Lockdown 3.0: Are we just exhausted?

Lockdown 3.0 has hit different.

I don’t know about you but, this time around, I feel deflated. Totally, utterly and completely deflated. Unmotivated. Unwilling. Undone. Sure, I was swashed by this wave of emotions the first and second time, but not like I have been now. I’ve even procrastinated writing this blog for almost two weeks until I was inspired by one of my favourite bloggers, Chloe Plumstead, on her Instagram stories yesterday to just get writing.

So, what is it? Is it the longing for normality? The feeling of entrapment? Is it the scary, worrying, relentless reminder that we are still amid this pandemic — the same pandemic that arose over a year ago, that has affected millions globally, that our government has so incompetently mishandled? Perhaps it’s an amalgamation of all the above and more; I could go on and on and on about how lockdowns can be so detrimental to our mental health. While these emotions were also present in Lockdown 1.0 and 2.0, they were present alongside polar emotions – motivation, willingness, success – contrary to Lockdown 3.0.

As we entered the second lockdown, I was quick to anticipate the differences between Lockdown 1.0 and 2.0, concluding that the main difference was that, come Lockdown 2.0, we knew. We knew that another lockdown was necessary to assist in preventing the continuous spread of the cruel disease. We knew that we could stay connected with our pals via Zoom, even if we were sick of the abundant virtual pub quizzes. We also knew that the implications could be detrimental. If we knew all this back then, you’d think the same would apply again now, right? Alas, we feel more deflated than before, thus begging the same question I posed in that blog: what’s different this time?

Image description: An unmade bed in front of a window

By Lockdown 2.0, as I said, we were somewhat prepared. We were familiar with the prospect of a lockdown unlike the first time. Some were more frustrated than others — and for good reason — and others were more motivated to reignite the spark that charged them through Lockdown 1.0. Most felt a combination of the two; I was certainly frustrated, but I coped by writing. At the time, we were too provided an idea for how long the lockdown would last, so I suppose that made it slightly easier to withstand.

Remember Lockdown 1.0? Of course you do; that’s a bad question. What’s worse is that it began almost one year ago. My point is: in Lockdown 1.0, despite the tragedies caused by COVID-19, we were overwhelmed with a plethora of positivity. Our socials were inundated with our friends excessively exercising, our colleagues concocting delicious dinners and celebrities sending soulful messages. Hell, if it wasn’t for Lockdown 1.0, who knows? I might not have created this blog and since written over 30 pieces totalling to almost 45,000 words. Most, if not all, of us achieved something that we should be proud of between March and June 2020, I’m sure – and that was inspiring.

Lockdown 3.0. When non-essential retail closed in many areas across the country in December, I sensed another national lockdown was imminent. However, having to enter a new “tier” of lockdown restrictions on the Sunday before Christmas? That sucked. Then, being deprived of a somewhat normal Christmas? That sucked more. And, with many unfortunately having to spend Christmas alone, yet again due to the government’s mishandling of the situation – Cummings, terribly confusing rules and failing test and trace to name a few, as Dr Rosena so rightly pointed out – from the beginning? That sucked the most.

Christmas… A common theme in my evaluation of Lockdown 3.0 there. Is that what defines this lockdown, then? The deprivation of a normal, celebratory, happy Christmas? Or is that just one of many definitions – the others including the longing for normality, the feeling of entrapment and the scary, worrying, relentless reminder that we are still amid this pandemic? Or maybe it’s none of these at all…

Maybe it doesn’t have to be so complicated. Maybe it’s something so simple, so mundane, so raw. Maybe it’s… exhaustion.

I think in trying to decipher the defining factors of both Lockdown 2.0 and 3.0, I’ve subconsciously circumvented admitting to the fact that perhaps we’re just fed up. I’ve tried so hard to rationalise the possibilities for feeling so deflated that I’ve dismissed the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we’re fed (.) the fuck (.) up. Fed up with the longing for normality, with the feeling of entrapment and with the imbeciles leading our country, hence feeling unmotivated, unwilling and undone. However, it almost feels unfair to admit to feeling this way. Selfish, perhaps. Wrong. Who am I, a non-essential worker, to say that I’m merely “fed up” when our essential workers – especially our NHS heroes – have been working tirelessly from the onset of this pandemic? Instead, I should just shut the fuck up, right?

I don’t know. Perhaps it is unfair in some ways, and perhaps it’s okay, too.

There’s no denying that there’s an underlying, yet overbearing, desperation. A desperation to go “back to normal”. A desperation to see and spend time with and hug our family and friends. A desperation to escape the mess made by our government. And that goes for everybody: not just non-essential workers, but our key workers, our healthcare workers and everyone in between. This entire situation hasn’t been easy for anyone; it’s certainly affected us all in different ways, but to say it’s been anything other than easy would be a downright lie.

Are we just exhausted? Or are there a million potential reasons for feeling so deflated? Unmotivated? Unwilling? Undone? Okay, maybe not a million, but certainly a lot – and perhaps exhaustion is one of the predominant reasons this time around, whether that’s okay or not.

Stay safe, everyone, and keep fighting – a better year is on the horizon.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

“This year hasn’t been all bad”: Lessons we learnt in 2020

If you could describe 2020 in one word, what would it be? Exhausting? Disastrous? Shambolic? I think we can all agree that, for the most part, this year has been catastrophic to say the least. I don’t even have to expand for you to comprehend why; it is a truth universally acknowledged (a testament to my fellow former A level English Literature students right there). While the topic of coronavirus has predominantly led the narrative of 2020, there have been several other defining moments that have taught us valuable lessons which should not go unmissed. As I reflected upon the shitshow of the past year, here are what I have figured to be the five most important lessons we learnt in 2020.

Image description: A notebook with flowers tucked inside

It costs nothing to be kind

Back in February, the awful news that TV Presenter Caroline Flack took her own life – which was said to be exacerbated by the press and social media trolls – sparked the “Be Kind” Campaign. Though it shouldn’t have to take a TV personality’s – or anybody’s, for that matter – passing for any of us to realise this, many came together to show their support by using the #BeKind hashtag as a plea for media outlets and social media users to be more considerate online. As the year progressed, we saw even more catastrophes across the globe caused by the impact of COVID-19 which inevitably posed further mental health challenges, so the message still stands. Be kind. Always.

We can all do better

Remember the little black square you posted on your Instagram feeds on 2 June in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement? It’s still important. Following the tragic murder of George Floyd back in May, many – again – came together, both physically and virtually, to protest racism and police brutality. You might have seen the infamous quote “it is not enough to not be racist; you must be anti-racist” time and time again amid the movement, but it speaks volumes. If you claim to not be racist, what are you doing about it? Whether it’s signing petitions or calling out your friends for their racial biases, we can all do better in playing our part to actively fight against racism.

Never take life for granted

Throughout 2020, millions all over the world were ordered to stay at home to assist in preventing the spread of coronavirus. Here in the UK, we have encountered three lockdowns: a three-month national lockdown from March to June, a shorter lockdown from 5 November to 2 December, and a tiered system of restrictions from 19 December to… well, we don’t know yet. In spite of the omnishambles of our government’s response to COVID-19, our time spent at home, losing loved ones to a cruel disease and distance from a normal lifestyle highlighted that we must never take life for granted. Family, friends, health, happiness, time; you name it, we’re now more appreciative of it than ever.

There is hope for the future

At long last, Trump has been voted out of The White House. Although his sheer mismanagement of COVID-19 is enough to dub him as an appalling president, there are so many more reasons his removal from office is victorious in itself. He’s narcissistic. He’s racist. He’s misogynistic. He’s homophobic. He’s transphobic. He’s in denial. Sure, Biden isn’t perfect, but the removal of Trump means there is hope again not just for American citizens, but for the world. And, with Kamala Harris who is not only the first woman and person of colour to serve as vice president, but also a diversity activist and generally great debater, America is one step closer to really becoming great again.

If there’s anything you need to survive, it’s toilet paper

At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak back in March, the empty toilet paper shelves in our local supermarkets were telling of the fact that the one commodity we need to survive a pandemic is… toilet paper. It didn’t make sense to me then; it doesn’t make sense to me now. But, for some reason, the pandemic induced panic buyers to stockpile toilet paper. Was it the notion of having to stay at home? Is it because toilet paper has no expiration date? Are people generally low on toilet paper? Whatever the reason, it was laughable. At least now we know that, if we are to ever face another pandemic in our lifetimes, all we need is plentiful toilet paper.

All in all, this year hasn’t been all bad. Granted, I miss the mundanities of everyday life: waking up, making a coffee, hopping on public transport frivolously, enjoying my colleagues’ company without the worry of maintaining social distancing, hopping on the bus back home, dressing up, heading to our favourite restaurant, engaging in date night, ordering more wine without having to order more food to accompany it, returning home, catching up with my friends, making plans, and doing it all over again (obviously, we didn’t go on date night every night, but you get the gist). Notwithstanding, I am grateful for all the lessons 2020 has taught me and they have certainly influenced a more refreshing approach to the new year.

What lessons did you learn this year?

I wish you health, happiness and less havoc for 2021.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Here we go again: Coping with the Christmas lockdown

Here we go again. Another lockdown, another torrent of emotions. Sadness. Frustration. Anxiety. As if this year hasn’t been draining enough, the tail end of 2020 saw many of us entering a new “tier” of lockdown restrictions which – to top it all off – covers the Christmas period. While it was clear that the pandemic was still ongoing following Lockdown 2.0, perhaps even more clearly than before, a faint ray of hope shone upon us as we “non-essential” workers were unfurloughed, high streets reopened and restrictions were relaxed on Wednesday 2 December so we could enjoy the festive period with family and friends. Now, due to the government’s incompetence in controlling the coronavirus from the onset of its outbreak back in March (which, may I gently remind you, is only three months away again), our Christmas plans – though perhaps unusual to begin with – have been completely ruined. Those who don’t live with family now can’t see their family. Those who don’t live with their partners now can’t see their partners. Those who live alone now can’t see anyone. That’s not to say that we can’t still try to make the most of each other’s company as we have for the entirety of 2020 through the likes of Zoom; while incomparable to being with your loved ones, we should be thankful that we can still communicate with them in such a manner.

As the first two lockdowns, the recent news has undoubtedly affected many, including myself. Following Lockdown Numero Uno, I unravelled my emotions of uselessness due to my inability to make my contribution to society as a non-essential worker, anxiety surrounding the global situation and envy of those who remained occupied by working from home. Likewise, during Lockdown 2.0, I shared my despondence as I anticipated the recurrence of the platitudes that emerged from the first lockdown. This time, however, it’s different: while the prospect of another lockdown was imminent, I don’t think anybody was prepared to receive the news on a Saturday afternoon – and not just any Saturday afternoon, but the last Saturday before Christmas – and enter Tier 4 just eight hours following. Thus, it’s only understandable to feel that torrent of emotions – sadness, frustration and anxiety – and dwell on the shitshow that is 2020.

Image credit: The word COVID-19 written on a red background

Alas, here we are. Although it’s easy to dwell on the way COVID-19 has impacted our lives in different ways, it’s so important to remember to prioritise our mental wellbeing. If you’re struggling with the recent news, I hope at least one of the following suggestions will help you to cope with the Christmas lockdown:

  • Host or engage in a virtual Christmas quiz. Although the virtual pub quiz has almost become a cliché after having hosted or engaged in so many in the first lockdown and ideas had run dry by Lockdown 2.0, it wasn’t Christmas then – so, just like you would in normal circumstances, arrange a Christmas quiz with your family and friends!
  • Plan a virtual Christmas dinner/movie night. I’m so sorry if your plans with family and/or friends have been cancelled. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have Christmas together – plan a virtual Christmas dinner or movie night with them and make the most of each other’s company, even if it is over Zoom!
  • Get up and get dressed. Whether you’re working from home, out of office or furloughed, put on those jeans (or your preferred bottoms), apply a little mascara and make the most of the day ahead. Sure, if you need a duvet day, take a duvet day – but be sure to take care of yourself.
  • Go for a walk. Yes, it might be freezing. Yes, it might be raining. So what? Plug in your headphones and listen to your favourite artist or podcast. Call a friend and talk as you walk. Wrap up in your gloves, scarf and raincoat and soak in some fresh air – even if it’s for 20 minutes. You won’t regret it.
  • If you need to, take a social media break. We all know social media can be detrimental to our mental wellbeing and, especially if your Christmas plans have changed last-minute, how others are spending their Christmas may be the last thing you want to see. If you need to, take a break, and focus on spending time with your loved ones – virtually or physically.
  • Reflect on your achievements this year. Generally, this year has – again – been one hell of a shitshow. Notwithstanding, that doesn’t mean we haven’t achieved anything this year. Graduated? Landed a new job? Acquired a new hobby? Whatever it is, celebrate your achievements and be proud of yourself!
  • Don’t be ashamed to feel what you feel. It doesn’t matter whether someone “has it worse”; your feelings are always valid. Whatever you’re feeling – be it sadness, frustration or anxiety – feel it. But, whatever you do, please: make sure you talk to someone about it and remember – as my last blog – it’s okay not to be okay.

I wish you all as happy a Christmas as possible and an even happier and healthier 2021.

Also, know that I’m here for a chat. You can reach out to me via my contact options here.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Remember to be kind this Christmas

Are you okay?

Such a simple question. A question so engrossed in everyday conversation that it has almost become meaningless. How many times have you been asked are you okay? in passing – by friends, by family, by coworkers – and responded with the likes of yeah, you? or fine, thanks, when what you really wanted to say was actually, I’m not okay? Too many times, probably. So, why do we do it? Why do we respond with such? Why do we essentially lie about how we feel? I’ll tell you why: because it’s easier. It’s so much easier to say I’m fine than to delve into all the reasons why we oftentimes feel quite the opposite of “fine”, be it to save face, avoid feeling like a burden or because we think the other participant of the conversation might not really give a crap. Isn’t that sad? Isn’t it sad that we are fabricated to respond to a question with what’s “easier” than with the truth? Perhaps if we all started to express ourselves more openly rather than adhere to the conventions of small talk, the stigma surrounding mental health would subside; a matter long overdue.

Why am I talking about this? Well, because – in all honesty – I’m not okay. I’m not okay because this year has taken its toll on my mental health – on everyone’s mental health – in that we were trapped inside for months, lacked socialisation, routine and normality and saw thousands lose loved ones due to a dreadful disease. I’m not okay because it’s been almost a year since I graduated with my master’s degree and I anticipated that I’d achieve so much more than I have by now but, thanks to COVID-19, my progress was stalled. I’m not okay because I really, really miss my grandparents. Yet, every day, I put up a façade and carry on.

Image description: Coffee topped with marshmallows, cinnamon and a candy cane

The latter reason is the main reason I’m not okay right now. This Christmas will be my first Christmas without any grandparents. I’ve thought a lot recently – specifically, since my granddad passed away in August – that, at twenty-three, I’m pretty young to not have any grandparents. It’s a horrible feeling. Though I never met my dad’s dad because he unfortunately passed away before my brother and I were born and we were never close with my dad’s mum, but we were very lucky to have a great relationship with my mum’s parents, I still can’t quite fathom the fact that not one of them is still with us. Up until around seven-to-eight years ago, we’d spend every Christmas at my grandparents’ – my mum’s parents – and have the most wonderful, loud Greek-style Christmas. Things changed after my yiayia (Greek meaning “nan”) became immobile a few years before she passed away in 2016, but we would still visit them on Christmas morning. Then, my pappou (Greek meaning “granddad”) would spend the following few Christmases in a household other than his own – for instance, with us – so we still got to see or call him. But, now? We can’t see any of them. We can’t pick up the phone and exclaim Merry Christmas! and feel their smile beaming through the phone. We can’t hug them tightly as a means of expressing our affection. Things are especially different now neither of them is here for Christmas this year.

I have so many reasons to be happy. I have a loving family. I have the most incredible fiancé. I have a good job, the best friends and an adorable fur baby. I have so much to look forward to; buying our first home, our (postponed) holiday and our wedding to name a few. And I am. I am so happy for all these reasons. So happy. However, I’m also depressed for all the aforementioned reasons – the pandemic, the writing off of 2020 and the loss of my grandparents – and it’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel this way, even when we do have so much going for us. As the saying goes: “it’s okay not to be okay”. Still, we feel obliged to respond to such a simple question as are you okay? with – quite plainly – a lie.

Christmas 2020 is just around the corner (nine days away, to be precise) and, while some are more excited than ever to celebrate it this year after the crazy year we’ve had, others are not feeling so festive. The impact of COVID-19 has affected everybody in different ways but, for the most part, I think it’s safe to say that it’s been a pretty shit year. That’s why I want to kindly leave you with the following reminders (or clichés, but important ones) for this Christmas:

  • Be kind.
  • Everybody is fighting their own battle you know nothing about.
  • It’s okay not to be okay.

The next time you ask someone are you okay?, be sure to show a little more compassion. Listen. It might just make their day. Likewise, the next time you’re asked are you okay?, don’t be afraid to open up. Speak. It might just be what you need.

Take care and remember to be kind this Christmas.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

World Mental Health Day 2020: My story

On this day two years ago, I shared an Instagram post revealing that I’ve encountered various kinds of mental health issues in the past, but I intentionally did not delve any deeper. Why? Because, even though I’ve been in a much better place than I ever was for the past two-to-three years, I still felt uncomfortable in sharing my story as the underlying stigma remains strong. And there lies the issue. So, today, I’m breaking that stigma; having been much more open about past experiences since creating my blog back in May, I now feel comfortable enough to share my story in the hope that it can encourage others to take the plunge and share theirs, too. Here goes…

Image description: A laptop on a bed with a screensaver that reads “MENTAL HEALTH”

When I say I’ve encountered “various kinds” of issues, I am predominantly referring to depression, anxiety and OCD, but they have occurred in an array of forms. Take my first ever encounter of depression: high school. As I touch upon in one of my latest blogs, I was depressed throughout the entirety of my high school career due to feeling like a misfit, entangling myself in toxic friendships and thus isolating myself from others. On top of this, I suffered with acne all over my back, chest and some areas of my face; the culmination of the factors that caused my depression induced the development of my excoriation (skin-picking) disorder, a condition related to OCD involving the relentless picking at one’s skin. As a result, I also suffered with body-related anxiety issues; every time I undressed in the changing rooms for PE or Dance, I was forever afraid of being judged for the scars all over my skin.

Cut to sixth form and, honestly, Years 12 and 13 were two of the best years of my life. How did my life alternate so drastically? I’ll tell you how: those who enkindled the toxicity were no longer present in my everyday life. I could relate to those more in my A level classes because A level was a more serious matter; nobody felt “obliged” to study English and nobody selected Dance just to “fill a gap” in their timetable. My acne finally began to cure after years of trialling treatment after treatment; I eventually found something that worked. I loved every moment of my sixth form life, so much so I didn’t want it to end. Towards the end of my sixth form studies is when Daniel and I also started dating – what a way to consummate a wonderful two years!

After sixth form came university. I mention briefly in my blog about living home for university that I was so sure that moving away for university was the right path for me; I was confident that I was ready for a fresh start in an exciting location with an abundance of new faces. What’s more, the prospect of moving to Brighton for university sounded like the ideal; it’s a cute place for a day out and a fun spot for a night out. Nonetheless, from the onset of my first year at the University of Sussex, I was again depressed and, this time, also severely anxious. Depressed because, although I made some friends on my course of study and in my halls, I didn’t make ~great~ friends. Anxious because I was gripping onto the hope that I would eventually build better friendships, but the year only became worse and worse; it felt as though I was reliving high school all over again. I began to suffer from panic attacks nightly and resorted to utilising the university’s counselling services. My fourth session in, even my counsellor muttered: “I don’t see you coming back here”. At first, I thought: “what an incredibly harsh thing to say”, as though she had no faith in that I could return and things would improve or change for me. The summer between my first and second year when I moved back home, however, it dawned on me: she was right. I couldn’t face returning to a place where I was so unhappy; the notion was sickening. After long and hard consideration, then, I decided that it was best to move back home and transfer to a London-based university.

September 2016. I successfully transferred to the University of Roehampton London, commencing from second year as the first-year content of my course of study, English Language and Linguistics, aligned with one another at both Sussex and Roehampton. I was happy again; returning to my beloved home in Surrey and commuting into my favourite city every day for university was the dream. If only I’d realised this back in sixth form, eh? Anyway, I made wonderful friends immediately at Roehampton – people I could resonate with, people with whom I shared commonalities, people who cared – and the professors were brilliant which only enhanced my experience. Nevertheless, October 2016 – as I draw on in much more detail in my blog about Daniel’s Crohn’s story – saw a daunting event for Daniel; after months of experiencing painful symptoms in his stomach and chest, his bowel perforated and required immediate medical attention. Hence, my anxiety heightened once again due to the worry of Daniel’s overall health; I was just glad I’d moved back home to cater to his needs as much as I could post-operation whilst simultaneously focusing as hard as I could on my university work.

After an 11-month rollercoaster of emotions, appointments and assignments, Daniel’s stoma was thankfully reversed, meaning the two of us could return to some form of normality again. That same month, I had began my final year of university which would just so happen to be the best year of my university life; I developed even stronger friendships, made the most of my experience outside lectures and seminars and enjoyed every aspect of my course’s content, even if it was more demanding. Of course, the worry about Daniel continued – and it always will – but his condition was under control and, in retrospect, the encounter only made us stronger as a couple.

Fast forward two years and, now, I have two first-class degrees, Daniel and I are engaged to get married, and I have an incredible group of friends. Of course, life still happens in between – I’ve lost several loved ones these past few years, confronted numerous job rejections before finally securing a managerial position I fought long and hard for, and had shitty days aplenty; but, most importantly, I never gave up.

If you’re reading this and feel as though you can relate to anything in my story, just know that it gets better. It’s okay to seek help. You will make friends. Hard work really does pay off.

I concluded my post two years ago with a particular quote that I have lived by for many years, and I feel it is appropriate to finish on the same today: “everything will be okay in the end; if it’s not okay, it’s not the end”.

Love,

Little Pav ♡