Last Monday morning when my alarm went off I lay in bed for a moment wishing the world away. The rain had started to fall, a chill had set into the air along with a new greyness, and I just didn’t feel like pulling myself together and going back to work after week off. I say ‘going back’ to work but, of course, I’d not be ‘going’ anywhere – and that was the root of the problem.
I have found the last few months pretty difficult. As someone on the far side of the extrovert spectrum, I draw my energy from others – chats, debates, jokes, laughter, just being around other people fills my happy cup right up to the brim. In the absence of this my cup becomes so empty that when I take a knock it gets chipped. And as my cup fills with cracks, the obvious happens – the good stuff leaks right out.
I’ve tried the things we’ve been encouraged to do – more Zoom and video chats so I can see people. More conversations instead of emails. More spontaneous chats on our instant messenger platform to take the place of informal ‘passage talk’. But it doesn’t really cut it, does it? All this ‘more of’ feels like more screen time and less real connection. I miss the buzz of the office, the random banter and the sporadic laughter that often erupts from my lively teammates (even when I’m the butt the joke!). I miss the cake bakes, cheese Tuesdays and our hilarious toy mice appearances that began after a rodent issue (possibly brought about by the former activities).
Now, just to be clear, I totally get why we’re broadly isolated in this way and I don’t advocate a different approach (though I appreciate some will have different views). I have every intention of following the rules and staying away from others as much as possible, for another six months (or however long is needed). Having said that, it feels like a lot to bear. Thinking about how I’m going to cope during the long, quiet work days triggers fear and anxiety with some ‘poor me syndrome’ thrown in. It gives me all I need to kick off a spectacular ‘chipped cup’ party of negativity and ungratefulness.
I feel ungrateful because, all things considered, my life is freaking amazing. I have a wonderful home life filled with love, joy and absolute acceptance. I have a great family and friends who keep in touch and help lift me up on my tough days. I have a really good job working with awesome people. I could go on and on about all the awesome people and things I have. And yet there I was on Monday morning, facing 517 new emails feeling overwhelmed and, in many ways, hard done by.
At some point, I started thinking about those who are not as fortunate as me. Many of my friends have lost their jobs; some have lost loved ones, including their parents. People in my home country are starving as the economy has taken such a dive, that the poverty-stricken are surviving in unimaginable ways. On Monday, my brain went all over and, while feeling rubbish, I then started to beat myself for being so ungrateful.
As the morning progressed I pulled myself together and uninvited some of the guests at my pity party. Being empathic is one of my strengths but carrying too heavy a load, or beating myself up, is entirely unhelpful. I recognised that though so many people have a tougher time than I do right now, that my feelings are still valid and that I can allow myself to feel yucky sometimes. That doesn’t mean I’m ungrateful for all I have, it’s just a reflection of the fact that the world is an uncomfortable place at the moment and it’s ok to feel horrid about that.
For those who are feeling like I am at the moment it might help to forgive yourself for some of these feelings (I’m still working on this). It’s hard and you’re not alone in it – feel free to comment on this blog, email or get in touch on Facebook or Instagram (yes, I get the irony of this invitation!) as we try to fix and refill our cups. To those who are finding this time ok – that’s great – share some of your coping tips if you can and keep going! We’ll all get through this weird time and we’ll learn better resilience and coping mechanisms. Good luck!