health

'I'm living through my sixth Melbourne lockdown. I don't feel angry this time around.'

After six lockdowns, countless days spent in isolation, endless hours of Netflix binged and more wine consumed than I care to admit, I am now in the ‘what’s the point’ phase of lockdown. I don’t want to dial into drinks, I don’t want to go for a walk, I don’t even want to get out of bed. Because what’s the point?

I’m a Melburnian and we are well versed in lockdown and how this goes. Snap lockdown, close things down hard and fast, then restrictions will ease and we will go back to normal. But now we are well into our sixth lockdown, I feel like a yo-yo. A very tired and numb yo-yo.

Numb is the best way I can think of to describe it.

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When lockdown five was announced, I was angry. I was angry at the government and the anti vaxxers, I was angry at Sydney-siders not taking this seriously and I was angry at selfish people who think the rules don’t apply to them. 

With news of lockdown five, I snapped at people and was on edge for reasons that I couldn’t put into words but I knew that everything would be okay. One of my friends arranged Zoom trivia, and we all went along and had a great time but this time, things are different.

We all saw lockdown six coming. The minute those cases were announced, we Melburnians knew what came next. But, for me, there was something different about this time. 

Over the past week I’ve said “it is what it is,” more times than I can count. I cancelled my lash appointment and dinner plans and made sure my bar was fully stocked but I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t sad, I just was.

For days I have been going through the motions, getting up, going to work (I’m a nurse), coming home, having a glass of wine and trying to sleep. Trying. 

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I lay in bed at night and thoughts swirl around my head and I just can’t find any peace. My irregular sleeping patterns were the first sign that my body might be trying to tell me that I might not be ok.

I live with anxiety everyday. I am familiar with my symptoms, the way triggers affect my body and what triggers to avoid entirely, but the type of anxiety that is currently inhabiting my body is different.

If you had come to my apartment at two o’clock on Wednesday morning you would’ve found me on my lounge writing. I stayed there until I fell asleep maybe two hours later. 

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I couldn’t sleep before that. I had tried. I went to bed at ten o’clock but I just laid there. In the early hours of Tuesday morning I realised I had become numb and had forgotten to check in with myself. I had forgotten because I a) refused to acknowledge that something might be wrong and b) didn’t really want to dive into the depths of my psyche.

I have situational and social anxiety, meaning that I usually become anxious in certain environments or around certain people. Around exam time or in close proximity to an ex you’ll find me with a tight chest, hyperactive mind and sometimes reflux or symptoms similar to IBS. I know these symptoms well and, after many years of practice and therapy, I have strategies in place to help me cope and not dissolve into a panic attack. But what I feel right now, this is different. I don’t have a coping mechanism for this.

I think it starts with a lack of control. I am a control freak and at the beginning of this pandemic I maintained control by stepping up at work, enrolling in University and cleaning out my cupboards. But now we are eighteen months in and I barely have the energy to cook for myself let alone clean. I am in survival mode.

I got out of bed this afternoon at around 2pm. I got out of bed because I was afraid if I stayed there any longer I would fall into a pit of depression. But I had been rolling around in bed arguing with myself for around two hours because I didn't need to get up, I had nothing on today. So what was the point?

I just got distracted by a TikTok of people handing roses out to strangers whose mental health has been affected by COVID and it made me cry. TikTok may be listening to my ramblings.

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But it’s not just getting out of bed that I’m struggling with. I struggle to go to work even though it’s legitimately the highlight of my week. But all day I ask people about COVID. We wear our masks and our face shields and while I’m so grateful for the social interaction, some days I just can’t face going in.

Tonight I am meant to be watching an online showcase of local LGBTQIA+ Melbourne performers. All of my friends are ‘attending’ but all I can think is “what’s the point?”. I know I should go, I should pay for the ticket and help my artist friends who are struggling, but can I just pay for the ticket and not go? Is that okay? I am the only one of my friends that is single or doesn’t have house mates so while they are drinking and singing along with the people in their lives, I’ll be here, alone singing to myself. 

And right now, I can think of nothing worse.

I’m not sitting here feeling sorry for myself, I just genuinely don’t see the point anymore. If I have to watch another Zoom event, only to close my laptop and be drunk and alone in my apartment, I might lose my mind. So I think what I’ll do is buy the ticket and continue my current NCIS marathon. There’s something comforting about re-watching shows, you know how they’ll end and the characters are all familiar plus it’s not hard to follow along so my attention can dip in and out. Sixteen seasons of Criminal Minds got me through lockdown five.

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I think I am numb and actively pushing down any real emotions, because what I really don’t want to admit is that I am afraid. I am afraid of what could happen, what is currently happening because of the Delta variant

We have seen what has happened in other countries who were unable to control the spread of COVID. I am terrified that it has already spun out of control in NSW and what that means for not only them but the rest of the country as well. I am a nurse in a designated COVID hospital, so what happens to us when this gets out of hand? Will we end up overworked, understaffed and dying like our colleagues overseas? 

These are the things that keep me awake at 2am and the reasons that I am numb. Part of me would prefer to stay numb because even just sneaking a peek into that box of fears to write this has me crying at my computer and I don’t like it.

I am numb. I am lonely. I’m scared. But I am also grateful that we have managed to get this far with so few fatalities. I am grateful that I am vaccinated. I am grateful that I have friends that do check in on me. I am grateful that I have a job and a purpose in all of this mess. And I am grateful that even in all of this mess and my ‘what’s the point’ brain fog, I know the point.

The point is, that one day, we will get through this. One day we will be able to travel overseas again and have new experiences and enjoy the richness of other cultures and adventures. One day we will be free again. Until then, we just need to survive in whatever way we can. 

You’ve got this. 

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.

Feature Image: Instagram @laceyjadechristie/Mamamia. 

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