We have read many words and seen much ‘stuff’ about how people have found 2020 to have been a mental health disaster.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has spawned a spectrum of motifs; at the selfish/panic end there were/will be people queueing to buy toilet paper and at the other harsh sharp end; people dying alone in hospital corridors. In between, we’ve seen buffoon like stutters from out-of-depth politicians and suburban dwellers applauding carers who were too busy working to hear them. We have also been treated to the emergence of peculiar expressions like furlough and social distancing.
Income from work has been seriously and widely affected. Along with this immediate swipe to the pocket comes pessimism and insecurity. The shifting rules of isolation and lockdowns derail people and leave many feeling lonely and bored. While we begin to worry about a cold and hungry winter, the markings on the 2021 road map remain faintly drawn and the stop-offs and points of interest fail to jump out with conviction. The motivation for moving forwards is stunted which allows stomach stress to rocket up the spine and smack into the back of the mind.
‘Hey anxiety! I’ve been expecting you, do come in’.
My own approach to this year has been less than dynamic.
From a work point of view I have been hanging on the lips of various power brokers that offer businesses financial advice; government, banks and local authorities. Once I had the courage to loosen my fingers from their bottom jaws it became a case of navigating hastily built websites to access support. By and large this did work and I even managed to advise two other small businesses on how to get help. All in all I guess this chipped away around 20% of my sanity.
Another major work hurdle has been around dealing with suppliers and customers. I won’t bore you with details but the travel industry, that amorphous cloud that matches sunny dreams with airline schedulers and unrealistically expectant guests with poorly prepared property owners has created a toxic atmosphere where both parties want ‘the money’ yet none are willing to negotiate with each in a civilised manner.
This has cancelled out another 30% of my sanity.
In the early days of March and April I embraced the opportunity for quiet walks around my town. Visiting my place of work had become an optional ‘pop-in’ and I was in a pleasant reverie that seemed to be induced by an air-born anaesthetic. I could see people on TV being affected by C19 yet because it was brought to me by square-eyed media, I still felt insulated. When a close relative who was abroad found themselves incarcerated in a hospital because they’d contracted the condition I was deeply concerned and even scared but somehow my inner ostrich poked up its head up from the sands and convinced me I was in a safety zone. Even when another relative, one that lives with me was certain they’d been infected, my mind played tricks and made me feel immune. It’s fair to say by turning a blind eye to scientific fact this equates to losing another 30% of one’s sanity. So here I am, 80% gone and just 20% sane. I’ll take that.
I’ll take it because there is something within many of us that turns our gaze the positive way. Perhaps it’s a naive optimism that things will work out right. This Coronavirus has hit the world in a double pronged attack, the first is as a disease that attacks in a direct physical way and the other attacks the mind and spirit in a more sophisticated shotgun approach by spraying out doubts and insecurity so cleverly that it gets the human race to manage its propaganda on its behalf. Yet, with all this going on I have found that by returning to my old friends; The Stoics, I can still get by.
Four days ago I was rarely for 2020, in another City. Sitting outdoors (naturally) and eating the slowest reheated Panino Costa Coffee has ever made, I overheard a mother and daughter. The location was attractive, the weather damp but we were sheltered and yet the lives of these two people were very difficult. The details of their joint misery is not necessary but between them they were losing their flower shop and witnessing a slow sibling dying. The human habit of comparing lives is not a pleasant one but on this occasion I was able to be grateful for what I have.
Mental Health cannot be rebalanced simply by looking at people worse off than yourself but by observing how other people endure we can maintain a way of counting our blessings. If we go a step further we can even gain personal satisfaction by helping other people. Here are some examples;