The Mental Impact of a Pandemic

This is a really hard post for me to write. But I set up this blog to be brutally truthful about parenting with all kinds of health issues. That includes the mental health ones. The brutality is necessary because I need to be honest with myself about the struggles. But more than that, I want to be able to show my daughters that whilst life is tough, we survived.

So let’s start from the most truthful standpoint I can. These two, these two beautiful, loving, wonderful girls are mine. They have my heart and soul and I could not be prouder to call them my daughters, or to call myself their mother.

These girls are, and will continue to be the reason I take in each breath (“When you feel stressed, Mummy” says Squidge now, “take in a deep breath.” Those Headspace mediations are paying off!) They are the reason I get up in the morning, even when it feels like the hardest thing in the world to do. Squidge & Gabster, you are my motivation. Thank you for keeping me going. That’s a lot for 2 little girls to do, but you are doing the most marvellous job.

I am not sure that I am OK. I cannot be more precise than that, because some days, I feel accomplished. Some days, I blitz through the jobs and the childcare and I feel like I’ve done enough. Other days, more and more now, I am struggling with being hemmed in with the limitations of the ongoing pandemic.

Now let me say that I know this is true for most of us. I am not trying to suggest this is only happening to me. I am so sorry we are all having to…. cope? Survive? I’m not even sure what this is anymore.

But it is getting too damn hard. I avoid the news for my own sanity so the constant changes get drip fed to me over days. Here in Wales, we’ve just come out of a 2 week national lockdown and I think we have more freedoms than other nations of the UK. But in my world, in my head, I cannot enjoy any of them. Because to me, the world is not safe. And when I do not feel safe, it is best avoided altogether.

I know this isn’t the healthiest attitude. I actually did go out for dinner with Kev a few weeks ago, only our second date night of the year. It felt strange to be out and I was very hesitant around people, but I was more relaxed than I expected to be and it was nice.

Now the rules on hospitality in Wales appear to have changed again somewhat and it’s unlikely we’ll be able to repeat the experience for a while as we prepare to mix with others for Christmas and hope against hope to avoid yet another wave. I’m not sure another lockdown can be avoided and to be honest, by the time 2021 rings in, I’ll have been lingering in this house for 10 months.

I’ve made lots of changes and I am happier here, but I still don’t think I am well. It has been so long, I am now a victim of the monotony. I take care of my girls and I am glad to do it, but oh, the tasks themselves, the minutiae… I feel like I’m living Groundhog Day with bottles and washing.

I feel as though I am constantly denying them experiences. The littlest probably doesn’t care right now but I had such hopes for Squidge. She’s off to school in 9 months and I have kept her inside this house for so long.

Weekends are hardest, because I have to make room for Kev’s presence amongst my coping strategies – of which the worst is busyness. I have to be busy. Busy stops me confronting my true feelings. But then when I refuse his help, I burn out and I get so frustrated and sad. I have cried every weekend for the last month.

I look at my beautiful family, in our lovely home with food in the cupboard and toys stashed away for Christmas and I know we are lucky enough to have everything we need. I am so grateful. And yet, it seems that all I can voice is my desire to run. Not from my life. From myself. From the everyday. The repetition, the feeling of there being no end in sight to my unease.

What I want to do when I get like this is stomp to the pub at the end of our street and drink a bottle of wine to myself. I have never, ever done this and like I said, hospitality rules here are changing so I’m not even sure I could. Besides, I know well that you can’t drink away the anger or sadness that exists inside of you. Because therein is my problem. The voice in my ear will come with me wherever I go. Which in itself is very few places.

I think the problem is all in the feeling. Because I could go places if I wanted. Mask on, hand gel in my pocket, I am allowed that freedom now. But it has been so long, it just doesn’t feel right, or necessary. So I allow myself to be stuck here, wondering why things will never be different.

I think I need to be able to say that I’m not ready to allow things to be different. I mean, I can say it, but I don’t know if I will allow myself to hear it. It is, after all, myself I am battling against. I know that.

These are strange times though. I used to call that version of myself “the little monster in my ear” because it was full of so much hatred for me. It was unmistakable. But I worked hard on my mental health and often in times of uncertainty and disttress, will stand in front of my mirror and force myself to talk to my reflection as though it is this whole other person, to soothe her. It helps. We may not be the best of friends, but we have been muddling along. We have been able to recognise when I do well and to back one another.

Except, that voice, she isn’t angry at me anymore. So it’s almost as if it’s harder to hear her when she cries, to understand what she is saying. Because she’s not angry. Instead, she’s tired and lost and distraught. So damn scared of all these things we cannot be sure of, so unsure of how else to craft a sense of self and enjoyment.

Things have looked physically duller, it’s been so hard to get excited about anything. Tastes have all been bland and there’s just this overwhelming feeling of there being nothing to look forward to. I know well what this is…. I am depressed.

And honestly, I don’t feel like I have the right to be, but that in itself is not a healthy reproach to have. It is undeniable that everyone’s mental health will struggle in these strange and lonely times. My daughters are healthy and my husband is beside us all, loving us unconditionally. Those are all wonderful gifts and I count them as my blessings every day. That is more helpful.

But blessings do not mean to say that shortcomings do not exist. It has beeen so long. I miss my family and my friends. Some of those I would be able to see if I could get past the fear, others not. And it is a big thing for someone so socially anxious and consequently, anti-social to be aware that she misses company.

Yes, I could Zoom call. I should. But I probably won’t. This is not an excuse, or my attempt at a solution, because even I know that that is not a fix. But it is brutal truth. I shrink away from telling those I love how I really feel. I shouldn’t, because I’d want to hear it about them. So let’s call this admission done, now that it is written here. I just find it so, so hard to reach out to people, especially when everyone is trying to hold their own selves together in this strange world.

I really hope you are OK, but please do not be ashamed if you are not. We are in a “one day at a time” terrority.