wellness

'The one question that made me burst into tears during a work Zoom call.'

This morning, a colleague called me. As per normal he asked, “how are you?” I replied with “not bad, how are you?” He responded, “I’m fine… but how are you really?” 

I attempt to say again that I’m okay but my voice cracks. I can’t get it out. I start sobbing. 

I’m sobbing to this (incredibly lovely) man on a video call, apologising profusely, and dying of embarrassment. This man is not part of my immediate team. He was just calling to discuss a presentation we are working on together. Unfortunately for him, he asked the right question on the wrong day and, despite having a perfectly uneventful morning something inside me snapped. 

Today is day 193 of Melbourne’s lockdown and I’m no longer ‘COVID-fatigued’, I’m flat-out COVID-irrational.

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I’m 26 and have been living in Melbourne since January 2020 (before you say it, yes it WAS bad timing). I moved down from Queensland to start an exciting new life with my partner. To have our fun, big-city adventure while we were young, hot, and untethered. 

And therein lies the problem. 

My entire support network is in another state and has been mostly unaffected by COVID-19 lockdowns. 

I feel like I can’t call my friends and family and be honest about how difficult the last 18 months have been. It’s not that they’re not empathetic, it’s just that they don’t understand how completely all-consuming a lengthy COVID lockdown is.

In June this year, I got a text from my Mum. 

It said: “Do you want to fly to Brisbane to surprise your Granddad for his birthday with me?” 

Blood rushed to my face and my heartbeat thundered in my ears as I indignantly typed back: ‘MUM I AM IN LOCKDOWN!!!!!!’ 

How could she not remember?! How could she possibly have forgotten that I was going through this life-altering, world-shattering, incredibly devastating event that was happening to me right now? 

But she did. Because she’s got four jobs, runs two small businesses, cooks every meal from scratch, has an immaculate house, and two teenagers still at home. But more importantly, she lives in regional Queensland. COVID hasn’t impacted her day-to-day life at all. And it’s certainly not an ever-present dread for her like it is for me. 

My mum truly is the most amazing woman I know… but right now I’m screening her calls.

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It’s not her fault, she just has no frame of reference to compare this to. But at the same time, not talking about something so all-consuming with my family is isolating. I feel disconnected from my community. 

Listen to the latest episode of Mamamia Out Loud, where hosts Holly, Mia and Jessie discuss the one thing that's giving them hope during the latest COVID lockdown. Post continues after podcast.

When I call my friends they say things like, “It’s not so bad” or “Sit outside, you’ll feel better” or my most-loathed: “You chose to move there!” They don’t mean to dismiss my feelings but they do. They make me feel ungrateful. Like I’m losing at this weird game of who deserves to be the saddest.

And yes, I acknowledge that I’m very lucky to have a job and to live with someone I love. But also, isn’t there some nuance here? Can’t I be sad about the lockdown AND believe it's the right thing to do for public health? Surely I can acknowledge how awful it is that so many people have lost their jobs AND be glum about cancelling my holiday? 

We can believe and feel and think and experience multiple things at the same time. There’s a difference between checking your privilege and repressing your emotions. I think we forget that sometimes. 

As for the rest of my day after that teary Zoom call? I immediately logged off and took a mental health day (which my boss recommended earlier in the week and I disregarded because “I’m totally fine”). 

I went for my daily walk. I read a couple of chapters of my book. I drank tea and watched crap tv and just generally lay on the couch with the dog.

Tomorrow I’ll log back onto my computer and try again but for today, I’m done. 

To see more from writer Jade Wirth, be sure to check her out on Instagram and Twitter

Feature Image: Supplied.

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