It’s perhaps one of the most common cliches of the new woke era: “it’s okay to not be okay”. But for every celebrity, politician and Facebook friend who’s shared and reshared inspirational images and quotes during the various different mental health awareness weeks, how many of them actually believe it?
The coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything anyone has ever seen before. People continue to try and compare it to other historical events, or use points in history as benchmarks against which to measure the level of response to it. The truth is, there is no benchmark; there is no comparison to be made. People are worried, stressed, anxious and, I fear in many cases, depressed.
And people have good reason to be. And when I say “people”, I’m referring to everyone.
I’ve seen far too many tweets and Facebook posts castigating others for sharing their worry and concern, telling them that they should be grateful because their situation could be so much worse. And whilst there is merit in arguing that people should try and take stock of the situation as a whole and remember the positive things in their life, it’s equally as important to be allowed to feel the impact of this situation on one’s own life, in one’s own way.
As I write this, I’m having a particular struggle with my anxiety. It doesn’t happen frequently – in fact, anxiety is something I rarely struggle with. Many people may wonder what on earth I have to be anxious about. I’m in the incredibly fortunate position to still have a job, and a job that I’m able to do from home, and thankfully I haven’t lost any friends or family to the illness. There are countless people who are in far worse situations than I; those who’ve lost jobs; those who’re on the front lines of our NHS and other key industries; those who’ve tragically lost a friend or relative. My struggles do pale in comparison to the pain these people must be feeling.
But while the struggles of others can help you put your own into perspective, they can never eliminate them.
It’s so important to allow yourself time to feel down or anxious. Your response to this situation is natural; it’s been a complete overhaul of normality in a very short space of time. I’ve always maintained that you cannot help the way you feel about something, so you should never feel as though you have to apologise for it.
It doesn’t matter what you’re worried or concerned about, whether it’s the security of your job, the uncertainty of how we’re all going to recover from this, the welfare of your car after not being used in days/weeks, or the feeling of isolation that comes from working from home, every one of your worries is valid, and no one should make you feel anything different.
I’m by no means a counsellor or mental health expert, but I find that allowing myself time to feel what I’m feeling is so important. If I just want to stand and stare out of the window for 15 minutes a day, contemplating every worst-case scenario, that’s what I’ll do. I think we need to allow ourselves the space to feel down and upset. But to balance it out, we do need to try and remember that for many of us, things could genuinely be worse.
Which brings me to this: everyone needs to remember the art of empathy. Whether it’s for those whose situations are far worse than our own, or those for whom things aren’t quite as bad as someone else. It’s time for another cliche, but we’re all in this together, and we all need to pull together to come through the other side.
Stay safe folks.