A Conversation With: You

Lockdown is hard. It’s been 8 weeks of official U.K lockdown, and even longer for some people. It’s an unnerving time because everything is unknown.

Everyone is trying to get through in their own way. Some people are working towards their fitness, others are improving their baking. Some have started a new skill, others are ticking off those films they never got round to watching. Every way of coping is valid. You should do you and that should be enough. So, why is it so difficult to not compare ourselves to others and why’re we telling ourselves what we should and shouldn’t be doing?

I spoke with nine ladies and gents who are spending their lockdown back at their family homes. I wanted to discuss how living at home can affect your mental health - good and bad. It seems that there’s a sort of pressure to always have good mental health because you’re in a more fortunate position than other people are...

When asked why they moved home, Sam, 27, said "I moved home to use my garden! And to be with my family - otherwise I think I would have worried." And to be with the family is the same reason for lots of people. I know that’s why I came home for this period.

Iona 23, and Matt, 28, live alone, so they moved home because they didn’t want to spend lockdown by themselves - which I can imagine is really quite hard.

The general consensus about being able to live at home during this pandemic was gratitude. Everyone said how lucky they were to be able to have somewhere they could go, and they all realised how much more fortunate they were than some other people. I think it’s such an important thing to show gratitude for the things in our lives that we can sometimes take for granted. Although, that doesn’t mean that our mental health can’t suffer because there are people worse off than us. Everyone’s mental health journey is so different, and therefore everybody's feelings are very much valid.

I asked how people were occupying their time, and Jess, 23, said "oh god, painting saved me. I’ve never painted before, in my life, but it SAVED me. And I mentioned to my Dad that I wanted a board of wood so I could Tap in the garden, and I’ve been happy as Larry ever since."

Lizzie, 24, told me that she’s "been helping my family with renovations, and I started a BSL course, which ends in a Diploma. I’ve also baked around 8 cakes."

I spoke to someone who preferred to remain anonymous, but she said that she’s ‘managed to replicate my normal private tuition online, so I have a weekly routine, which I’ve found so useful.’ However, she told me that she’s tried to move her regular schedule around so that she can spend some self-care time in the garden, when the sun is at its strongest, because she suffers from SAD, and she’s got to get her vitamin D intake.

Although this time is uncertain and for many, very difficult to deal with, I’ve personally found that it’s given a lot of people that self care time that they wouldn’t usually get in regular life. It’s let people take a step back and look at their life, and allow themselves to realise what they want and need, and how to manage their mental health. Of course, this isn’t everyone, but I think it’s such a silver living for those who it has affected positively.

When asked whether she felt a pressure to be productive, Rayanne, 23, worded it perfect in my opinion. She said "I did at first. Seeing others do so much, you feel like you’re wasting your time. But it’s not about doing the most, it’s about making sure you’re doing okay within yourself. This is the toughest time, so just getting through it and doing things you enjoy, or doing things to pass the day even, that’s enough. That’s all that matters."

Ruby, 24, said "I’ve been spending my time doing small things, like baking, and reading, and that’s been lovely! Also I’ve had time to reach out to people I’ve not seen it spoken to for a while."

That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Checking in on people. Taking this time and putting it to good use. Checking in on your friends is very important. Who knows, maybe you can reignite a lost friendship, or get closer to someone. How wonderful would that be?

Jack, 20 told me that "at first I definitely felt guilty" in regards to feeling like he shouldn’t feel down because there are people worse off. But then he told me, "in terms of my feelings and my mental health in the current climate, like always, I never apologise for how I feel. I have every right to feel a certain way, just as much as everyone else and I think it’s more the case of actions one chooses to do with those emotions." A very wise way of thinking and dealing with things, I think.

Iona, again said something I think we could all do with hearing: "people are less likely to post the hard parts of their lockdown on social media, so it’s likely that people aren’t having as easy a time as they’re portraying. But even if they are, I can’t compare my life to someone else’s."

Another spark of brilliance was from Sam, "I think people should not pass judgment on how other individuals are dealing with this very unique time". That’s sort of my mantra for life anyhow. How other people live their life is nothing to do with you, so why judge them for it?

Wearing their hearts on their sleeves, every single person I spoke to said that their mental health has been up and down. It’s not an easy thing to deal with at the best of times, let alone in this very difficult one. But having places or people to talk about it with can help so much. That’s why this blog is so important. And so many other platforms like it. Normalising the conversations of mental health is helping so many people. We mustn’t remain quiet. We can’t bottle up our feelings. You do you, wherever you are. Most importantly, we are not alone.

Thank you for everyone that spoke to me and thank you for everyone that read it.

- Em xoxo

Illustrations by @red_cheeky_drawings

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