You are not alone

by Darren Miller

My message in this blog is a simple one – you are not alone. If I've learned anything through this pandemic, it is that everyone deals with things in their own ways and some better than others. So what might work for me, might not work for you and vice versa, but ultimately, the knowledge that you are not alone might be enough to give you a little bit of strength to carry on.

A nice little quote I saw was that "We're not all in the same boat. We're all in the same storm, but are in different boats. Some boats handle the storm better than others"

The truth is, I've been struggling. The last few weeks have hit me hard. As restrictions continue to take grip of our local areas and we are being advised to prepare for a "digital Christmas", the reality of the situation has swung in like Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball. The faint light at the end of the tunnel was becoming dimmer and dimmer as the reality hit that this year we may not get to spend quality time with our families. I like many was using the slight hope of a nice Christmas as the motivator to get me to the end of the year. Heck, even if it was just for a day. With this looking less and less likely, I have to confess it hurts.

Couple that with the fact that even local restaurants are closed. What was one of the last few things available to try and help normalise and decompress on days off, is suddenly not available again, and truth be told, that deflated me too.

In addition, I've had multiple holidays cancelled this year. The things that would normally help recharge the batteries have been prised away. I see people taking the opportunity to go away when some areas open up and getting a brief moment of happiness, something I should have had, and I end up resenting it, not because I begrudge them their fun, let’s face it, everyone living through this deserves a little positivity! I don't resent them; I just feel deflated because that could have been me.

My anxiety regarding wearing a mask has hit new heights. As the need for them increases rather than decreases, I find myself less and less able to wear them for a prolonged period of time, doing what I can to avoid going to places I need to wear them. I tend to ask my wife to do the shopping because I simply can't face wearing a mask any longer than needed, because it sends my anxiety sky-high. There was a need to wear one at my desk at work but I simply couldn't and therefore had to move to an alternative role, my anxiety simply couldn't cope with it.

I’ve noticed that I've become increasingly irritable and I even snapped at my 11-month old child who was refusing to sit in his carry seat. It made me cry. The myriad of madness in the world has impacted me to behave in ways I don’t recognise as who I really am.

A job came up at work that I was really interested in and when I didn’t get it, I found myself unable to dust myself off, give myself a shake and move on. I just wanted to lock myself away from everyone, even avoiding my family and when I put my boy down to sleep, I just head to bed soon after.

To cut a long story short, I've become someone that’s not me. I feel pessimistic, a glass half empty kind of person, shut off and living day-to-day with getting to the end of the week unscathed feeling like a personal victory.

I’ve always been very open about my mental health and speaking about my anxiety and depression. For the most part I've had a pretty good handle on them up until now. I've got a loving family, I've got a tremendous little boy and I've got a fairly good social life, but these times have challenged me more than ever before. Unhelpful and unhealthy thoughts have managed to worm their way back into my mind and small and insignificant things have become massive.

But, I know I am not alone. I know there are a LOT of you out there going through the same challenges. It may be anxiety about wearing a mask, apprehension about the months ahead or generally not finding anything to be happy about or you may just generally be feeling low, letting the small things get to you or feeling overwhelmed. Everyone is experiencing this in their own way, but we are all experiencing it together.

So how do you cope?

The simple answer from me at this time is, I'm not sure.

What I'm trying to do though is take the positives from situations, build my resilience back up that I had before, take a mentally healthy approach to things and accept the things I can't change and try to ride out the storm.

I'm grateful to have a great support network around me of friends, family and colleagues looking out for me, some of whom have told me about their own struggles which is mutually beneficial as it helps just to talk things through with someone who knows what it's like.

On a practical level, I've muted the words "COVID" "Coronavirus" and "Pandemic" on my social media apps, which filters out articles and posts related to these words and already I can feel myself getting a little better. I also try to avoid consuming too much of the news and speculation over what is going to happen to avoid disappointment.

I try to have ‘me time’ without shutting the world off. I recognise that the more I shut myself away, the more it allows me to dwell on things that bring out my unhealthy thoughts. I choose to do things I enjoy. My little boy’s smile – THAT is my best medicine. He is oblivious to all the madness going on and in his little world everything is perfect and he's happy. That pulls me back from the brink EVERY SINGLE TIME.

The one last thing that keeps me going despite all the madness and fuzziness in my head is the knowledge that I’m not alone. Neither are you.

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