‘I MAY NOT BE FINE BY THE END OF IT, BUT I WILL AT LEAST BE REAL’
Anna Halsall lives in inner London, with her partner, who is a GP, their 1 year old and her 9 year old from her previous relationship. As lock-down started she was just returning to work from maternity leave. She shares some of her writing from April and May 2020 about coping with the lock-down, being a mother, and her hopes for how the world can change moving forward.
I’m building a new business working as a coach with mothers, to support them to navigate the transformational opportunity of becoming a mother. I’ve come through two periods of severe postnatal depression and undertaken six years of coaching training – I would like to share what I’ve learned with other mothers.
But it’s a tough time to launch a new business, and lock-down has really challenged my own mental health, so each day is hard work. I feel like during this time of retreat into the safety of our homes, I’ve experienced the security to find my own voice, so I have finally started to post my thoughts and feelings. It’s become incredibly cathartic.
Lockdown fatigue… aka I can’t take any more uncertainty… aka possibility?
My battery is flat, it’s run out getting this far, there’s no space to recharge. I’m groggy, jumbled, if I’m really honest I’m pretty resigned – I’m not sure I can be bothered anymore.
I nearly disappeared into this today; I thought it was just me. But after a little online research this afternoon I realise it’s a ‘thing’ – and it helps to know I’m not losing the plot on my own!
Apparently, the recent changes to our lives, like less exposure to daylight and loss of external routine, mean that people are feeling groggy, finding it hard to keep going.
There are practical things we can do to support ourselves as we navigate this void. Things like getting outside in the morning, keeping a regular-ish routine, doing things we’re interested in, just because we enjoy them. These practical things are really important right now, especially at the times when we least feel like doing them. They are the linchpins that hold us together.
Because right now it does feel like a void: the time of unknown between What Was Before and What Comes Next. There is so much uncertainty: how long will we be in lock-down? how will it be lifted? Will we have enough money? How will we work? Will our health be compromised? What about our family and dear friends? When will we be able to travel? When can we start that course? Move house? … ??????? BREATHE. I guess you don’t need me to list it all – you’ve got your own version.
I don’t relate well to uncertainty, I like certain ground and clear plans. It’s a really big learning curve for me right now; the practicality of being in the unknown.
I’m noticing the narrative I have of myself that creeps in: that I’m not good enough, I’m not worth anything, everyone thinks I’m crap etc etc. Louder and louder, feeding on and filling the void, perpetuating the uncertainty.
So as well as the practical things to support myself, I’m learning to remain vigilant around that narrative – my internal bully. To see her (yes it’s a her!) for what she is – a construct of my mind. A product of years of survival and human conditioning. We’ve all got our own version.
Because when I can see her, I can just see beyond her, and something else is possible. A different kind of unknown where my life isn’t conditioned by how crap I am. In that place, the dreams I have can start to become real.
So, this time of unknown doesn’t have to be a dark pit. The void may be a space to really see ourselves, and to start to dream.
Although – I may need a little nap first….
I’m not fine
Yesterday morning my mentor put up a post: “It’s ok to not be ok” and my immediate reaction was “well I’m fine”.
Yet over the course of the day, it sunk in… and in the evening when a dear friend put up a very similar post, I was finally ready to hear it – for them and for me: none of us are fine at the moment.
“I’m not fine”.
I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted from taking constant care of my partner so he can go to work to take care of others, from the 24-7 demands of the children, staying connected with family and dear friends. Don’t get me wrong, I gladly, gladly show up as I love them dearly, but it takes a lot.
I’m exhausted from the incessant piles of laundry, the flat that’s never clean because there are always people everywhere, the constant need to create food.
I’m feeling the extra anxiety, threat, unsafety, uncertainty – health, financial, trust in institutions. I’m missing the comforts and stimulation of the outside world. I’m missing real human connection outside my immediate family. My mood is pretty low. I have the physical aches and pains that come with the tension and stress.
We are all feeling our own version of this, yet that doesn’t mean I should deny it in myself.
So I woke this morning with the clear awareness: I’m putting all my energy out and not allowing much in. I’ve got nothing left in the tank. I need to pause.
I’m very fortunate that my partner can take the baby for a couple of hours. And I can just stop and be quiet. Replenish a little.
I may not be fine by the end of it, but I will at least be real.
It’s not supposed to be like this
As I was rocking the baby to sleep tonight, I thought of Boris Johnson. That’s not good, right?!
My train of thought was around him having a new baby too, and how he nearly died from Covid-19, and the strain that must have put on his partner.
And I realised how much the whole bloody world has been through in just a few months, and is still going through: we can’t see the end right now.
On top of whatever else we have going on in our personal sphere in the past few months (and for those I know that’s a lot), we’re weathering a global pandemic, a reopening of global brutal wounds, witnessing mortality and fallibility in our leaders. Everything around us that gave us security has been called into question.
You don’t need me to tell you this, but I do think we need reminding. Because we need to acknowledge what we’ve dealt with, what is still moving through. We need to acknowledge our individual and collective trauma.
So no wonder I’m feeling numb; I’m really, really exhausted. My head feels like it’s full of cottage cheese.
And rather than trying not to be – telling myself it’s not supposed to be like this and trying to put on a brave face, be competent and successful – I can instead acknowledge what’s really there, and take care of myself. Take responsibility for how I really am.
Even in the realisation of that, as I rocked the baby to sleep, I felt just a little more space. A little less tired.
🌍 💛 🔥TIME FOR A RADICAL RETHINK 🔥 💛 🌍
I’m not an economist, but I am a human being.
Yesterday in the UK we heard economy had shrunk 20% in April, the first full month of lock-down.
And this was a Bad Thing.
Let me be clear: I DO NOT want to see people struggling, with no income, no home, no food… I know from experience the vulnerable suffer first and most in an economic downturn.
Yet it just doesn’t seem to make sense to try to rebuild what was.
We had an economic system based on consumption, based on us feeling insecure, afraid even, and consuming increasing amounts to satiate this – so the goods kept moving, the money kept moving…. A little could be taken aside and spent to care for the vulnerable, but mostly it was a system based on consumption, feeding insecurity, and perpetuating inequality. And it has had a very high cost: we are destroying our planet, and taking advantage of exploiting others to feed our desire for more and more.
It seems to be mutually assured destruction.
When most of the world went into lock-down, when this economic system paused, there has been a LOT of financial hardship. There have also been some green shoots – quite literally, the air has become cleaner, we are growing more plants, being creative with what we’ve got because we can’t consume so much. We have experienced the indispensable value of the key workers (carers, factory workers, drivers, shop workers) to whom we’ve given the least financial recognition.
Basically, as human beings have paused and started to wake up to the reality we’ve created – environmental destruction, human exploitation and neglect – as the earth starts to recover, the economic system breaks.
Surely, surely this tells us that the system is fundamentally flawed.
I can’t change the whole world, and I can’t fix the broken system, but I can start with myself. I can be honest about what I think – even though I’m scared of being smacked down. And as the shops reopen in the UK, as we start to re-emerge, I can start with a radical rethink of my own space:
What do I consume? Why do I consume? What do I actually need? Is what I’m consuming nourishing – in the fullest sense – for my self and for those who have made it, the place it comes from? How can I live, take care of myself, my family, differently?
There may never be another opportunity like this. Living from the heart re-starts here.