How has my mental health been coping with lockdown? Am I losing friends, as a report on Radio 4's Today programme recently suggested would happen with friendships when you don't see the other person for more than three months? Am I being too extreme in my approach? Not careful enough? How has my life changed permanently due to Covid-19 rather than the sort of changes I might have expected normally?
My mental health was absolutely fine during the first few months of lockdown but gradually and more recently I have been struggling from time to time. I love living on my own but I am quite a social person so I've missed going out for coffee with friends the most. As restrictions have lessened, people who live with someone else can fairly safely go out to restaurants, pubs and cafes but people who live on their own who are not in a bubble with another household can only go on their own.
People who live with someone else can go on holiday together. People can do some kinds of holiday, e.g. camping, with friends they don't live with. People with grown-up families can take holidays with them in places like rented cottages. I, on the other hand, have been self-isolating for two weeks before visiting my elderly parents and their live-in carer. The final tin lid on that was that I planned a week of 'holiday' when I came home, to enjoy sitting in my garden, meet with friends for coffee and Cake (which I normally avoid mid-week) and other social things. Instead, we had a week which was mostly wet and windy plus two sets of my friends that I would otherwise have seen went on holiday. Life became a bit grim for me and I was been periodically depressed.
Depression in my case usually involves anxiety and a sense of being out of touch with myself, amongst other symptoms. On at least two occasions when I did encounter other people (online and 'live') I realised afterwards that my anger was influencing my reactions and behaviour in a way I felt I needed to apologise for.
I started to question why I was self-isolating before visiting my parents when their carer has resumed some of her social activities and went out to lunch (eating outside) with friends, travelling by car (wearing masks but still three or four in a car) and popping into small shops when she goes out for a walk. There doesn't seem the same point in my not doing that for two weeks before visiting them if she's doing it all the time and before I go again I'll assess the situation carefully and decide at the time how careful I need to be.
I don't think I'm losing friends while not seeing them but then I have friends I rarely or never see anyway. There are a few local friends I have not been seeing but somehow I think my belief in real friendship still holds good - that it will stand any amount of absence and on seeing the person again it will only be a short while before you are back where you were with the relationship. I'm fairly confident that friendships will survive.
What I've been experiencing is isolation and some loneliness. And I've been really grumpy about it all.
Friends say they can't meet for coffee on a particular day because they're doing something with someone else. Well, you're much better off than I am, then. I don't have 'someone else' I'm doing things with. I don't say anything. But maybe I should? Friends probably don't know I have any problem if I don't say. I know there are many people much worse off than I am, however this is about my mental health - and I'm "just sayin'."
The wider picture for me is coloured by the knowledge that autumn is pretty much here, bringing an end to meeting outside and the implications of all of that. Fortunately, after five months, my acupuncturist has resumed working and I have begun to feel more like my old self. I've lost most of the anger. I've also been mentioning how I feel to people I know, even those I don't know well if they live on their own. Most people who live on their own seem to think the same way as I do. This is interesting and makes me wonder if living with other people insulates you in some way against being over-careful.
Maybe I have been over-careful. I'm thinking of asking my cleaners to come and clean while I'm at home. Other people, including my parents, have been doing this. As autumn approaches I am looking ahead at the things I like about autumn and winter - open fires, good tv to watch, closing out the world once it's dark. A friend and I have worked out a strategy for safe socially distanced watching of films with a takeaway (or cook-in). We have a similarly careful attitude and are both happy to move about the room out of each other's way, put on masks when necessary, etc. And I am getting some nice, mild days so I can eke out a bit of summer living and adjust to the autumn.
As for the wider, wider picture, the national view, world view, politics and social issues and, and, and, and ..... I'm afraid for now I'm unable to give my attention to it. I do what I can for people I'm closest too. You really can't do more than your best and that's my best for the time being.
In case you missed it, I'll just point out the pun of the wider view of my vegetable garden above! And to finish off, we, like everyone else, have had some spectacular sunsets recently and I now have a working camera to record them.