opinion

"We're exhausted, languishing, mourning": A letter to Melbourne as we open up.

This post discusses anxiety and depression and may be triggering for some readers. 

We are OUT Melbourne!

Say it again with me. After 262 days, the longest lockdown in the world is over. We. Are. OUT. Melbourne!

I actually swallowed a little bit of nervous vomit when I wrote that. No jokes. I didn’t even have the courage to say it aloud because if we’ve learnt anything during this pandemic, it’s that nothing is for certain, even if it’s guaranteed. Snap decisions (and lockdowns) mean everything can change within minutes. So SERIOUSLY, NO JOKES.

Watch: 5 lifestyle hacks to help with anxiety. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

Ah, Melbourne! 

We are feeling all the things, some of the things, or none of the things. Elated! Excited! Nervous! Anxious! Terrified! Scared! Relieved. Numb. Melancholy. Morose.

Interestingly, I’m finding my response to the question "how are you going" the same as it was in lockdown. 

"I dunno… f**ked?" – perfectly described in text with that emoji with the gal with her hands up in the air. 

I reckon there are many of you out there that feel the same, and given October is Mental Health Awareness month, I think it’s worth trying to break it down and figure this shit out.

For me, when I first heard the news that we were “coming out” during the millionth, now infamous, Dan Andrews presser, I wanted to jump for joy - but strangely, I also felt a weird pit in my stomach, followed by some unexplained tears and wild anxiety. 

Image: Supplied.

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So I did what I thought was best, and jumped straight into the bath at midday - a practice that's become commonplace in lockdown. My lovely husband jumped straight in with me and asked me what was going on, and I was forced to confront the feelings. 

It was a mixture of wanting to scream from the rooftops with excitement vs. burying my head under the pillows wishing time would stop completely because “I’m just not ready”. 

"I don’t know how to do this,” I said. 

“Do what?”, he said. 

"Any of it."

I thought there was something wrong with me, because I was seeing everyone around me bursting with joy, immediately celebrating, booking catch-ups, dinners, events, haircuts, all of it. But I was feeling dread.

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How would I cope with the social interactions? I already felt drained from talking over Zoom and the phone as it was. How would I go with groups of people, having trained myself to avoid them altogether and developing very real behaviours of not breathing in supermarkets around people? 

What excuse would I have to get out of social interactions I wasn’t comfortable with now that we were opening up? What would happen if I caught it? How bad would it be? As an actor who is essentially a contract worker, required to present negative Covid tests upon entering a set, I would lose the few-and-far-between acting jobs if I got it. 

Overall, I was finding the shift in mindset from all-out avoiding this scary and fatal disease, to opening back up and living with it, hard to get my head around. 

I know I’m not the only one. 

If you have never experienced any form of mental health issue, then I would hazard a guess that during this pandemic you have questioned your own. Why do I feel like I can’t breathe, sleep or control myself? Why am I so anxious all the time? Am I depressed? Is this situational or temporary depression? 

If you haven’t experienced any of this, you know someone who has.

We are now understanding that mental health issues will be a legacy of this pandemic - so we must actively protect ourselves, at all costs, in every way we can. In order to move forward from this, I think it’s important to really acknowledge what we have been through. 

Trigger warning: If you’re from Victoria, this may feel heavy. If you’re not, I hope this gives you further insight into how shit this actually was for us.

Every single one of us has suffered, and we continue to suffer immensely. You may not have lost your job, but you may have lost a loved one. You may not have contracted COVID-19, but you’ve had to go through another serious medical issue on your own. You may be financially ruined, but you’ve still got a roof over your head. You may not have had to home school your kids while working a full-time job (impossible) but you live alone and have never felt lonelier in your life. 

We’ve missed so many integral moments - weddings, births, funerals. Our lives have been put on hold for over a year and a half. We are exhausted, languishing, mourning, at the end of our tethers, and quite simply over it. 

We have experienced frustration, angst, trauma, sadness, anger and now rebellion at the current state of affairs here. 

Listen: On this episode of No Filter, Mia Freedman talks anxiety. Post continues after audio.


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Coming out of lockdown, we are waking up daily to record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 and the highest in Australia – a city that used to win titles for “most livable city”. 

Let’s not forget a couple of weeks ago when, all within a week, we experienced our biggest onshore earthquake in recorded history - which thankfully did not injure any of us, because we weren’t allowed on the streets to begin with - whilst witnessing the most violent protests we have ever seen. 

I personally have hated the fact that public safety is in the hands of, well, the public, and I’m sick of seeing police officers brutalised and frontline medical workers being abused for simply doing their job whilst bearing the brunt of this pandemic, and being directly exposed to the very thing we are trying to avoid. 

If you’ve been “lucky” enough to have kept your job in lockdown, there’s been no reprieve at home either. 

Yes, we’ve all heard about 'Zoom meeting fatigue', but there is also an expectation that you are always readily available, at all times, because you are at home. 

When you are confined within the four walls of your home, there ARE no boundaries.

The pressure to keep going, to work harder than you did in the office because you have cynical bosses creating false narratives that employees 'bludge' at home, out of fear of losing the one thing you do have - your job. 

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Our relationships have suffered immensely. We’ve had to consider where our friends and family 'stand' on vaccinations, and many of us have lost these relationships because of it.

If they are not vaccinated or have broken the rules, do we cancel our picnic hangout so we don’t risk catching the virus and potentially losing our jobs? 

Moving between engaging in conversation vs. disengaging to avoid confrontation, depending upon which part of our tethers we are sitting at in that very moment on that very day. 

Constantly feeling unnerved and 'on-edge' - who knows when people are going to snap? Will you be the victim of their rage or misdirected frustrations? We've all had conversations we didn't want to have with our online colleagues, our neighbours, random people at dog parks, the local shop owners cementing divides everywhere. 

We've navigated class and socio-economic divides where people are not affected by this pandemic the same, geographic divides by virtue of where we live and the boundaries keeping us in and out, employment divides where some professions are deemed 'essential' and others are not. 

It's just too much.


The icing on the cake has been watching Sydney - who thankfully did not go through the gravity of what we experienced in duration, intensity or strict measures in lockdown - excelling in getting vaccinated and opening up before our very eyes whilst we painfully lagged behind. 

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While of course I was happy for them, I was sad for us. 

Then we try to trace back to where it all began. How did this happen to us? One of the most privileged and 'luckiest' countries in the world? Best we don’t go there, methinks. Personally, I’m sick of my own frustration and angst spilling out of every pore and tears threatening to stream out at any given moment. 

I find myself fiercely trying to protect my space and energy and finding it hard to let people in, oscillating between not wanting to be a 'drainer', to not wanting to be fake in pretending it’s all okay, and then swinging between silence and engagement because speaking about the thing that is consuming us all is SAD. 

Listen to The Quickly, Mamamia's daily podcast that gets you up to speed on the top stories, then deep dives on one topic you want to know more about. Post continues after audio.


Overall, I think I’m scared of showing the vulnerability of how I truly feel – for people to see the sadness of the last 18 months in my eyes when I should be ecstatic we are out. 

It’s hard to describe, this state of constant turmoil, not knowing what’s going to happen next and not being prepared for it. 

I acknowledge all of this. I acknowledging the gravity of what we have been through, what we are still going through, and my only hope is that somehow we find it within ourselves to be proud of ourselves. 

Like, really proud. Of what we have endured, what we will continue to endure and our resilience as a state and people collectively, forever connected through this experience.

I know we have been living a surreal movie, of which we never want to see the sequel. I know we don’t want to go back. 

We are all going to come through this differently, even within our own households. This month and beyond, I urge you to put your mental health at the forefront - and ask for help when you need, dismissing the fear of being vulnerable. 

I hope we move forward with kindness and empathy, to each and every person in our community, our frontline workers, our hospitality workers, neighbours, friends, colleagues, family – and most importantly, ourselves. 

We all went through this together, and we will have to come out of it that way too. We can. And we will.

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: @SharonJohal.

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