Having lived by myself for many years, I love the solitude of it all. I have an avid social life but once home and behind closed doors I love the tranquillity. The COVID-19 lockdown changed all of that and suddenly my love of solitude became a distant memory. I rarely left my house but to walk my dog and even more rarely spoke to someone in the flesh. My social life became digital as did my work and my life was a pattern of sleeping and working.
My mental health began to suffer, and that dreaded feeling of worthlessness started to creep in. Loneliness forced me to sit and not do anything and in turn meant I had to succumb to everything I had put to the back of my mind – the things I didn’t want to address. All the decisions I made (good and bad), my past relationships, my health, my dreams, and my ambitions were all brought to the forefront. I had only one choice and for the first time in my life I was forced to confront them.
Here’s what I learned in the last nine months:
- I can’t go back and change some of the disastrous decisions I made when I was younger. I am the only person responsible for my decisions and I had to be the one to live out the consequences of them. But if it weren’t for some of the terrible decisions, I wouldn’t be as resilient and as cliché as it sounds, where I am today.
- Be much kinder to myself. I realised that what I said in my head translated to what the world saw and that wasn’t always positive.
- Be appreciative. The last nine months made me take stock of my life, to sit back and look at how far I’ve come. Everything I’ve achieved and everything I’ve gained along the way.
- Animals are completely underrated. Without ‘Bailey the Dog‘ I would have felt a lot more lost. He kept some routine in my life and although he loves sleeping as much as I do, he made me get out of bed. He was also a great source of laughter and joy.
- I have always found letting go of things and people hard and I think this was a big contributor to my mental health problems. I realised that holding on to anger, hurt and regret was only hurting me and not the other person.
Through the battles to keep old habits at bay, battling old impulsive coping mechanisms, reflecting, and overcoming the past and present, I now realise something positive that came out of lockdown. I changed.
Life comes and goes – swings and roundabouts. Changes happen day in, day out. And sometimes, we are unaware of them in our daily lives, but sometimes, they are more noticeable. And sometimes, just sometimes, they change who we are.
Jemma Anderson is a mental health advocate.