1 year ago · Andy · Comments Off on Things I Learned in Lockdown
Lockdown has been a challenging, confusing and strange time for everybody, and I think that we’re all faced new challenges with our mental health. But if we look for it, there are also positives and things that we can take away from the experience that will make us stronger. One of our service users wrote a blog about his experience of lockdown, and I think it captures the rollercoaster ride of emotions that we’ve all felt over the last few months.
After about four months of lockdown we are finally easing out of it like carefully getting out of the bath and the relief most people must feel is enormous. We have been shaken out of our routines and forced to examine things in our lives that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. What sort of world do we want? What do we expect from ourselves? And what to do differently. Living with bi-polar I am astounded that I managed to get through the whole thing (and it isn’t over yet) with mental health intact and almost thriving. Now seems to be an opportune time to reflect on how I managed to live on my own and cope without much human contact in the hope that maybe you might recognise similar things in your own version of the lockdown and to be able to take away things from my own experience.
What I have found, and only realised recently, is that my experiences in hospital being sectioned were not wasted. Indeed this year it felt like the whole world turned into a mental health ward with no visitors and although it felt like my past was chasing me I was prepared to deal with it. Being at home in my own flat was infinitely easier to deal with than being at hospital. For one there is no one else to deal with, only yourself to look after. Being a writer I am a solitary creature that is good company for myself so I can manage not getting bored. Being in hospital has meant that I am good at waiting, and learning to wait is no mean skill as it takes practice and patience. Even if there is no discernable end to it all I tried not to wish my life away but enjoy the moment as it was. This way I was able to get some enjoyment out of the small tasks and little achievements that I pursued in my limited means.
I learned that I was more of an extrovert than I thought I was. I deeply miss my writing groups at the hospital and in town, hearing their stories and discussing writing techniques, the poetry groups with people’s poetry being read and enjoyed. Writing for me is part solitary but also part social and without other people sharing in with their work I felt at a loss as it had become so much part of my life.
The extreme individualisation has thrown me onto my own resources to a degree that I have never experienced before and I have learned that I have a far deeper inner strength than I imagined. In fact realising this has given me greater confidence that I can achieve the things in my life that I want to achieve and I have real grit and determination to help me to do just that. It’s been a once in a life time spiritual exercise to grow and become more resilient through this tough learning process. As R.S. Thomas says ‘Living takes courage’ and just keeping my own routines and inventing new ones has taken just that to do day after day without prospect, without knowing, just putting one step in front of the other.
I enjoyed the peace when the cars weren’t so much on the street. Birds were singing in town, a silence so rarely known that it was beautiful to behold. Seeing that the world was as good as I thought it would be without cars was a wonderful bit of knowledge to actually witness. It gives me a harmonious world to fight for against modern brutality.
Ultimately, and most importantly, I found that my values survived the onslaught and in fact my whole way of life was confirmed to be right as, because of being in hospital so often, I never took anything for granted and took risks and chances when I could and took opportunities when I could, working and partying hard and living life mindfully. These were just the things that I was glad that I had done after the lockdown put a stop to a lot of these things. The things I value; building a community, writing, working for the NHS and striving after greater projects and long term ambitions, are thing I will be carrying on with even more vigour and lust than before. The best thing about this lockdown is that it’s made me a lot less complacent and giving me a much needed sense of urgency about my life and the life of the world. It’s given me the fuel to take on these things head on.
This is just a brief glimpse into some of the things that I have learned through this time like no other. Thankfully technology has made all of this far, far, easier, with Zoom and Netflix helping to get through one moment to the next. The benefits of a well stocked mind greatly helps with situations like this and the time to read so many books doesn’t really exist outside Universities so it’s been amazing to get through so much and really feel like you are making progress with making sense of things.
You may have come out of this with different things, different insights and perspectives, but no matter how you feel take a deep breath and think to yourself that you have survived, and that makes all the difference.