June 3rd, 2021 – 981

Ok, step in the right direction, and on a Thursday no less so, well damn. I think I had a bad depressive dip, not on the scale of the one I sank into in October and only pulled out of in March obviously, but a bad fortnight. A few things helped pull me out of that, especially as I’ve said, family and friends. Lockdown was as hard as it was, in part becuase I got cut off from family and friends and started to regress like I did at Sussex University. That is the comparison I’ve made time and again, and it’s only now in semi-hindsight that I start to realise that I suffered the same problem both times: iscolation. Granted, in both instances I had people around me, but I retreated into myself a lot more.

So I guess in this grand double-post-mortem, I have one question I have to ask: how do I prevent this from ever happening again? And, can I? Am I of a personality type where in times of extreme upheaval I bottle up my stresses until it becomes a problem for more than just me? All questions I want to work through, right now. It’s 21:11, so I have time, and I want to take some serious stop and think time to mull over the induvidual parts of what happened, especially with therapy coming up. Should I be doing do on a public website even if no one reads this? Yes, because if I manage to figure out just one thing that might help someone else, I’ll be damned if I keep that to myself.

Ok so let’s rewind, not to March or even February of 2020, but to September of 2019, when this all really began. 1K was about to turn one year old, and I of course made my hubristic mistake of trying 1K+ to increase my minimum output. It failed, and I got ill. Bad, but really it wasn’t the catalyst for everything that was to come. That came not long after, when the General Election got called. So, between that hiccup in September, and that declaration, what could I have done different?

First and most obvious, rest. If I have learned one thing, and it’s gonna be a recurring theme, it’s that when out of routine, I burn out fast. I’m going to be consulting a dietition to figure out if there’s a medical reason for that, but in the absence of context, I have to respect that fatigue is my worst enemy. Here, I feel I actually succeeded, albeit I could have taken things slower. While I’m glad I started chaining ‘main story content’ every day from the middle-end of October, I maybe should have paced myself more, and allowed more time to reflect. I knew an election was likely and I did not give myself much leeway.

Second, I should have not used holiday to cover for sick days. I do not like taking sick days, but in this instance I had to anyway after a week off of migraines led to a chest infection. By god, I am so glad I got the chest infection before covid. But eating up a week of holiday there, and a week for the election, meant I was leaving nothing in reserve for if anything went wrong in 2020. But it’s not like the world ended, right?

So then the world ended. And, I had no holiday left. So I burned out hard, had no way to rest, and while yes I worked for the duration of the lockdowns I got more and more generally fatigued. Aside from begging for holiday back – which would be unethical of me – what could I have done different here? Well first off, I have to be compassionate before I break that down. This was precidented sure, a lot more than people make it out to have been even if not in the UK, but think about how this country handles snow days; there was no way that chaos wouldn’t reign, and I got caught up in it, as did we all. Thankfully a lot of people my age didn’t bat an eye, but unfortunately, I did.

So with that in mind, what could I have done to avert the descent into madness? First off, I should have never stopped walking. I got back into it in time, but I was allowed to go out for short bursts of exercise and the longer I left it, the harder it got, and the harder it became to do so in a healthy way. By the time I was walking I did so much that my toes blistered to the point of doubling in size. No, I’m not kidding, yes I have pictures, no you’re not seeing them and why the heck did you ask you strange imaginary reader you? But bottom line, being couped up was 90% of the problem. The rest was not connecting with friends enough, and here’s where it gets tricky.

I have to force myself to do that. I’m quite extroverted, and we all sit on a spectrum there, and even the original proponants of the theory don’t say we fit into one side or the other. But, I am a private person who naturally walls themselves off, even though I get my energy from being around people. And lockdown, boy lockdown was the ultimate excuse to do just that. If we go into another one I need to be hopping onto every Discord call, allowed-meet-up and everything inbetween. I cannot wall myself off again. Life is too short to deny myself like that, and I have to get out of this dumb mindset that people don’t want to spend time with me. Yeah I have my rough edges but others benefit for the same reasons I do.

There is another lesson to draw from this first stretch, and it has to do with Tim Brooke-Taylor’s death. I’ve talked before about how that was the day lockdown really started going wrong, but I’ve shied away from judging my response. To be clear, that’s not what I’m doing here, but I have to be blunt: not opening up and grieving properly, either because I didn’t want to be a downer or look silly grieving for someone who in reality I met twice in brief, hurt me. It meant I bottled it up and the thoughts wouldn’t leave. Death is a reality of life, and I will have to face it again in time. I have to be ready to lean on people harder when that time comes.

So we jump forward to this time last year, and another, blindingly obvious mistake. Long time readers can probably guess what I’m going to say, but writing The Wanderer when I was already spiralling was a dumb idea. That book made me so uncomfortable and sick to my stomach that I almost broke myself on the tail end of that lockdown. It sounds stupid that writing a book could do all that, and maybe it is, but there’s no way to argue that writing it was a good idea except to get it out of the way. I always told myself to wait for a time like that to write it, to capture actual despair, but by god that was also a stupid idea.

And then, I damaged my ankle. I think it’s a sprain, though it does still hurt over six months later so it’s probably not a bad idea for me to get it scanned when I’m fully vaccinated. In truth, after that sprain I was already screwed, and I could not have handled what came next better: I reached out for help, I maintained what routines I could, and I took oppotunities, including moving, when they arose. No, what I want to post-mortem is the lead up: when I am stressed about work, or about something someone has said at work, I have to be careful to release that stress slowly. Getting over excited is what led to that sprain, and I need healthier coping mechanisms in future.

And finally, February 2021. Believe it or not, I only have one thing I’d change about my reaction in hindsight, as moving house and adjusting to yet another lockdown was hard. All I’d change, is that I accepted more offers to get out of the flat. I should have gone on more walks, or to see mum in the garden. I should have done a lot more, and didn’t because I was ‘burned out’. Long story short, social contact heals me more than I give it credit.

So to conclude, when the world catches fire:

  • Breathe, and try not to act whilst stressed.
  • If bereaved, talk to someone.
  • Accept more social offers than normal, especially if I feel like reaching for less.
  • Keep active.
  • Use sick days when sick, not holiday.
  • The Wanderer is a dumb book and I didn’t need to write it now. Granted, I’m glad I can just chuck it out whenever now, if I ever do. I’ll be damned if I’m editing that thing beyond canon adjustments.

Good talk. Let’s do it again some time.