This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week and also marks the first time I’ve published a blog post since January! This is the longest period of time I’ve being absent. I’ve constantly thought about my blog but would tell myself ‘I was too busy‘ or ‘I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say‘ – so I left it.
I could continue to tell myself those ‘valid to me‘ excuses but a conversation I had with a friend earlier this week got me thinking and gave me a topic to write about. Being alone during Covid-19 and my mental health.
I live alone. I live alone during a pandemic when people are asked to ‘stay at home’ and ‘social distance’. Granted, I have only lived alone for two weeks, as my housemate has just moved to another city. In those two weeks so many people have checked in on me, asking:
“How are you coping?”
“How are you now you’re alone?”
“Are you okay?”
Don’t get me wrong, their hearts are in the right place and it’s kind of people to think about me and I am grateful to have friends that do care. I felt confused, because:
I feel I am okay
I’m acting like I am okay
I AM okay
So, why am I questioning whether I should be feeling okay? In fact, I’m more than okay, I feel great!
I have lived an independent life for over a decade and in this time have travelled South America and New Zealand alone, done a solo holiday and lived on my own for two years. I bloody love my own company. Yes, I’m a bit of a weirdling that dances around, serenades myself in the mirror and has full blown conversations to myself – out loud!! And hello – naked alone time! (shout out to Friends fans). What’s not to love?
Whilst reassuring another friend this week that I was okay, it hit me. FUCK! I was the obvious, albeit subconscious, low hanging fruit to reach when they say, ‘check up on your friends‘. I fit into the criteria:
- I am single. Single people are lonely right and need a partner?
- I live alone. People who live alone are lonely right and need someone to live with?
- My life had shifted for all to see. Ooh, a valid (and easy) question to ask.
I was one of those people that many tend to look at wearing glasses tinted with sorrow. Seeing a victim instead of someone who could actually be thriving.
I turned the tables and asked my friend how they were handling the pandemic, not just in general terms. I asked how they were doing in their relationship. We talked about that, and how nobody had asked them that question during that entire time. Not one person!
We tend not to ask people once they are in a relationship how things are going. There seems to be an unwritten rule where you ask a lot of questions before the first date and into the next few dates. Once the dating turns into a relationship – the zip comes across the mouth and it is not our place to ask these questions. They only reappear if the friend opens up first or if there is a visible rupture: during or after the storm.
I’m calling out for us to change the narrative. Ask those hard questions that may seem like you’re being nosey. Perhaps not to strangers, nor to colleagues on your video conference whilst waiting for the meeting to start. Ask your friends – those people that you have chosen to be your family.
Not a blanket “How are you getting on and how is *insert partners name*”. Really ask the question. Let’s be honest, it’s often hard at certain times to manage our own emotions. We can’t be ‘up’ all the time. Add in another person and their emotions, let’s not forget those that have kids. That’s even before you factor in this unique and uncertain time we’re living through, where we’re forced to spend more time together…inside!
Some of these people are NOT going to be okay!
Heck, some of these people, although they may live with others, will be feeling the loneliest they have ever felt. I know the loneliest I have ever felt are the times when I’m with people but I feel unable to speak. Such a disheartening strange place to be in.
Of course, at times in my life I’ve not being okay. I’ve skirted on the inside of depression. Anxiety and panic attacks have often controlled me. My hormones the week before my period do crazy things to my mind. My emotions resemble a messy bundle of ‘what the fuck’ – I want to shout, swear, punch things, cry and check out.
I have developed a morning routine that keeps my mind in check. It is constantly adapting and changing but since January this year this is how it has looked:
- Journal – writing 3 pages of an A4 book
- Reading – ‘out loud’ a page or 2 from a spiritual book
- Meditate – between 10-20 mins
- Exercise – 5-6 days a week for 20-30mins
This is all done before I get a shower and I NEED this in my life.
I know I have been able to be consistent with my routine because I have that time to be alone. I don’t have to factor in being distracted by a partner or kids. I have had the space to set the foundation and to build on it. I know if I was in a relationship or if I was a parent or a carer I may not have had as much time to focus on me.
Before lockdown I was fortunate enough to go on a mini trip to Spain and a trip to Ireland to go to TedFest (a festival to celebrate all things Father Ted). I took my journal to both of these which was a huge shift as in the past I would have taken a break from the routine.
Herein lies the problem!
As we continue to hide what makes us feel good or how we are feeling, the more stigma we are throwing to our mental health and the less we are going to speak about it. Illness can come to us all but many of the times it can be preventable by the way we live.
The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness. Which has been bandied around a lot this year with good intentions and contradictions.
Perhaps we can start by being kinder to ourselves and to our closest friends. Ask the hard questions. Get specific. If it comes from a place of love and meaning and you are present for the answer, which means no scrolling, cleaning, pottering – just listening, it can’t be bad.
Whoever is reading this post. I ask you are you alright in you? In your home? In your relationship?
If the answer is No. That is okay. There is so much support available out there. If not your friends or family you could try the Samaritans and other charities.
If the answer is Yes. That is okay. You don’t have to feel guilty for feeling okay, good or great during this pandemic.
We don’t know what is going to happen next but you can start now to reassess your mental health and that of others.
To all my friends that have checked up on me. I sincerely thank you and I apologise. I apologise for not deeply asking you how you are in your relationship. It’s about time I reach for the fruit higher up the tree.
Big loves to everyone reading this. It’s good to be back.
p.s. Many of you who have followed me through my blogging journey may recall a time when I wrote about being lonely Bitten by the lonely bug! London pre-pandemic, I actually felt lonelier, strange how things work out.