I know there’s been a few thousand articles about picking ourselves back up again and carrying on in the time of the pandemic but I felt like I just needed to get some things off my chest about it.
A lot of people are suffering right now; there’s no doubt about that. There’s also a lot of people taking it less seriously and making the situation more difficult than it needs to be by spreading disinformation, and disregarding government advice. There are more still that are attacking other people for how they’re coping, or for what they’re choosing to do during this time. I’ve seen people being attacked for being “too sensitive” or “not sensitive enough”. I’ve seen that old mental health trope dragged out time and time again: “what do you have to be sad / anxious / depressed about?”
The thing is, that no matter who you are, this situation is completely unprecedented. There is no roadmap for how to react right now.
When I contact friends and ask how they are, we say the same things to each other. “Things suck, but other people have it worse, so I can’t complain”. And sure, for a lot of us that’s definitely true.
But I also know that it helps no one, especially not myself, to invalidate my own feelings.
I had really big expectations of myself this year and like a lot of people, I’d built 2020 up as “my year”. I did a huge amount of personal growth in 2019 and it seemed like I was approaching my light at the end of the tunnel. I was focussed, motivated and kicking goals.
And then all of a sudden, I wasn’t anymore.
I went away on holidays, and then I came back and the whole world shut down and everything was bad.
Even now while I write about how I’m allowed to feel my feelings, I feel ridiculous because life has largely gone on as normal for me. I lost some clients, but not all and I still make enough money to pay my bills and buy food.
However, there’s a global sense of mourning right now and if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing, it permeates every part of your soul.
Alongside my fear and anxiety for the people I love who have lost their jobs, who are in risk categories, who don’t have a support network, and a general feeling of loss for what the world has lost, I also feel a deep sense of personal loss.
I feel that loss for what this year might have given me if it had had the chance. A sense of loss for the dreams I’ve had to put on hold again. A sense of frustration at what feels like another year of failing to reach my full potential and have the life I want.
By a lot of people’s standards, my year will still be a successful one. And again, I know how lucky and privileged I am to say that – I swear I do. But by my standards, this year will be a failure because right now I can’t see how it can live up to my expectations of it.
I know what I need to do; I need to reframe my expectations. I need to lower my standards from “reaching full potential” to simply “surviving”. But doing that makes all this a whole lot more real. It’s acknowledging that things probably won’t be OK, and won’t be OK for a while yet.
I will shift my perspective. I will refocus on what feels achievable this year.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t get to mourn what we lost… even if it feels minor, if people see it as silly, if it all seems a bit ridiculous.
We’re allowed to feel our feelings. And other people aren’t allowed to invalidate us for having those feelings.