When 2020 began it felt like the start of the one year where I will definitely have my life together and achieve many goals. Between more exciting brand collaborations than we would typically have early in the year and our trip to the States, not only did I feel abundantly blessed but I was burnt out by March already with work and travel fatigue. When I heard the entire planet would be closing for business, I think no one was more relieved than I was. I finally had time to rest, but also I had the time to do all the things I felt I was failing miserably at.
Things on this to-do list include but are not limited to: being better general self care, exercising properly again, cooking more and learning to make better dishes (plus ordering less takeout), being a much better listener to my very chatty husband, finally finishing and launching my eBook, and bringing more organisational order to my home. I thought between this, I would also create the content that would make everyone feel so much better about everything going on, I would be a cheerleader for positivity and the sharing of verified Corona info, and I will commit to my Portuguese lessons on a far deeper level. I will finally get the hang of Tik Tok, and I would obviously be amazing at it. Most of all, I will have fantastic, deep sleep every day.
Writing out this list now, seeing it all together simultaneously now, looking back on everything now, I realise how utterly ridiculous and overly-ambitious that was. You see, in pre-Corona life, my issue with getting done with all of the above things efficiently was time and my tendency to over-commit. When time suddenly freed up, and my brand partnerships were cancelled/postponed one by one, I only became more excited and began putting more pressure on myself. I failed to acknowledge that the previous issue of “time” was replaced by a far bigger obstacle; A GLOBAL F*CKING PANDEMIC.
The key messaging everywhere in early quarantine was: do more. Do everything. Do the most. The time is NOW. Like many others, I fell for it without realising.
As a result, I finished writing that eBook I always wanted to write, and sales continue to do well (I don’t regret this, because of the income now). I’m still on a 422-day consistent streak of learning Portuguese. I learned so much about my faith this past Ramadan. I prayed all five prayers on time every single day and completed multiple meditation programs. I cooked all the lasagne and exciting new dishes, baked gluten-free/low-carb/dairy-free banana bread. I worked out, ate my veggies, and did my part to keep our home in pristine condition (seriously, I changed the bedding, and did the laundry daily). I had bursts of creativity and ideas, some of which I executed beautifully. I was Positive Patty.
Then I woke up one day and suddenly EVERYTHING felt different. I simply crashed. I felt a dark cloud of anxiety and depression come over me, as the actual reality that is COVID19 kicked in. All I wanted was to crawl into a hole until life came back to normal. (Note to self: when the world is in shambles, it doesn’t mean it’s time to pretend it’s a wellness retreat.)
So while I metaphorically dug my head in the sand, here’s what else also happened to me in quarantine:
– I watched 61 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and now I have 3 blurry weeks of my life in bed I genuinely cannot account for.
– I lost even more job opportunities, including the ones I will never know about (the rates and budget offers come in at now versus then are seeing a massive dip).
– Past traumas that I never dealt with when I was much younger resurfaced. They haunted me, played over and over in my mind and I had to work my way through it.
– I had anxiety attacks about the future & grieved the past. I found myself watching old vlogs and looking at selfies of me with my friends and family trying to grasp the crazy reality of “what the hell? This was us having fun and going out just the other day?” and “If I knew we couldn’t be together again for this long, I would have hugged you tighter, stayed a little longer, ordered that dessert”. I still remember the last time I hugged my dad; a weird half-hug riddled with guilt because of that 1% feeling of chance that I could be a carrier, even if there were only about 30 cases in SA that day. He’s not the affectionate kind at all, but it was as if he knew, because he said to me “Excuse me, but what kind of hug was that? I wan’t a proper one”. He never wants a proper one. He would never ever ask for one.
– I felt the emotional load of every small business and charity reaching out to me for help. I tried to help, but the more DMs and emails I read the heavier that load felt, and I felt like I was letting people down. It was draining, it was a lot of pressure because I didn’t want to be the selfish “inFLuEnceR” who doesn’t care about the reality of those worse off than her. I felt so very guilty, because let’s be honest I have the “ideal”, privileged quarantine; a comfortable savings account, a wonderful partner who also works from home and I’m used to seeing, no kids who need homeschool. I am safe, I have food, and despite taking a definite hit, I have an online business that can still function in an adaptable way. Forcing my own sadness and guilt out of the way, forcing myself to be grateful always and never acknowledging how I actually felt only made things hit me even harder. I know that despite being more fortunate than so many, I am still allowed to be sad. I know I am allowed to be affected by everything too. But it didn’t feel that way at the time. I felt like it made me weak if I wasn’t forcing myself to help others and using the privilege of my online platforms to drive relief and aid. When you have lots of time on your hands it appears you can take any simple negative emotion and allow it to snowball into an avalanche. When Ramadan came, I thought it was the perfect time to take a break off social media for three weeks so I could deal with real life.
– At the exact same time, I never had my period for 3 months. The hormonal, emotional imbalance was unbelievable. It culminated in another burst ovarian cyst, a pain so severe I couldn’t walk for three days. At first, symptoms pointed to it being an ectopic pregnancy (in my tubes). As I awaited the results of two different ultrasounds and blood tests, the idea of a problematic pregnancy on its own was the most intense roller coaster of feelings. I was plagued with thoughts of “OMG, am I pregnant? Wait, don’t you have to abort an ectopic pregnancy with surgery?”, but it ended up being a cyst. Surprise, surprise, the same thing that I was hospitalised for last year. That pain lasted another week. The silver-lining though; my period finally arrived, and my hormones leveled out. It was an instant release in every way and once it arrived, period moods and all, I began to feel like myself again.
Time has passed, and I now I’m feeling good. I feel like I’ve accepted reality, my actual capabilities and the idea that Corona is not a holiday but a global crisis we need to adapt to. I’m trying, very hard, not to slip back into over-committing, and self-pressure. There are days where I feel motivated to create and help, and days where I still just want to watch Greys on the couch and eat. I allow myself both and I try not to fight what my body asks for, be it rest, food, skipping a workout, or getting lost on Tik Tok.
You see, the biggest lesson I’ve learned this time is that productivity is great but it’s not going to change what’s happening in the world/your life and the toll that takes on your mental health/body no matter how positive/strong you are. Also, there is strength and great healing in vulnerability. If you’ve read this far, I urge you; please don’t beat yourself up about not doing enough, about your weight-gain, homeschooling or your messy apartment. This “new normal” is NOT normal so don’t expect yourself to be great at it. Seeing people productive on social media doesn’t mean they have the other areas in their life in order!
I promise, basically no one on the planet right now knows what they’re doing.
Final note to self, and to you: your take on a global pandemic is perfectly okay.