How #Covid-19 and it's subsequent lockdown actually saved my life
TW: depression, anxiety, suicide
I want to start off this post by saying that what I am about to write is in no way intended to be disrespectful to the those hugely affected by Covid-19. Whether you lost a loved one or lost something that meant a lot to you - money, a job, a home, etc, I am sending you so much love. I lost a lot due to the pandemic too, but I also gained some things that I'll weirdly enough, forever be grateful to 2020 for, however much of a shitshow this year has been.
Let's go back to the start of 2020. I started out the year in a good place - physically. I saw in the New Year in Arizona with my best friend Andrea. But mentally, my anxiety was the worst it's ever been. I went through something in the previous November which well and truly changed me. It threw my life completely of course and has scarred me. I was suppressing it, what had happened to me, and trying to get by. The trip to Arizona was booked and I was just focusing on being excited for that. The trip came and went and before I knew it, I was back in Derby and back facing the demons that I'd been trying to ignore.
The worst day of 2020 for me came at the end of January. There were whispers of Covid-19 around me then. No one knew much other than there had been an outbreak of a virus in China. I remember on that worst day, my friends and I had ordered a Chinese takeaway and were discussing how some people had refused to do just that, and were avoiding the cuisine altogether.
My worst day came, and went, and afterwards I experienced more "worst days". I fell into a very dark depression and I struggled to see any source of light. Being someone who has experienced poor mental health for years, nothing had compared to this. None of my usual coping mechanisms were helping and I had never, ever been worse. I didn't leave my room for days on end. I didn't eat, I couldn't stomach anything. I had no appetite. I don't think people believe me when I say that as I'm known to be such a foodie, but genuinely, I didn't eat for about 4 days. I didn't shower, I didn't change my clothes. I could't sleep properly. I was completely broken. It went on like this, until I felt like I'd truly had enough, and was ringing my friends and telling them that I was going to kill myself.
Luckily, I was talked down. But the "worst days" didn't stop there. I struggled day in, day out, with even the most basic of tasks. When I eventually plucked up the courage to leave my flat, I couldn't do so on my own. I was escorted everywhere. I didn't walk anywhere alone or take public transport. I was getting taxis to uni lectures that I'd been pressured to go to. This was my lockdown. I wasn't going anywhere other than uni, because if I did, and I did try(!), I was having panic attacks and throwing up at how upset it made me to be around people. One night where I went out for some food with a friend, well that was the night my friends had to tell me to not die, as I was in such a state after feeling like I couldn't even manage some food in a restaurant. I was sobbing, telling the friends that helped me that I could see no way out. If I couldn't manage to be a in a restaurant, so paranoid that something awful was going to happen to me again, then what was the point in living? I remember thinking.
Then boom. Lockdown ensues. I wrote an article for Medium when things started to pick up and talk of a national lockdown began. You can read it here. I was so, so worried that lockdown was going to be the worst thing ever for me and my mental health. Funnily enough, it actually turned into the best.
I packed up and left the place that was torturing me and returned home to Sheffield to live with my parents for what we thought was going to be a few weeks. As we all know, that turned into 6 months. It was a 6 month long healing journey. It was the break I so desperately needed. I spent every day with my family and my dog. Doing things I love like playing The Sims, baking, and improving my cooking. I reconnected with old friends (online) and when lockdown began to ease I saw friends on socially distant walks that I hadn't been able to see for a while, not just because of lockdown, but because we usually live in cities far apart. I started exercising, eating well, genuinely looking after myself. I practised self care, I slept so much better. I took on lots of exciting freelance projects and worked on my career and I wrote a freaking book. If lockdown hadn't had happened, I am sure as hell I wouldn't have done any of the above. It was a time to reflect, but also move on, and grow. When lockdown was lifted and we were being encouraged to travel, I hopped on a plane to France, by myself (!!) and had the best 5 days on my mini solo adventure. I would have never done that if it wasn't for lockdown. I felt the need for a trip abroad and when no one around me could go - I didn't let that stop me. I would have usually made so many excuses. But I didn't. That trip was so freeing, so liberating. I returned back to Sheffield after that, spending a few more weeks there before finally feeling ready to go back to Derby. In March, I was so ready to get away from my uni city. By September, I was itching to get back.
I can't even really fathom what life would have been like if lockdown didn't happen. I can't fathom it, because I don't think there would be a life. That's really hard to admit, but I genuinely don't see how I would have coped if I'd had to stay in Derby past March. If Coronavirus was never a thing and life continued to go how it was going. Of course, I'd rather something else over a global pandemic, but life works in mysterious ways and Covid-19 certainly saved mine.
I am so much better now. I'm healthier, I'm recovering. I'm strong. Loosing my best friend at the beginning of September definitely knocked me sideways to say the least, but having the coping mechanisms I developed over lockdown, I handled it and now I'm living everyday for him, as well as myself. Lockdown meant I couldn't hug him the last few times I saw him, which was so painful. I wish things could have been different in that sense.
Being an optimist like I try to be isn't disregarding that bad things do happen. It's about focusing more on the good and trying to find the positives in those bad things, whilst also accepting that every bad thing doesn't have to have a positive too. You can just accept that it's happened, and move on and find something that is good to focus your energy on instead.#staypositivetestnegative should be the motto of 2020 if it's not already :)