It’s #MentalHealthAwareness week and my ninth week alone. Considering all my nice ideas for posts about restaurants, bars, events and travel are on hold, I thought it would be worth sharing what it feels like to be in lockdown alone for months, in case it helps anyone feel less crazy.
Living and Working Alone Before Lockdown
Let’s get things straight: I am a lone wolf. I purposely chose to live alone because I like and need my space. I purposely chose to do a PhD because I like working alone, hate pointless meetings and dealing with clients. Basically, I do ok on my own: so ok in fact that, pre-lockdown, I often had to take “alone days” when I didn’t see anyone if I felt “peopled out” by work or events.
But that was another world.
Living and working completely alone, having to avoid any form of human contact or touch for more than nine weeks isn’t what I signed up for. I love working and living alone. But not when it’s enforced by Government and by a bloody virus.
Living and Working Alone In Lockdown
As you now might have heard or read multiple times, I have been alone since March 18. I haven’t been hugged since then, and while I’ve briefly run into people I know in my area, I’ve basically been on my own for more than two months. This has been affecting me in a variety of ways.
I have anxiety, depression and PTSD brought by an abusive relationship. I’ve dealt with them through talking therapy and through CBT, but they’ve come back with a bang in lockdown. While I’m implementing a variety of CBT techniques – such as only trying to deal with issues I have control over – the pandemic has thrown my coping mechanisms into disarray. When your coping mechanisms largely involve being in control, it’s hard to face the fact that, mostly, you are out of control. And that you’re gonna be out of control for months.
As a result, I’m very tearful, for stupid reasons. I cry at songs. I cry at pictures of animals. I cry at TV shows you’re not meant to cry at. I cry if I get annoyed or angry, which I didn’t use to do. It’s quite exhausting, really.
Like many women in lockdown apparently, I am suffering from incredibly painful periods. My periods have never been easy, but never crippling; yet, last month I was unable to lift myself out of bed on the first day. I then moved to the bed, to the sofa and ultimately to the floor, screaming in pain. I don’t think I’ve ever had such painful periods, and I am really worried about the next ones.
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We recently had a very engaging discussion on here about how so many of our cycles are wacky right now because of the pandemic. One of the common changes we heard was more painful periods. So, we are taking a tip from our friend @nicolemjardim new book Fix Your Period and sending you to check out castor oil packs. Nicole shares that they can work wonders for period pain, improving scar tissue and bringing blood flow to the pelvic region, which can also help reduce very dark or brown blood (aka stagnant, old blood). You can purchase a castor oil pack kit and apply to your lower belly with a heating pad for 30-45 min 1-3x per week. This should be used topically (don’t ingest!) and is not appropriate when you actually have your period, are pregnant, breast/chestfeeding or in your luteal phase and trying to conceive. There is also mixed info if you have an IUD- so check in w/ ur health team! Check out Nicole’s site for more info on castor oil packs! Stunning ðŸ“· @sylvieblum #vaginalhealth #knowyourbody #vaginal #vaginahealth #healthyvagina #reproductivehealth #sexhealth #yonihealth #yonihealing #pelvichealth
My PMS has also been an absolute killer since I’ve started self-isolating alone. Headaches, back pain, increased insecurity and anxiety, repeated mood changes have made me feel like a shell of myself.
I had to watch my country, Italy, get progressively worse while the Coronavirus tragedy was repeating here in the UK. I haven’t seen my family since January and, on top of that, one of my main sources of worry and sadness is that I can’t see my partner. As a result – particularly when I’m PMSing – I feel increasingly insecure about our relationship, and I am in constant need of reassurance. I feel high maintenance and unreasonable, even if he doesn’t make me feel that way. So we’ve been trying to deal with this by having a weekly schedule of chats, movie nights and moments we can “spend together” even from afar, and to improve our already good communication to avoid too much drama. More info about this in an older post.
My other relationships have taken a hit. While initially many people in lockdown reacted by phoning absolutely everyone, due to Zoom teaching, work and PhD calls I have video chat fatigue. The simple action of having to speak to someone through a screen or a tech device makes me feel exhausted.
So I’ve reduced the amount of people I chat with to a very small circle of friends that understand me and that I don’t feel burdened by. Which makes me sound like a bitch, but in lockdown, where everything sucks, you really have to look after number one.
What Will Happen In A Few Weeks?
So yeah. I’m going slightly crazy. Who wouldn’t, after weeks of enforced isolation? I’m sorry if you thought this post was going to have some sort of uplifting ending. It doesn’t. Because things really are bleak for most people at the moment, especially if they were struggling with their mental health before lockdown.
If you want to read a more positive, tips-based post about how I am staying sane in lockdown, you can read it here. But I think it’s essential for readers and audiences to understand that, even if content creators are striving to stay active and be creative in lockdown, their mental health is taking a hit too. Writing about it, or sharing it, doesn’t necessarily mean they are over their mental illness or struggles.
The hardest thing for me is not knowing what will happen next, or when I will be seeing the people I love the most – particularly because the UK Government doesn’t seem to know either.
While everyone can appreciate the terribly worrying economic impact lockdown is having on people, it’s quite puzzling to me that – as of today, May 20, a week or so after Phase 2 announcements – the Government has told estate agents they can go ahead and work, or garden centres to open, but hasn’t told us more than: “You can meet one person at a time, at 2m apart in a park.” The Government’s utter disregard for people’s mental health and need for connection is really quite puzzling – as this clip below shows.
“But don’t you see that that’s utterly bonkers?” pic.twitter.com/71aQCoTM15â€” The Agitator (@UKDemockery) May 12, 2020
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s comment that you might have to “pick a parent” or see them at 2m apart separately at 10min intervals does sound “utterly bonkers”, as Phillip Schofield expressively noted in the video.
I understand that, for governments worldwide, it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. But leaving citizens in the dark is infantilising, dangerous and scary: some people’s mental health will get worse, while others will break the rules to cope and we will all be worse off.
In Italy – initially Europe’s worst Coronavirus hit country – the emphasis on families became a clear staple of pre-Phase 2. The Italian Government allowed people to see “congiunti” (loved ones) – which became the word of the day for people looking up who was included in this category.
Sure, the memes about whether lovers, mistresses, that Tinder one-night-stand were “congiunti” were hilarious. The meme above jokes, like a primary school note, about whether someone wants to be someone else’s “stable loved one”. But memes or no memes, the Italian Government did at least make a step towards recognising people’s need for affection and human contact.
In the UK on the other hand, the Government would happily risk people’s lives in sending them back to work, but doesn’t allow them to see or let them know when they can see the people that can make this lockdown a little less hard. The confusing, mixed messages by the Government have led people to feel unsafe and, at least for me, even more isolated: the fact that they really seem to have no idea, or do not want to risk the nth gaffe, makes me feel like I will see the people I love even later.
At least it has led to my most popular tweet ever though. #priorities
The UK government: #StayAlertâ€” Blogger On Pole (Carolina ðŸ‡®ðŸ‡¹ðŸ‡¬ðŸ‡§ðŸ³ï¸â€ðŸŒˆ) (@bloggeronpole) May 10, 2020
People: But I donâ€™t even know what that means
UK government: NO ONE KNOWS WHAT IT MEANS, BUT ITâ€™S PROVOCATIVE!
People: No itâ€™s not…
UK government: IT GETS THE PEOPLE GOING
In all seriousness though, it’s hard to feel hopeful when the only things that have touched you for months are your pole and your foam roller. And maybe, a vibrator (although I’m not always in the mood). Experts have begun talking about “touch starvation” or “skin hunger” to describe what single people or those who, like me, are self-isolating alone are feeling – and I agree. It’s real.
I’ve almost forgotten what being touched or loved offline feels like. I think when my partner will finally hug me I will explode. I have never been alone this long – and I’ve travelled alone, moved to the other side of the world, worked alone. I’m ok on my own. But this… this is just too much. I basically just need a hug. A big, bear hug.
The Government needs clear answers and strategies to help people cope – and no, I don’t wanna see my partner in a park at 2m apart. I wanna rip his clothes off.
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