Get in loser. We're going to therapy.
Let's face it, 2020 has been a corker of a year. In January we had bush fires and Brexit, February saw the suicide of Caroline Flack, before March outdid them all and brought on the slow demise of modern society.
For a good couple of months, Coronavirus had us convinced we were about to live out a real life episode of Black Mirror, only the real danger wasn't going to be from a lack of heat, power or clean water - but a lack of toilet roll.
April and May were spent under house arrest, watching the news, setting up instagram accounts selling scented candles and growing lots of hair. We also all went and stood on our doorsteps every Thursday evening and clapped into thin air as a mark of appreciation for those who still had to go to work and fulfil our endless Amazon orders.
June saddened us all and saw protests errupt around the world in solidarity of Black Lives Matter. July got confusing. Mass gatherings of people and repeated defiance of lockdown had not created the death and destruction so vehemently predicted by the media. Is it safe to breathe yet? Can I leave the house now? Do they have any flour in Tesco yet?
New reports showed domestic violence had escalated by up to 25% and the number of people claming out of work benefits in the UK had all but doubled. The future looked bleak, and the media were more than happy to stoke the fires of anxiety with increasingly confusing information.
As for August, well the best way I can think of describing August 2020, is that we now live in a world where if you are seen breathing openly and comfortably in your local Sainsburys, you run serious risk of being publicly shamed on the 10 o'clock news - yet it is still absolutely ok to spend an hour heavy breathing your way through a gym class with 12 complete strangers.
There is no sense to be made right now, 2020 has been a bizzare year. Just re-reading that makes my mind boggle - and my heart sadden.
So if you're currently feeling depressed, anxious, wobbly - or just flat out done, this is a very normal response to what has been a very abnormal set of circumstances.
By pure luck of the gods, I quit my job in February and in the first week of March started working on an adolescent mental health ward. Then COVID hit, and suddenly I was granted gold star key worker status. I could now go to Sainsburys at a specially allocated time and get discounts on Ubers. A month previously, I'd been working in an office wondering what had happened to my life, and now, if I let my lanyard badge dangle obviously enough, I would receive graceful nods of appreciation from strangers and be clapped for by well meaning (yet clearly very bored) nieghbours on my walk home from work. Yes life is strange.
However, strangeness aside, I have never been more aware of how lucky it is to have a job - and with it a routine that gets me out of house, working in a team and focussed on something other than the news and COVID-19. Somewhat Ironically, working with those in crisis has been the very thing that has helped me stay out of crisis, but for an increasing number of people, the dramas of 2020 have left us emotionally and psychologically defeated, and there is simply no way we can continue to use rational thought to hold ourselves up.
SO, (and you probably know whats coming as it's in the title..), 2020 is the year that has put us all in our FeElInGS.
Half an hour on twitter these days could probably make the Dalai Llama questions his own own sanity - which leaves little hope for us mere mortals, and is why it's time we started paying our emotional worlds a bit more attention.
Even if you're not standing on the edge yet, if the future is scaring you and the ground under your feet doesn't feel as solid anymore, it may a good time to step away from the home improvements and start investing in a therapist. You cannot DIY yourself out of anxiety.
Validating how tough of a time we may be having when the person next door to us has just lost their life savings, or if everytime we turn on the news, fresh disaster has befallen once again on those far less fortunate than ourselves - can be hard, but the chaos of this last year has hit everyone, and as someone working in the mental health field, the psychological fall out for a lot of people has the potential to be quite shocking.
So! on that cheery note..reserving a spot in your calendar every week to examine your FeElInGs is likely to be just what you (and the world) needs right now. COVID-gate has turned our daily lives upside down if any of the following resonate with you, counselling may be able to help..
If working from home has really messed with your head...
Prior to my current job, I worked for an employee engagement start-up and regularly found myself campaigning for the whole 'Work from Home' thing. I thought it was the answer to a lot of the ridiculousness of the modern workplace (expensive commutes, overpriced childcare etc etc). Then COVID-19 hit and the whole world had no choice but to do just that.
On balance, there have definitely been some positives, and at the start I think everybody loved not having to commute - or even having to wear pants. But as time went on, some of the potentially negative affects started to appear, with the front runner being that when done long term, WFH can simply be lonely as hell.
And when you look at the nature of humans - this would be an absolutely normal response.
In normal times, the option to go into the office would always be there. We could just pop in on days where we felt a little isolated or fancied some chit-chat. But WFH in lockdown has been different, and it doesn't matter that you're getting paid or that you're getting to sit on Zoom all day interacting verbally with people - the pandemic has proven that humans need the physical touch - there are few moments in the day more startling than when the zoom call ends and suddenly its just you, alone, in a silent apartment.
For a long time I think we have laboured under the belief that technology can fulfil a lot of our needs, but the pandemic is only proving that texting, facetime, telephone - they may ease loneliness temporarily but we need the presence of another heartbeat in order to stay emotionally healthy.
*On a big sidenote*. Have you ever seen the reality series 'Alone' on the History Channel? (I'm going to guess you haven't because you're probably a normal person who doesn't watch the history channel very often.) Anyway, it's a show where people elect themseleves go off into the wilderness alone (obviously) to see how long they can survive without making contact with the outside world. They then film themselves and give updates on their experience.
As the series goes on, some of them really manage to sustain themselves physically, even in the most adverse of circumstances, but their mental state becomes a struggle, and for many they cite the sole reason being a lack of contact with other humans. We do actually really need each other, and this TV show shows - in such a blantant way - that we can survive a lot of gross discomforts, but we don't last very long without the presence of others.
Granted, a therapist can't cuddle you (unless specified in their terms - and that would be a bit weird anyway,) but talking to someone about what's happening can help you keep perspective and stay grounded until things are able to change.
Spending long periods of time alone can also trigger some of our fears around abandonment and rejection, and recognising when this is happening can be a key feature in helping us stay sane in completely insane times.
If your brain has been left unoccupied for too long and all sorts of terrible emotions are popping up...
When I first start practising yoga (I run the risk of sounding like a pretentious git here, but bare with me.), I got bored. I found it so boring. I didn't understand why people paid to be bored whilst bending in strange painful positions. But turns out it wasn't boredom I was feeling, it was the discomfort of sitting with my own thoughts - and you know, I really didn't want to do that at all. Urgh no thanks.
Maybe you were placed on furlough, suddenly finding yourself financially secure - but with no structure and no plans. Or, you took early retirement and had an unexpected amount of time on your hands. In the western world, and particuarly in the U.K., we're not very good at Having Nothing To Do. Our constantly pre-occupied minds don't really like it. In fact, I think some of us are downright terrified of it.
One of the biggest things I struggled with when I moved back home in 2018, was how busy everyone needed to be. I'd gotten more into yoga (sorry, pretentious again) and started to feel a lot more comfortable doing nothing. In comparison to the sleepy villages of Italy and France, everything was going at 100 miles per hour and it was a bit of a shock.
What I'd seen and experienced was that sitting about in the sun drinking coffee may not have been great for the economy, but it was definitely much better for the the mental health of humanity.
For all our technological advancements, we are yet to master The Art of Slowing Down. We all constantly moan that we're exhausted, but when presented with a Saturday afternoon by ourselves, instead of just mooching about, maybe having a glass of wine - we panic and try to busy ourselves with socialising or signing up to online crochet classes or something.
And modern life helps. There is always something available to distract us - whether its a TV show, an online course, a new bar to go to, a film, a friends wedding, 6 hours on Pintrest etc etc. If you want to avoid dealing with your thoughts, your emotions, and ultimately yourself, its a no-brainer in our modern utopia of smart phones, 24/7 shopping and obession with personal achievement.
So for some of us, COVID-19 has forced life to take a much slower pace, and with less oppotunity for distraction, it may have cleared the way for some very uncomfortable emotions to emerge from the depths of our minds.
Unfortunately, we can't run from the things that hurt us (even if they did happen 10 years ago) and I think a lot of our collective busyness has much more to do with running away from something - than running towards something else.
If this sounds like you, and lockdown has got you questioning your whole lifes choices, pining for an ex, feeling some very uncomfortable FeEls - or just repeatedly thinking about that thing you haven't thought about in years, now would be a good time to see a therapist.
It won't go away until you deal with it. Which is the god awful truth I hate about emotions, psychology, hell just life in general..
You can't run forever, and we often get given the same lesson, the same emotion, the same feeling over and over again until we've truly dealt with it. Lovely.
Of course, some of the way your feeling may well be due to the current turmoil of the world, but there's also a chance those feelings were always in there, just waiting for their turn to be felt.
They say a sign of a healthy mind is the abilty to endure a long car drive with no radio - not to do 10,000 things at once (which is what LinkedIN would like to have you believe), but getting to that point requires clearing out the crap first, and this is where therapy kicks in.
Having nothing to do should be a beautiful thing, and I think a lot of us thought it would be - until our minds had other plans. When I used to watch the elderley people sitting on the benches with their mates in the town square in Italy, it was a constant reminder of how much technology is ruining our lives as much as it is enhancing it.
As a society, even before COVID-19, we were all running on empty - and many of us we're just running away, so if things are finally coming to the surface that can no longer be rationalised or distracted away by Netflix, doing a marathon around your balcony or baking another banana bread, try not to panic. You're not broken or crazy, its just time to find yourself a well-heeled therapist and unpack some of those fEelinGs...
If Inspirational Quotes just aren't hitting like they used to...
You've spent a lot of time on Instagram, I've spent a lot of time on Instagram. The whole world (including me) has wanted to share their very own supportive, ernest and heartfelt words - on Instagram. And now it all just sounds like a bunch of white noise.
I will always endorse a Good Quote and I am a dyed-in-the-wool believer that a well-timed book, a phrase, an essay or a rousing collection of words can really upset our emotional apple-carts and interrupt our lives. HOWEVER, not necessarily in 2020. Life as we know it has changed, and when we have no clear exit strategy, repeatedly reading 'This too shall pass' to yourself just isn't going to hit like it used to.
Following every mental-health influencer going and dragging our heels with forced positivity may have been pillars and references points that held us up in the past but at the moment it may just end up making us feel worse - and that's ok. This is where we are and right now a lot of us probably need a lot more than a pretty quote and a candid life story. It's fine, its not shameful, you're not weak, broken or crazy - and I can guarantee your therapist will meet your jumble of sadness, confusion, fear, anger - whatever else is in there - with open arms - no false positivity required.
I know I may sound like a stuck record banging my solo drum about therapy *sighs* but I honestly feel it is such an untapped goldmine of hope and comfort for so many people - particularly now the world is burning.
In the U.K. we're pretty much still in the dark ages about it, but one day I hope it becomes as normal as going to the gym and a resource people know and feel they can go to when times get tough - or even when they just need a sounding board, a good rant or a place to reduce the power of the things that scare them.
Knowledge, and as much of it as possible, has been the answer to most of lifes ills for the last century. The more you knew, the safer and more prepared you were for life. In 2020, the more you read and consume, the more confused, triggered and scared you may become. The internet and smart phones have given us access to more information than the human brain could ever consume without suffering - and suffering we are, with the pandemic only furthering the media obsession with provoking fear in order to increase exposure - and make money.
Wisdom is starting to have its moment again, but wisdom comes from being in touch with your intuition, your humanity and your emotions (ahem - your FeElINgs), along with cultivating the strength to trust yourself, your own path (yes, hello I am a hippie, nice to meet you..) and your own ability to wOrK iT OuT no matter what.
It's a muscle worth exercising, and this is where therapy steps in.
If you want to get wise, get more comfortable with the growing ambiguity of the future - and maybe just starting laughing again (like really laughing - remember that?) then its time to invest in space, silence, reflection and a well-heeled therapist.
So on that note, do yourself a favour and get in loser - we're going to therapy.