Isolation diary: Finding a balance

I had a nightmare last night. I won’t go into details because people will start doing deep analyses of my psyche, but I can reveal that it left me with a strong sense of injustice. (It had nothing to do with James Corden, though). I don’t often have bad dreams and it is a long time since I have had an anxiety dream like this one.

I have been very fortunate in not having experienced any serious mental illness in my life. I did develop post-natal depression, and I reacted with stress when I found myself in a job I hated, so I have an inkling about how it must feel. However I have observed people I am close to with more severe bouts, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

But we cannot deny that many of us have heightened levels of fear and anxiety during lockdown, and we all need to monitor our own mental health and that of the people we live with. We need to develop coping strategies, to deal with the dark moments.

A recent analysis of diaries being kept by people in lockdown showed that a third felt they were not coping well. It seems older people, who may actually be more vulnerable, are cushioned financially and emotionally to a certain extent, whereas half of all the younger people reported a rise in anxiety and fear.

I am essentially an optimistic person – I claim no credit for that, it’s how I am. Throughout my life, whenever painful or embarrassing memories try to get into my head I firmly tell them to go away and distract myself with another activity. I know that continually suppressing difficult things is not healthy in the long run, but I choose my moments when I am feeling strong and can confront and deal with them. I don’t give away too much to other people, either.

One of my strategies during this strange time is to avoid thinking about what I am missing. People do tend to ask what I am most looking forward to once it is over, but I refuse to answer. Instead I remind myself about all the things I am enjoying, from clearing out cupboards and trying new recipes to discovering the joys of Zoom and Houseparty.

The fact is that I have enjoyed my life in the last 6 weeks. I do not want to look on it as a waiting time, poised between periods in the real world. Instead it is real living, in the same way that childhood is not a preparation for living but is life itself.

For the last year I have been attending an acting group at the Rose Theatre in Kingston. It has been an eye-opener as we have delved into a variety of acting techniques. We now meet weekly on Zoom. We spend most of the time talking about performances we have been watching, which always include the National Theatre at Home production of the week (including One Man, Two Guvnors – hence the pic).

This week our tutor suggested we try an exercise that features in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. We had to set aside 10 minutes to write whatever came into our heads – a stream of consciousness. We were not necessarily expected to share the output with others, but just see where it led us. So I had a go today, and today’s diary has been influenced by what emerged. It helped me to dig down a bit and identify my coping strategies. I doubt whether it will prevent any future nightmares, though.

 

 

 


Please note

We have been in full self-isolation since 16th March to protect my husband whose immune system is compromised.

If you are in self-isolation then join the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group.

You can find my previous Isolation diaries here.

 

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames where she is still very active with the local party.

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7 Comments

  • Nightmares? I am starting to have daymares as I fall prey to taking a nap in the day. My nights are becoming days and my days nights. However I have always listened to music to cheer myself up and there is so much on Youtube.

  • My nightmares are when I am awake. I try to avoid the daily Downing Street party political broadcasts but they seem to be everywhere. None answers have always annoyed me.
    Meanwhile there is a real world. So many people have been friendly when I am going to the shops or have been working in my front garden.
    Mind you something happened a few years ago when people started to stand up on the bus to offer me a seat.
    I wonder what it was?

  • John Marriott 27th Apr '20 - 9:22am

    Born in 1943 I am a bit young to remember much of WW2; but, greeting perfect strangers on my almost daily walks around our local park makes me wonder whether we are actually recreating the kind of ‘Dunkirk’ spirit that my parents and grandparents used to refer to. Of course, there will always be the spivs and chancers (although I haven’t heard much from Farage and co lately – too much, however, from Trump and Bolsonaro). However, despite the moaners and some of my generation claiming to be as fit as twenty year olds and missing their ‘freedom to cruise’ etc, I for one am still coping with my ‘imprisonment’ and do not view it as an undemocratic deprivation of my civil liberties by a sinister authoritarian state. What makes me happy (if you can call it that) is that we all (or most of us) seem to be in the same boat. I suppose this attitude could change if we see a few of us making it back to shore and gaining a head start on the rest.

    In the meantime, there are still a few jobs around the house that need doing but, hey ho, our local chippy is now doing ‘click and collect’ and thank goodness for Amazon (although I’d like them more if Mr Bezos paid a bit more tax here) and FaceTime on my iPad (the same applies to Apple and Google, whoever owns them), as my PC stubbornly refuses to boot up following a recommendation from Microsoft that I update Windows 10 (A big mistake, so I’m not a fan of Mr Gates at the moment, despite his generous offer to underwrite my dose of the eagerly anticipated anti Covid vaccine – if it ever appears).

    If some of you are expecting me to find an appropriate pop song to illustrate our current dilemma, I recommend you have a listen to Allan Sherman’s ‘Hello Muddah! Hello Fadduh!’, especially the ending.

  • William Wallace 27th Apr '20 - 10:15am

    Mary: You are very lucky not to have many anxiety dreams. I have a recurring one in which I’m packing after a conference or holiday and cannot finish packing in time to catch the train/plane; and another in which I’m up before a large audience (I used to be a university teacher) and have forgotten my notes, or have somehow been put up to speak on a subject I know nothing about…

  • As for songs to see us through (I’m working my way through the umpteen hundred songs on my little Sansa) Dylan’s “Stuck inside of mobile with the memphis blues again” ain’t a bad one..

    Now the rainman gave me two cures
    Then he said, “Jump right in”
    The one was Texas medicine
    The other was just railroad gin
    An’ like a fool I mixed them
    An’ it strangled up my mind
    An’ now people just get uglier
    An’ I have no sense of time…

    Well, I’m into the gin and, as peyote cactus is rather thin on the ground here, I’m using tonic as the mixer…It makes 6pm (after the 5 oclock whitewash) enjoyable…

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