It’s taken me a while to decide on what to write if I am honest. It’s been almost two weeks since most of the world entered this ‘new normal,’ and I have been digesting all the numerous articles on social media that have been shared.
One theme that I have witnessed throughout all the commentary, is the impact that this virus is having on our mental health. There has never been more acceptance, on a global scale that the consequences of the restrictions are affecting EVERYONE. And for the first time, it seems to be totally acceptable for everyone to talk about this on a personal level. The shame, and the judgement, has gratefully been replaced with kindness and acceptance.
As a journalist I have spent the last two weeks talking to a huge variety of people from all walks of life; small business owners, virologists, journalists in Delhi and domestic abuse campaigners. Throughout all of my conversations, what has become apparent, is that the virus has disconnected us, and simultaneously connected us at the same time, in ways I doubt many of us will experience again in our lifetimes.
The difficulties we are experiencing are all different, and largely dependent on our social, cultural and economic backgrounds. These factors mean that the effects of this virus are infiltrating us in a multitude of ways. I am incredibly grateful that I live where I do, and that I can still interact with nature – albeit limited. I have become a whole lot more in tune, with the birds who sing their song, the temperature of the sun, the cloud formations and the smells that awaken my senses on my morning walks. For those who are battling difficult living situations though, I cannot begin to imagine how the past two weeks have felt – and with no end in sight, many will be living a total nightmare. I am sure none of us will ever take our freedom of movement for granted again.
Back in January when life was the ‘old normal’ here in the UK and I was still in the office, I spoke to people in Wuhan who were just beginning their lockdown, with a naivety that I hope I will never engage in again. I had no idea that just a few months later I would be in the same situation. Working in the news, can sometimes leave you immune to the most shocking of stories. But throughout my years as a journalist I am still blown away by the human resilience to survive in the most testing of situations. Although humans can be complex creatures, we all share the fundamental basic needs, of wanting to feel loved, safe, have enough food, a warm bed and to feel valued. Yet, this virus has had the ability to strip these away from many of us, all at once. And the sad truth is, that some of us who are more fortunate than others will be less impacted, and nothing has highlighted this more for me, than the past two weeks of speaking to those of us who just trying to survive.
One of the biggest parts of my recovery, and what I use in my teaching now, is that human connection is vital for sustained recovery. As someone who actively avoided physical connection during my eating disorder, I am now someone who loves nothing more than a good hug; having to actively avoid reaching out is an alien concept for me. Many mental health issues can flourish in isolation, and with isolation being imposed on us globally, we are all more vulnerable to experiencing unhealthy thoughts and behaviours. So, although Zoom, FaceTime and Skype cannot provide the intimacy or the magic of the human touch, they are proving to be a huge lifeline to many of us. I urge you to all keep connected in whatever way possible. It is the only way we will keep going and feel as though we are not alone. If you don’t have any close friends or family to speak with, then reach out on social media. Join Facebook groups, pick up the phone to someone you haven’t done in a while, or write a letter. It does sound kind of cliché, but this really is a moment in our history when we are united by this one thing – a virus that we know so little about.
The situation we are all in right now, has so many unknowns. For someone like me, the unknown can be a worrying place to be. But, the more I have grown in my recovery, the more I have learnt to sit in the ‘uncomfortable’ and let go of things that I have little or no power over. With this, I have grown as a person, and learnt to tolerate feelings that I previously ran from.
One thing that is certain though, is that life will never return to the way it was before. We as individuals will never be the same before. So as you do your best to navigate the days and months ahead, try to be conscious of the opportunities that present. I have often found the brightest of lights in the darkest shadows.