Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Anon

This instalment of Letters from Cardiff in lockdown is from a person who’s very special to us, and has chosen to share their lockdown experience. If their story hits home with you, there are people that can help.

Lockdown liberation – a complete contradiction in terms, right? No. Apparently not. At least not for me.

Nine years ago I got married. The usual fairytale stuff – or so I thought. Like so many relationships, the outer perception was far brighter than the inner reality. What appeared happy, loving and ’successful’ was unhealthy, coercive, and lonely. Really lonely.

I lived life on pins for 18 months, lying to those closest to me. If the truth be told, I was lying to myself too. The delusional “it will all be fine if I work hard enough to help him change“. The crippling “why was I too stupid not to have seen this earlier?”. The poisonous “it’s probably my fault anyway”.

But one day something happened. I don’t really know what exactly. I just broke. I broke and I left it all behind. I had £20 to my name, packed a rucksack I still had from school, and went home to my Mam and Dad. And then I cried. I cried for my 20s; I cried for the home I thought I’d created here in Cardiff; and I cried for the family I’d hoped he and I would create and raise together.

Seven years on, in these strange lockdown times, I’m still on my own. Turns out that the bit of me that deals with anything beyond platonic relationships has proved to be stubbornly unfixable. The thought of a relationship is petrifying – what if I pick another bad egg? What if, despite repeated attempts by friends, family and therapy to convince me otherwise, it turns out that he was right, and I was the disaster after all?

It’s paralysed any attempts to move on in THAT domain for years. Any glimmer of interest striking the fear of God into me, followed swiftly by a “well I’m not going to do anything about that because imagine the utter shame of showing an interest in someone only to find them avoiding you like the plague once they work it out”.

But then lockdown arrived. And everyone is quite literally avoiding each other like the plague. And there’s time to talk to people, to let things grow. To avoid the crippling horror that overcomes you when you imagine bumping into someone the day after you may have suggested the most tentative of interests in getting to know them a little better; or worse still, imagining having to explain the sorry story of a pretty abusive relationship in person at some point.

And guess what? Lockdown has been liberating. It’s freed me to show the most tentative of interests. To strike up a conversation I’ve been too petrified to even contemplate in Real Life, on The Outside. And I’ve felt excited at the prospect of WhatsApp pinging, in a way that I thought had died long ago when the apparently unfixable bit got broken.

So yes, lockdown is almost entirely grim. It’s succeeding in exposing all the gaps I’d tried to fill with other people and other things, and has made life resemble a bit of a leaky colander for the time being.

But leaky colanders let mucky water escape, and while I feel a bit ridiculous admitting that it’s taken a global pandemic for it to happen, it’s probably about time for the mucky water to be flushed out.

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