According to my diary we are on our 78th day of lockdown measures. Seventy-eight days! And whilst restrictions may be easing, until the restrictions of indoor gatherings and social distancing are lifted it’s still not going to perfect for me for a long time yet.
I haven’t written much throughout this time apart from in my diary because in all honesty I was quite erratic at the start. I didn’t know what was going to be a good day, when wasn’t and a host of other things. And writing a blog under those conditions isn’t probably the best idea. But I’ve just realised today that it’s been a good couple of weeks since I had a bad day, a bad night’s sleep or one of these panic attacks I was seeming to get.
So I went back over the diary entries to see where that had changed. I can’t find a ‘date’ or a ‘moment’ – it’s just because I’ve adapted and still continue to adapt and quite frankly I’m getting too used to this lifestyle. On one hand it worries me, on the other hand just having this different time out may be ok. I haven’t made my mind up yet.
At the start
I didn’t really notice much difference for me at the start of lockdown. I was already working from home. I missed my Friday afternoon lunch at the local pub where the team there always looked after me and Rex as I finished off the working week. I missed going to the gym as I’d got myself into a good rhythm and was feeling very fit and healthy (for some reason I haven’t got into the rhythm since lockdown).
Zoom became the ‘new’ thing and coffee mornings and wine nights became de rigueur and it was great as I was probably speaking to more friends than ever including old friends who I hadn’t spoken to in years and building new friendships and relationships with people who I’d met before but not spent a lot of time with.
There were some terrific online events. I used to do a lot of clubbing in my youth and DJs who I loved and clubs like Golden and Hacienda started putting on all day raves at the weekend! The sun shone the whole time so it was like being in Ibiza in the garden ha ha
Like a lot of people I wrote the list of things to do in lockdown from jobs to becoming great on the clarinet again.
The world seemed to be giving us time to stop and recharge. But it didn’t take long for that feeling to change.
April 11 – Day 22
I hit the wall. As my diary entry says ‘I totally hit the metaphorical wall today and couldn’t stop crying. I just want this hell to be over. My mind is all over the place and I can’t remember feeling this stressed.’ I cannot describe really how I felt, it was so irrational.
And from that moment I started to have panic attacks. At night they would be so bad I’d be frightened to go to sleep because my mind was telling me I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. It was terrifying. I knew what was happening because I had a bad panic attack a few years ago so my logical brain understood why my chest was feeling tight but my irrational brain said I was having a heart attack. I then started stressing about who would know? What would happen to Rex? Each time I got to the ‘doze off’ moment my brain would force me awake again. It was just horrible. On the nights I could sleep I was also one of ‘those’ people having vivid dreams. Some were like nightmares some were just completely bonkers, but vivid they were.
Of course then it didn’t take long for me to start being tired in the day. I got snappy. I got fed up of people constantly messaging to do Zoom chats – I was spending more time with people than I ever had – why did all of a sudden the world decide that everyone had to do this? It was exhausting. I was working really hard, working long hours, and then giving over my spare time to everyone else and what I really needed was some down time.
For those of you who read my ‘extrovert in an introvert’s world’ blog one of the things I didn’t mention is that whilst extroverts love other company they do quite like their own too and I was getting none of it. And conversely as an extrovert I was starting to fear going out; I have to because of Rex but I didn’t like it – it felt like I was almost becoming agoraphobic and I was only happy in the safety of my home. I just can’t explain that feeling.
Although my mind shift changed again on Day 51 – May 10 – two days before my birthday. The government announced another three weeks of lockdown. I lost it. I took Rex up to our local park, it was just before dusk and was a really windy evening, nobody was around and like some mad woman I just screamed. Nobody could hear (thank the lord) but this gives an indication of why I have not been able to write out loud because at that particular moment in time – and others like it – I couldn’t speak coherently.
So what’s going well now then?
Well, as I said at the start of this, I suddenly realised that everything has been ok for the past few weeks.
At the start of the lockdown I found lots of lovely local suppliers who could keep me going with food. Whilst all that rubbish about toilet paper stockpiling was going on I found a commercial supplier who delivered 40 (Andrex equivalent!) rolls to me for a fraction of the cost they charge. But what I was missing was choice. And so I braved it – and literally it took me so much effort – to go to Sainsbury’s in person. The queue seemed long but I got in within 10 minutes. Every shelf was full. I could have cried with happiness. Yes at Sainsbury’s. Because I could choose what I wanted and no longer had to make meals according to best by dates. That one effort actually made the world of difference in trusting shops again and for some reason really helped me mentally. Strange but true.
I’ve become far more structured both at work and at play. I make sure I have time off. I sleep in at weekends. I read the paper in full. I read books. I garden. Oh my goodness do I garden?! I’ve started growing vegetables and it’s amazing, I’ve become very geeky on it.
I cook a lot; I’m finding new recipes all the time and I love spending an evening in the kitchen. I normally start around 6pm to coincide with my good friend Sean’s Six at Six Selectors DJ session every day. I’m a founding member of this group and through him we’ve raised lots of money for charity – and at the same time we all get to listen to amazing tunes every night. I open up a bottle of wine (I might be drinking more than usual but I’m aware and taking the pressure off myself) and just enjoy what I create that night. A friend of mine is a great cook and I like my internal mini cook offs with him!
I stopped looking at the to-do list. I’m fortunate that I am working full time, so that hasn’t changed. I took the pressure off myself to do all these things. The most important thing I have achieved in lockdown is helping a family-run wine school to change their whole business model to online and ensure it survives for them and all the people who work for them as well as ensuring great wine tastings and wine for our customers. That’s far more of an achievement than any of the ones I listed myself and I’m proud of it. It was exhausting but it’s been exhilarating.
I love the clear skies. I loved being able to watch the International Space Station hurtle across the sky a couple of weeks ago. I love the sound of silence both in the air and on the street. I just sit outside and enjoy the silence – well apart from the parakeets and other birds merrily chirping which in itself is great.
I love spending more time with Rex. As ever he’s been a great saviour and we’ve (maybe just me!) have some daft fun.
I do not miss going out. I have no interest in clothes shopping on the high street. I don’t even want to meet in a park given the lack of hygiene. I want to support local businesses, restaurants and theatres who have had their livelihoods brutally taken away but I’m not ready to visit them just yet. For the next few weeks I will welcome friends to my house and I will visit those who I also trust – but it’s going to take some time before I feel ready for the new world (or is that the old world?).
I’m a little nervous of when the restrictions lift totally. I’ve spent so long without company and people who I have seen, there are no typical social niceties like a hug, a cheek kiss or two. In some ways I’ve got used to that. I’m kind of wondering what happens when we’re all allowed to ‘touch’ again – I can’t decide whether that will involve some strange mass hugging gathering or whether people may still decide not to. Lifting all restrictions feels awkward now. And that’s what 78 days of living alone (well with my best four-legged mate) in lockdown kind of does to you.
So let’s see where I get to!