Strangest of Times. Six Months Later

**Artwork credit, for the above, goes to the very talented Maddy Bennett. Check out her website for more information about her creations.

Six months ago I was broken. Consumed with fear. Catastrophising hourly; allowing my thoughts to consume me and fall into the darkest crevices of my mind. Strangest of Times, my piece for pandemic inspired anthology Heartache and Hope captured every emotion. Raw, authentic, vulnerable – all the things that leave you feeling naked afterwards. You could be forgiven for thinking it was a work of fiction. In case you missed it, you can learn more about the anthology by visiting the Birch Moon Press website.

Six months later, what’s changed?

My piece ends with the sentence: “I just have to sit with my discomfort and hope the answers present themselves.” Thankfully, prior to Covid 19 and lockdown, I’d become adept at allowing my thoughts to come and go. Our thoughts are simply formless energy and they only have power over us if we hand it to them. Self-preservation mechanisms are great in theory, of course. Working perfectly when life is good. When life is normal and nothing out of the ordinary presents itself.

Covid and lockdown presented us all with an existential crisis. Whether we were dealing with the virus in the confines of our homes or in the hospital. Lost loved ones and/or livelihoods. Worked on the front lines or simply had to get through the day. One thing was certain, there was nowhere to hide. Carefully orchestrated lives fell apart at the seams. Mental health hacks that were put in place during easier times got tested to their full capacity.

I can choose

When things get real

Are we really as good as we think we are at holding it all together when the shit is hitting the fan? Yes and no, in my case. Mental health can be a precarious thing, especially when you have a history like mine. Not being my first rodeo, I knew the signs that I was struggling. Subconscious or otherwise, I was pushing friends away and withdrawing from almost everyone.

Appetite gone, night terrors back, searching for comfort in the wrong places. Worried sick about my husband’s health – during and post Covid – and whether he would find another job, my world became very small indeed. Essentially consisting of the five of us here and a tiny group of friends and neighbours who saw my decline and supported me the only way they could. With text messages and FaceTimes.

Having lived for years in perpetual fight or flight mode, sky high cortisol leading the charge, I knew I was being propelled back to that place. Owning how I was feeling, and knowing why it was happening, was incredibly powerful. Not being my first (second, third or fourth!) rodeo meant I was able to tell myself it was temporary and that I would get through to the other side. Been here before, no doubt I’ll end up here again and it won’t last forever. No matter how dark the day gets, it’s only 24 hours.

This too shall pass

Eventually it passes, it always does. What felt like an impossible mountain to climb six months ago is now simply part of history. Plenty of other things have happened since then and right now, there are new challenges to deal with. London goes into semi-lockdown at midnight aka “tier 2 restrictions” coined the worst of both worlds, so it’s unsurprising many of us are feeling glum today.

Kids across the country are devastated that their half term meet ups, well within the rules just last week, are now illegal. Calendars have once again been rendered pointless. Closed for the foreseeable, so they can’t sneer at us from the kitchen wall. The bleakness of zero social interaction stretching on for months and months is overwhelming.

Welcome to the shitshow

Perhaps we’d all feel better if we’d witnessed excellent leadership this last half year? Alas, our government has well and truly revealed themselves as the wolves in sheep’s clothing many of us knew them to be, prior to last December’s general election. Profiteering off our misery and topping up their trusts funds with tax payers cash. Too depressing to follow most days and the opposition is just as useless.

Buckle up my friends, because heading into winter we have to be prepared for the worst. Not in a pessimistic, nihilistic way but a realistic one. Time to drop the expectations. Of ourselves and our loved ones. Focussing instead on the important things, namely the goings on inside our four walls. Boosting our immune systems at every chance and putting all those mental health hacks into play.

My world is shrinking once again but I feel more prepared for it than I did in March. Stronger, at least for right here and right now. Long may it last.

As we could all use a bit of cheering up, I shall leave you with the brilliant Cassetteboy…

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