Coming Out of Lockdown
I’m sitting in a café next to the Apple store, feeling shattered and staring into space. I’ve just spent an hour being dazzled by the world of 21st Century consumerism, and then an idea popped into my head that I never thought would happen… “BRING BACK LOCKDOWN!”
Was the world always this busy? Always so noisy? People always so pushy?
If you were like me, you were super excited when lockdown ended. It was so exciting to get out and about, be able to see friends, and what felt like to me the most exciting thing, sitting down at a café. What luxury!
But if you are also like me, that initial euphoria has quickly passed to be replaced by a general pervasive sense of background anxiety. It isn’t for the most part a heart pounding, attention grabbing anxiety, but a constant presence hovering in the background. I’ve been struggling to put my finger on it, but it is definitely there!
There is that sense that even though things are very much looking like things are back to “normal”, we really aren’t out of the woods yet with this virus. Who knows what variants might be lurking around the corner? But for me there is also more, like there is a shadow of the past trying to envelope me.
I used to suffer from what was then termed a “version of agoraphobia”. At the time my counsellor described it as a very male version of it.
I wasn’t trapped in my house, but my life was severely limited. I basically went to only three places each week: work, church, and the supermarket. I looked “normal” but fear ruled my life. I never went on holidays. I never advanced in my career, I constantly turned down social and friendship opportunities. Feeling safe was all that mattered, no matter how miserable and lonely I was.
Eventually the loneliness forced me to reach out for help. I had received a wedding invite, and realised I had no excuses. The only reason I couldn’t go was that I was scared.
I got help. I began to deal with my trauma and embrace the wider world. This was over 25 years ago, and while it hasn’t always been easy, I had felt like it was in the past. Then comes lockdown.
It’s easy to see how lockdown might be an agoraphobes dream. No one can go out and everything has to be delivered to you, with no social stigma attached! However, for this recovering agoraphobe it has meant a return to old patterns of behaviour, which has re-awakened old anxieties. They aren’t there in full, but I can feel them pressing back in, wanting their old home back.
And I’m telling you, as I am telling them… it is not on! So, what am I doing about it?
First up I have decided to go gently with myself; even if the world is rushing out, I don’t have to. Secondly, I have kept my counsellor in the loop about what is going on and we are discussing it. Thirdly, I have been making sure I am reaching out to friends and organising catch ups in places that I feel are COVID safe. And finally, I am making sure to break up my trips out into manageable bites.
For example, when I returned to work at the office, I broke it up into parts. I allowed time to pause between changing buses and then allowed time for a long sit-down at a nearby café to rest and regroup. The next day I didn’t need the pauses between buses and the day after I didn’t need the coffee break either; but I did it because it was fun!
There is a lot of pressure these days to be out and about, but in my opinion we all have the right and responsibility to manage our own speed of return to “normal.” I have health concerns that make me cautious around group indoor venues especially. I think it’s very reasonable to be the only one to say NO to the event. Your safety comes first! I just need to make sure I am basing my decision on a current risk assessment, not out of an old pattern of anxious behaviour. Lockdown for me was a seductive time of cosy safety, now it is time to face the world.