Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Sali Evans

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Sali Evans. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

I’ve always been a home body – I love my own space, like to be at home, I don’t drink anymore so I’m not a big weekend partier. Cooking, reading and spending time at home are some of my favourite things to do, so I thought that I knew what lockdown would be like, but I honestly had no idea. Before it was officially announced, all I wanted to do was hide away, stay safe and keep my husband close. The way I feel about it now changes daily. Home is warm, safe, comforting. But lockdown is none of those things.

When it looked like we would be going into lockdown I considered what we needed – access to food supplies, to easily get our prescriptions, and things to keep us occupied. I’d been keeping up with the news daily, so planned ahead to make sure that we would be ready when lockdown was announced. I’m not one to stockpile or hoard, but sussed out shops locally that had good stock levels and weren’t too busy or being overrun.

I had a pile of unread books, plenty of sewing and craft projects lined up, articles to research and write for a blog I’d been working on, and my second job would still continue after I was furloughed from my full-time job.

We wrote a list of movies that we wanted to watch and started working through it. He had some DIY jobs and the Xbox and was happy with that, as well as weekly quizzes and NFL watch parties with his friends.

I had all of these grand plans of being in a strict routine, exercising daily, learning new skills and being super productive as I’m sure a lot of people did.

For me, things haven’t gone the way I thought that they would. What I hadn’t considered were the mental and emotional ramifications of the lockdown. The surge in anxiety and uncertainty as lockdown began forced all of those plans onto the back burner.

I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager, more so in the last two-three years but I have been more myself in the past 12 months. Health anxiety is a real struggle, which is just perfect during a global pandemic!

Only a few days in I was a complete mess, I cried all night when 200 people died of COVID-19 in a single day in Italy. When I read stories about what was happening in their hospitals I couldn’t see any way that we were going to make it out of this alive or without losing our loved ones. I was having anxiety attacks daily. It quickly felt like the hard work and progress to get here was unravelling.

Over the last couple of months every day has been different, and what I do each day is largely determined by how I feel mentally and emotionally. There is no routine, other than getting up and dressed, spending the bulk of the day working on a project or reading, then making dinner and watching a movie together in the evening. A lot of projects have been completed, movies have been watched and books have been read. None of them were what was planned, but I’ve developed a mantra which I live each day by – do what feels right.

My emotional wellbeing has become priority one.

I haven’t worked out every day, because I’ve been too emotionally and physically drained, but I’ve cycled and walked when it has felt right. I haven’t stuck to a strict diet because That’s a strain in itself, on top of everything else. I have issues with insomnia so I have tried to stick to my normal routine, because it has such a profound effect on my mental health. Believe me this journey would look a lot different if I still drank, but let’s just be thankful that’s not the case!

Anyway, now we’re eight  ….nine? …. weeks down the line and I’m feeling on more of an even keel. It’s literally taken this long just to get to a place where I can think logically about my feelings. Emotionally I’m not fine, but I’m ok. I’m not ready to think too much about the psychological fall-out from all of this, and dread to think of the second wave of anxiety which will inevitably come as things start to open up again. I imagine that this will take a long time and a lot of work to get over.

It feels so selfish to say this, but for me, despite everything there have been positives to this lockdown. My husband and I have always been on opposite schedules, since we met almost 11 years ago. We’re used to it, we both value time alone. In other circumstances spending this much time together would have been hard, but I don’t think I would be where I am now without him being here to sit with me when I’m upset or make me take a shower when I’m having a bad day. Spending this time together had brought us closer, made us stronger. It’ll be hard going back to our “normal” routine of spending three or four evenings apart once things change again.

So, what does the “new normal” look like? I’m keen to get back to the gym and work and some semblance of a routine, but what else? I’ve enjoyed the solitude and time at home, I don’t miss a crowded pub or a day out shopping.

I miss being outside without being hypervigilant about my surroundings, I miss going for a coffee with my best friend or going to see a movie. I miss my friends, painfully, and I want to see my dad so badly I can’t even think about it for too long, but I worry that I’ll be too anxious to hug them when we see each other, for fear of making them sick – does that get easier? Does everyone feel like that?

I guess we all have to manage our expectations around what things will be like going forward, and get used to the fact that there is no “after” – this is going to be a long-term shift in our lifestyles. If I’ve learned anything from this experience so far it is to be kind to yourself. We are all living through something huge. Everyone on earth is going through this, every experience is valid, but we have to do what we’re capable of. You aren’t a weak person for not doing daily workouts, learning a new language or taking up baking. We are feeling loss and grief on a monumental level.

Some of us are unfathomably angry, I know I am. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. So, you gain weight during lockdown, so what? You just watch a lot of TV, so what? It’s your time to do with what you can, be kind to yourself and do what feels right.

Follow Sali on Instagram @Sali.Suth_

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