Why some of us are seemingly coping so well with lockdown
Really - how and why are we?
I’ll set the scene for you: my mum has recently ended cancer treatment, and I have recently ended a period of unemployment.
One day, my mum said to me how, as a cancer patient, she almost felt as if she had been in training for this lockdown before it was even a thing – before COVID-19 was something we were even aware of. During her treatments, she spent a lot of time in the house. She generally avoided going out to crowded areas where there was an increased chance of her catching something. So, when this pandemic hit and altered lives across the world, my mum was… well, in a sense, already adapted to the lifestyle which has become the new norm for most of us.
As for me, I was unemployed for about three months after my first graduate job didn’t work out. Even now, this period of unemployment still remains a source of embarrassment for me, and I generally don’t talk publicly about it – in fact, when I was unemployed, I very rarely used that term. I would tell people I was ‘looking for work’, or I’d say something vague then move the conversation along. There’s a nasty stereotype that comes with the word ‘unemployed’, a nasty stereotype which fails to consider the circumstances of why some people are unemployed. It fails to consider that the majority of people who are unemployed want to be in work, and will work incredibly hard to find employment. I would spend hours applying to jobs, sometimes forgetting to eat, or keeping myself up at night. If I gave myself a day off, I would feel a terrible sense of guilt. I spent a lot of time and money going to and from interviews only to not hear back from most of them. Whenever I heard someone say ‘unemployed’ in a derogatory manner, I would feel genuine hurt.
In the months leading up to this pandemic, both my mum and I had adapted to lifestyles which were different from the ones we had known previously – we were both spending more time indoors, for starters. My mum had her health concerns, and I had my financial and job stability concerns – three things which many of us are more familiar with now than we were a mere month ago.
As my period of unemployment went on, I was prescribed anti-depressants. Anxiety and low mood are things I’ve struggled with for years, but around this time period I had been through a series of life-changing events in quick succession - and my mental health was absolutely not in a good place. With encouragement from friends and family, I finally agreed to go see a doctor again, and was incredibly lucky to be sent to a doctor who I felt genuinely listened to my cry for help.
I say this because I know some of the people most affected by this lockdown are those of us who suffer from mental health issues, because so much of our happiness and coping methods come from being able to go out with our friends, going to bars and cafés, going to the gym, going to see live music. Yes, I do miss all those things, and I have had my bad days where I’ve forgotten to take my medication, or where I stress myself out to the point of tears.
However, I almost feel guilty for how well I’m coping during all of this, whilst a lot of other people I know are struggling. And it’s exactly as my mum said: both of us feel like we’ve had a sense of preparation.
Once the initial shock and upset surrounding my unemployment was over and I settled on my medication, I managed to build up a routine. I gradually trained myself not to sleep in so late. I started showering at night, because it gave me more time in the morning. I started going back to the gym, and it made me feel good.
Initially, I hit a bit of a downer when lockdown first happened. I had my whole life in Glasgow – my flat, my routine, many of my friends, the new job which I was due to begin, the business I was in the process of starting up. And suddenly I was back at home living with my parents, unsure of when I’d get to go back to my flat and to the life I had built for myself in Glasgow – it was bound to be difficult and restless at first. But I’ve found that what has helped me the most is substituting my routine as best I can. The garage has become my gym. Drinking with friends over a video call has become my Saturday night out. My parents’ Bosch Tassimo machine has become my Starbucks, and vice versa. I cope by sticking to my routine as best I can, and trying my hardest not to beat myself up on the tough days where I struggle to stick to that routine.
So, next time I’m asked how I’m coping so well – there’s the truth. I’m coping because I’ve had something of a test run, if you like. I had time to get used to a new way of life before all this began. But - like all things - this will pass.