opinion

'It's day four of Melbourne lockdown. I'm so depressed, I'm almost non-verbal.'

My fellow Victorians. It is OK not to be OK right now. Even if it is “only a week”.

Day four of Melbourne’s snap lockdown and today I am so depressed I am almost non-verbal.

But it’s only seven days, right? Surely, by now, this should be easy. “One day at a time”, “We’ve done it before, we can do it again”, “We’ve got this”. How many of us have heard these well-intentioned but somewhat misguided expressions over the past few days.

My counter to these well-meaning words of encouragement – it is not “just a week”. It is a culmination of one week on top of the past fifteen months of Australia’s, and particularly Victoria’s, fractious relationship with COVID-19. The past year and a half has left my emotional resources depleted, the former resilience that I used to be known for, now non-existent and a psychological fragility that I have never experienced, but I fear am now stuck with for the long run.

Watch: Victoria's Acting Premier announces the state's seven-day lockdown. Post continues below. 


Video via ABC.

How do I know this specific timeframe you ask? Because my second child, my daughter Eleanor, was born at the very start of it all. A true iso-baby. I remember sitting on the hospital bed in my room on the maternity unit in February 2020, tired, swollen and sore. But blissfully happy. While feeding Ellie, only hours old, I watched the news about the first cases of this terrifying new COVID-19 virus detected in Australian returned travellers. I don’t think I have turned the news off since. Little did Ellie or I know then of what was to come. How much of life has changed in her short existence.

Having always been a positive, upbeat and fairly easy-going individual, the past year’s experiences with COVID, lockdowns, separation from family and friends, isolation, loneliness and sheer boredom has unlocked some previously hidden portion of my brain, releasing a wave of despair, rage, anxiety and hopelessness, where previously none existed. And all at the drop of a hat.

It doesn’t take much these days. I can be quick to sadness. Quick to rage. At my children. At my husband. At my own inanimate surroundings for god’s sake. Not to mention the PTSD symptoms that creep in when I see a certain orange and blue-clad children’s entertainer on YouTube…

COVID has already stolen so much from us. My son’s third and first-ever actual birthday party was planned for this week. Now cancelled. And that is I am sure one of the least important events around Victoria of this coming week that has had to be called off.

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More devastatingly, I am another step further from seeing my Irish family face to face. Who knows what this outbreak means with regards to Australian international borders now.

I am not against these lockdown measures in any way. Quite the opposite. As a health professional and frontline worker, I am in full support of whatever the growing evidence base and esteemed health experts deem necessary to best protect our nation and people from this terrible virus. It is OK to support something wholeheartedly, but at the same time find it difficult, heartbreaking and excruciating. Funny, reminds me a bit of parenthood...

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast on vaccine hesitancy in Australia. Post continues below.

While I have no quick solutions or curative measures, to you, kind reader, I say: do whatever it takes to get you through this coming week (hopefully) and out the other side. Whatever it takes to make you feel like you. Go for that burst of exercise solo, or with a socially distanced friend. Binge that series. Read that book. Start that project. Bake that cake. Drink that glass of wine. Do nothing at all and just be still. Whatever it is, just be kind. To yourself. To others. 

Check-in on that friend who’s gone quiet. Maybe they’re struggling. Maybe that person you pass on the street could be going through their own personal hell this week, just like me. Just like you perhaps. Give them the benefit of the doubt. And a smile. Even it is just with your eyes.

To the state and federal government, I implore you: purpose-built hotel quarantine facilities, improved positive messaging and rollout logistics around the vaccine effort, a standardised and mandatory QR check-in platform for all public venues… all of these actions will contribute towards a safer, more open Australia, and a happier, more psychologically healthy population.

Victoria. Australia. We will get through this. We will open back up. If there is any silver lining to take from this most recent outbreak, it is the record numbers of vaccinations that have occurred in these past few days. A big step in the right direction. We, as a nation, and as individuals, will survive. A little wounded, yes, but these wounds will heal. Although, how deep the scars run is yet to be seen. But, let’s not think on that right now. One day at a time right?

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Jen McLachlan is a public healthcare frontline worker, Irish immigrant, wife of a GP and mum of two little people living in Bayside, Melbourne.

Feature Image: Supplied.