My mind is not a happy place at present. The past year has played havoc with my mental health, as it has with millions of others across the country. My old companions, depression and anxiety, have made an unwelcome return and seen immune to my efforts to quash them.
The anxiety is, in many ways, understandable: we’re on the brink of the country reopening. Socialising will be possible in a safer way than since 2019. Pubs and bars will be full of life and laughter. And people.
To the socially anxious, this is a double edged sword. There’s a real longing to be with people again – I have, with some degree of surprise, realised I actually like people far more than I thought. Whilst I was not a party animal pre-covid, the nights out I did have, sharing a few drinks with my friends, were a great source of joy. I’ve talked repeatedly over the past year about The Things I’m Going To Do once it is over. Now that time is coming, I cannot quite commit to anything.
A trip to London, to visit museums, abbeys and wander, as well as to meet many lovely Twitter friends, has been high on the list. To that end, I’ve chosen hotels, checked dates, added train tickets to my basket…and then hesitated. I rationalise it’s to give myself time to double check things, but I’ve now gone through this process around five times and I can’t click ‘Book now’. Stymied by the Fear. Again.
The depression, or, more accurately at present, low mood, is not helping matters one bit. Over the past few weeks I’ve been aware I’ve retreated more. Driving places that I was walking to. Communication being more erratic – I tweet great volumes of utter nonsense, or just scroll, wordlessly. Even my constant text companion, my best friend in all the world, has received far fewer texts (five a day, instead of the twenty plus that’s our norm). My sleep pattern has reverted to its depressed norm; staying up until 4am, unable to find the off switch. Exhausted during the day, but bright eyed and bushy tailed come 9pm. Housework is sliding, whilst the sense of being ‘not good enough’ is growing. I’m trying to hold back the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Consequently, the negative self talk has seized its chance. It is back with a vengeance. Whilst I am much better at ignoring it than I previously was, it’s not something I’ve perfected yet. I’m not sure anyone ever does. This really hasn’t been helped by the realisation that the heady surge in self confidence and self worth I experienced in 2019 (discussed here https://emilyboots09.wordpress.com/2020/09/17/musings-on-the-past-year/), seems to have been almost entirely based on another’s opinion of me.
I celebrated this new found sense of confidence with glee. I put it down to the hard work I had done in counselling over the previous three years. I was a woman with a sense of self, a sense of purpose and a swagger.
Lockdown knocked that. Holed up in the house for months didn’t really give the opportunity to cement my new found mindset. Nonetheless, I was confident that I’d be fine once I got back out there.
This year has shattered that illusion. The one who had given me such a monumental boost in confidence has, for a number of reasons, not been around as much. Increasingly, I’ve reverted to the people pleasing behaviour I worked so hard to rid myself of. Trying to second guess their wants and needs. Berating myself for words and deeds. Stupid woman has become a repeated refrain.
Uncertainty is not a great place to be, but it shouldn’t be able to dissolve self esteem.
It’s a humbling experience to realise that your celebrated new sense of self was actually a natural reaction to someone making you feel special. As the doubts around that have grown, the pieces of my new self have begun to fall apart. I’m not entirely sure how to stop the erosion at the moment. But I have to find a way.