My therapeutic experience of lockdown.
On waking up on the first morning of lockdown in March 2020 a wonderful feeling of relaxation washed over me. Weeks of welcome unstructured time lay ahead to do with whatever I wanted.
I've loved the period of isolation. No external pressures or deadlines, everything "on hold", no routine to keep, blissful solitude and so lovely and peaceful around here when all the pubs were shut and the noisy anti-social yobs locked down too!! So relaxing!
I have experienced mental health problems intermittently since childhood including severe depression, anxiety, phobias and at times OCD. I also have a mobility disability. I have always found participation in mutual support groups extremely beneficial and empowering and I am very pleased that I can still participate via the ever increasing number of these groups now available on Zoom and Face Book. Of course it will be good to meet face to face again when the pandemic is over but in the meantime I value the positive opportunities that I am experiencing with the social restrictions and lockdowns.
I have lived alone during the lockdowns but keep in touch with friends and relatives by phone and email which is fine until we can get together again later. I speak to neighbours occasionally including when we went outside for the weekly “Clap for the NHS” and the little boy next door painted me a rainbow to put in my window. I shop online for my groceries as usual.
When the first lockdown was lifted last summer I ventured out to a local hairdresser for a haircut but shampooed my hair before I went in order to keep physical contact to a minimum. I have walked to the post box a few times to post cards, and occasionally have gone to the local shops at times when it is quiet. I am deterred from going out regularly for exercise because of the increase in dangerous, abusive cyclists riding illegally on the pavements in spite of the fact that there have been very few cars around and the roads often empty.
The lockdowns and restrictions have given me the time to catch up with lots of things. I've sorted through decades of papers and documents that I'd stored from my numerous activities - campaigns, projects, politics, charities etc. and have so far disposed of over fifteen stones in the recycling bags! The rest which I am keeping - I've filed into neat order. I've done several free online short university courses with FutureLearn, including one about the Coronavirus so that I could understand it better. I’ve participated in online groups and webinars and taken part in lots of research surveys and interviews which I find so therapeutic. I'm also in some FaceBook chat groups for mental health and justice campaigns.
As everything went digital it's also been possible to continue with various campaigns and political activism. I could not go on the Black Lives Matter protests but I've been able to get involved in other ways. (I went on most of the anti-racism marches years ago). I'm also a member of my City Council's "Corporate Access Forum". It exists to consult with and advise the Council about disability rights and access issues.
I realise that others are not as lucky as me. I am retired so no worries about losing my job. I have a house and a little garden in my backyard and no dependants. My neighbours are not noisy. I feel very concerned for people who, unlike me, are adversely affected in numerous ways, and especially for those who caught the virus or lost loved ones. I keep constantly up to date with the news and reliable reports and government briefings.
I have found the repeated advice from mental health organisations and from psychologists on TV both puzzling and annoying. We are all unique individuals with individual circumstances and our experiences of the lockdown are therefore also different. Surely it is therefore both patronising and illogical to tell everyone to: “Read a book;” “Take up a hobby;” “Don’t listen to the news a lot;” “Stay in touch with friends and family every day” and (for me) worse of all – “Have a routine!” If people choose to do these things then they will. If not they will choose to do what is right for them. We are not children needing to be told what to do!
I have not accomplished as much as I would have liked to during the lockdown. I’ve still more papers to sort out and the website I do for our local church needs updating and developing. I also need to sort out some problems with my aging computer and update my Wi-Fi to keep up with a digitalised world.
I can understand why some people choose to drop out of society. I would not want to do so permanently but I find the temporary social isolation of the lockdowns therapeutic – although I have of course got my computer and Wi-Fi to keep me digitally connected!