I turned 27 this week. 27 years exploring the planet, the people and myself. I have spent nearly three decades working out who I am and carving myself a routine. Not only did I gain another notch on the bedpost of life, but DanCooleDaily reached half a decade in the world. I wanted to celebrate, I wanted to shout from the rooftops that I’d manage to find myself along the path of the last 27 years. I wanted to look at the milestones of DCD and all that I’ve achieved in five years of talking about my sad. Because that is why I started all of this; to talk about my sad. But celebrating right now doesn’t feel comfortable. My birthday was…strange. Whilst the word crumbles and whilst society changes before our eyes, it felt almost illegal to squish some candles onto a cake and make a wish as I blow them out, looking forward to the next 27.
As offices close and schools send children home indefinitely, and as we all gather around various screens to watch the daily government briefings, we slowly lose grasp of our well established routines and instead…well, instead we are all just scared. Life has changed so dramatically since we brought in the new decade, and it’s unrecognisable. Existing in the middle of the worst pandemic the world has seen in recent history is not something any of us planned for, but there’s a second pandemic running parallel, and it’s one that doesn’t pray on the old, or the young, or the sick, or the recently travelled. It’s a pandemic that doesn’t have a select target, it has the opportunity to sink us even further. You see, COVID-19 and the current state of the world is a vehicle in which our mental health sits like a crash test dummy, waiting to be pushed to the limits.
You see, our mental wellbeing is coming under constant fire from all sides right now. For many of us, we face job losses, we feel vulnerable and unprotected as we are sent home from work not knowing if we will have a username and password to log back in with when this is all over. Some us still have to work, wondering whether it’ll be the commute or the office that poses a greater risk of infection. Many parents out there are worrying how they will juggle their full time employment with their now full time childcare, weighing up the option of using annual leave or taking unpaid time away in order to care for their children. All of us have family, friends and a wider circle that cross our minds several times a day, wondering how we will cope and support them should they get sick. For many of us, we are being advised to stay away from the more vulnerable members in our life, and so we carry a guilt on our shoulders, once again weighing up an option of whether we refuse to see them or risk infecting them with a virus that we may only be a carrier of. Then there is the country wide impending lockdown, sparking panic buying in every supermarket from one end to the other. We laughed collectively at the people stockpiling toilet roll to begin with, but now I think we can all collectively agree that somewhere in the back of our minds, we understand those people. We now worry that it’s too late and we should have been those people to begin with. Panic is becoming just as contagious as the virus, and for many of us who suffer with mental health daily, this new found worry-because-other-people-are-worrying is only heightening our already overactive minds. Typically, we should be worried that we will catch Coronavirus and potentially lose our lives, but that isn’t happening. We are worried about our elderly parents, we are worried about how we will pay the bills, or how we will keep up with mortgage payments and make sure our neighbour has enough food in the cupboard.
And then there is the isolation. For many mental-health sufferers, we are already a professional when it comes to hiding from the world. I can happily go four or five days without physical human interactions, because I know how to be comfortable within myself. I know that when my brain is feeling a little sad, I need to shut off for a minute and focus on making it not so sad. But the second I was told to isolate and practice social-distancing I panicked. Because the decision was taken off me. Because somebody else was telling me not to do something that I was already more than capable of doing. It takes you back to infancy when you would want to push down and break any boundary that had been placed by somebody else. No, I don’t want to put my head into that fire, but now you’ve told me I can’t, all of a sudden…
The headspace of every single one of us is coming under attack from every angle right now and the issue is that none of us know how to deal with it, because none of us have had to deal with it before. I have experienced many mental health dips in my life, I walk through the ocean of PTSD most days, and on others I feel the general overwhelming weight of depression pushing down on my shoulders. But I have never had to deal with this feeling. And it’s a feeling that is so hard to explain, but in conversations with my nearest, it feels like a universal feeling. One of worry, one of dread, one of trying to cling to the last parts of the routine we’ve spent our lives creating whilst we still can. A feeling of heavy yet empty minds as we watch the news and scroll through social media to see yet another number rise.
I wanted to try and come to you with a quick fix. You know me, you know I want to fix everything for all of you. The reason I still do this gig is because helping you helps me, seeing you all smile is what makes me feel a little lighter. But I can’t, I can’t tell you how to do this. So instead, let me try and tell you what I’m doing – I hope there is something in this that you can for your own mental-comfort.
I unfollowed the news on all social media, putting myself back into control of when I dip in and out of this. I muted all related words on Twitter as an extra step too. I made a conscious and determined effort to reach out to my circle every day. My phone is constantly in my hand and sometimes I forgot how powerful of a communicative tool it can be. I walk my dog more than I did before all of this, and I try not to look at my phone once whilst we are out, so that I can just concentrate on the fresh air and the ‘real world’ for a minute. I stockpiled a few essentials – just enough to last a couple of day longer than the usual weekly shop. I have made sure to fill my day with different activities that make me happy. Some days I will read, others I will play on my Nintendo Switch. I spend days watching Netflix and I try and write two or three times a week, but I’ve made a pact with myself to never do the same activity two days in a row, mixing it up keeps the activity fresh and enjoyable.
Most of all though, I made a promise to myself to ride this wave, no matter which shore it washes me up on. I have been honest with how I am struggling in this new world, and for me personally, it all comes down to the lack of routine and the enforced adjustment into this temporary new normal.
Please, be kind to yourself right now. Take it easy. The truth is that this isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and therefore we have to allow ourselves a period of adjusting into the world as it stands today. It won’t be forever, and one day we will sit with the people we love and talk about the odd time in 2020 when the world stopped for a minute.
I love you, I have opened all messages on my social media should any of you need it. Whether you want to sit on FaceTime whilst I tell you dad jokes, or perhaps you want to write with me, maybe you want to just tell me the funniest thing that came from your day, I will always, be here for a conversation with all of you. Thank you, as a side note, for the last five years. Your support has changed my life more than I’ll ever be able to explain.
As a freelance writer, these times are especially tough for people like me. If you want to support me, then you can ‘buy me a coffee’ by clicking the link below. x