check in time for the new year. There’s no point putting so much time and effort into self-care if it’s only being done in an opportunistic window. You have to fight to change your lifestyle and to ingrain the practices that keep you grounded into your daily routine, at any cost. You have to appreciate your efforts, whether they bloom into what you wanted or fail, because at least you tried.

So my goal for 2020 is to really push for balance. A career is great but not without down-time and personal commitments. I want to manifest a vision of strong physical and mental health, confidence in my abilities as a writer and singer, an abundance of financial gain (earned through persistence and hard work) as well as an improvement in self-worth. I want to see my friends and truly treasure them, so that they go to bed every night with no doubt that they are loved and cherished. I want to finally accept that I am deserving of respect and that I am entitled to space from people and situations that are toxic.

2020 will also be the year I finally make philanthropy a priority. I want to give time and whatever resources I possess to various causes, local and beyond. It is no secret that our world is riddled with social and environmental concerns that need to be addressed with activism, fundraising and awareness. I want to be part of that fight and I want to be part of some positive change, even if its for only one person.

Those are my intentions. Those are my primary focuses in 2020. Though things are looking and feeling pretty scary, I am determined that things are going to get better.

On a final note, despite all my woes in 2019, I also have to acknowledge that it was a year of many victories, even if I didn’t have the capacity to truly appreciate them at the time. I:

  • Handed in my master’s thesis with minor corrections (literally grammar and punctuation changes were suggested).
  • Started a very candid and open conversation about mental health, which has been extremely challenging in previous years. I received lots and lots of supports from loved ones and strangers, far and wide.
  • Got to spend a lot of quality time with my family for the first time in many, many years.
  • Went to therapy and also overcame my aversion to medication, trying antidepressants at the recommendation of my amazing GP.
  • Started blogging again, making an active effort to post on a weekly basis.
  • Read, and enjoyed, way more books than in previous years.
  • Completed a distance-learning course in Mental Health Awareness.
  • Bagged a guest spot on a website about female worth.
  • Graduated again.
  • Started an enjoyable job that actually has some relation to the degree I did.

I mean, that’s pretty damn impressive for somebody who had effectively given up on life and spent around 6 months physically unable to leave the house. If that’s what I managed whilst fully incapacitated, I can only wonder how much potentials this year holds!

I hope that I will look back at this post in the future and feel some gratification, in knowing that I acted on all of this. I also hope that you, dear reader, will be doing all that you can to manifest a brighter 2020 for yourself and your world💜🌍