Lockdown Blues

Posted by Catherine Elms on April 26, 2020 Blog posts | | No comments

I write this from my childhood bedroom in my parents’ house, where I’ve spent the last six weeks of our country-wide lockdown. It feels a bit redundant to be writing about the coronavirus pandemic this far into it, but better late than never I suppose.

It won’t be news to anyone when I say that these are strange fucking times. The world has changed completely, albeit temporarily, and we have no idea when this will end, or what things will look like when it does. It’s been 6+ weeks since I saw most of my loved ones, which feels like a lifetime ago, and throughout that time I’ve oscillated between indifference, fear, hopelessness, misery, boredom, overwhelm, and acceptance. It isn’t dissimilar from grief, actually – and in a way, we are all grieving the loss of our normal lives (not to mention those of us who are grieving loved ones lost to Covid-19).

It was pretty difficult to process the scale of the pandemic at first, especially because this coincided with the break-up of my 7-year relationship, and a close relative being unexpectedly hospitalized – I already knew my own little world was changing beyond recognition, it was strange to watch the same thing happen to everyone else. 

Nowadays, my time mostly consists of working from home, daily exercise and meditation, writing, and attempts to be creative. I’m also currently working up the courage to do a livestream gig from home – more on that hopefully soon. I’ve also been keeping a daily quarantine diary; it feels important to document how it all pans out, and particularly the human impact of it all. This crisis will be in future history books (crazy to think that we’re living through history right now!), and personal accounts are an important part of that. I find that writing by hand takes me away from the constant daily screens and the rolling news updates, it’s a peaceful activity in the midst of the swirling chaos. I’ll also make a zine about All This, once it’s over, because of course I will.

I’ve desperately wanted to use the lockdown time productively but have struggled with lethargy, creative block, and a general unsettled feeling. It’s not even that I’m bored – I have plenty to do! – it’s more that I feel on edge, unable to think past the next few hours, and that makes everything, even the easy things, feel dull and difficult and pointless. It’s a mood that comes and goes – I’ll usually have a few good days, then one Bad Day where I just feel agitated and “off” all day, and the day feels impossibly long. Today was a good day though (as evidenced by the fact that I finally wrote this blog post).

Amidst all the uncertainty and stress, there are occasional moments of calm, and clarity (here’s a great article about how and why those of us with mental illness might be coping better than those without during this crisis). During my good days, I can be grateful for all the ways I’m fortunate – I have a job, a loving family, a group of supportive friends, financial security, and a creative mind to keep me occupied. The days are long and quiet, which has allowed me to clearly see what brings me joy, what weighs me down, and what my priorities and values really are, in a way that’s never been as clear as it is now.

Speaking of the things that bring me joy: in an odd way, I’ve been more connected to the people I care about than ever before. I’ve been spending quality time with friends and family virtually a few times a week, doing things like crafternoons, virtual pub sessions, Wine and Whine nights, live cook-alongs where we try new recipes together, virtual zine clubs, and film nights. Video calls could never replace the joy and spontaneity of being in the same room as your loved ones, but at the moment it’s helping us connect and get through this together.

It’s a strange time, but all we can do is hold on tight and wait for it all to be over – and if we can do the occasional creative and/or healthy thing in the meantime, then good for us. And the knowledge that we’re all mostly in the same boat – all restless, unsettled, a bit afraid, muddling through – is very reassuring.

The big things I miss the most:

  • In-person group hangs, especially spontaneous or unplanned ones
  • Platonic hugs and touching
  • Dancing in crowded bars and pubs
  • The beach
  • Planning events and holidays
  • Running along the Swansea seafront
  • House parties
  • Looking forward to the weekends

The petty things I miss the most:

  • Brunch
  • Getting home from work and complaining about the traffic on the M4
  • An empty house
  • Treating myself to a sugary flavoured takeaway latte, drinking it, getting the jitters, remembering that this is why I don’t drink coffee, and repeating the entire thing 4-8 business weeks later
  • Being late to social events, and vowing to myself that next time I’ll arrive on time (I never do)
  • Getting carded at a bar, pretending to be annoyed but secretly being chuffed that I might still look under 18
  • Having a reason to style my hair
  • Complaining about the bad music in Jack Murphy’s (but we still end up there, every time)
  • Late night McDonald’s visits
  • “Popping out” to a shop
  • Buying unhealthy takeaway food for lunch because I don’t fancy my reheated leftovers

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