We are a few weeks into lockdown at the time of writing this. I think. I have lost track of time. Living in isolation like this is not so unusual to me, with having spent so many years of my life with chronic mental and physical illness I have spent a lot of time on my own. I’m not sure if it’s something you ever get used to or just find ways of coping. As someone who has been through trauma, I can’t say learning to enjoy my own company has been easy. My ways of coping from a young age were in finding constant distractions from reality and my own mind. It has taken me a while, but I have realised this way of living was never going to be sustainable. It was destructive, to myself and everything around me. I saw a quote the other day that said, ‘The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth’. I tried. But another quote comes to mind ‘I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me’. I found a way through, and that is how I know I will find a way through this too.
Something I had to learn to do to heal was to feel everything I needed to feel. This has been the hardest lesson. Early on in my life I realised I could block all my feelings using anything I could find around me. Without the ability to process my feelings, I avoided them instead. When I started this journey of healing, I had to stop doing those things. I had to feel. And at first it felt horrendous. The worst pain I’ve ever felt. I felt raw. And broken. But little did I know, that the strength I was building up by doing this would change my life. The feelings came in waves and I had to just let them wash over me, feeling like I was going to drown but I never did. They passed, and they still do. I’ve went through a similar process with everything that is going on right now. My emotions have been all over the place, which I can imagine so many of us are going through. But instead of panicking about this, I’ve had to just let myself feel them. It has been okay to feel frustrated and disappointed that I had been doing so well and now have been forced to put so many things on hold. It is okay to feel sadness and fear about what is going to happen. It is okay to have good days and feel happy too.
I find that spending time on my own now can help me find the time I need for reflection and ways of moving forward with my life. Without the constant noise, distractions, and striving towards goals, I can find some quiet to find myself again. I do a lot of this through writing, which has been something I can always go back to. If I’m feeling lost and stuck, writing can unblock those thoughts and feelings. Despite the urge to keep them all inside and try to get rid of them somehow, it helps to unblock them and feel them. Then to let them go, if I can. I’ve also been using this time to reflect on how far I’ve come the past few years. Despite the ups and downs I have made so much progress with university and in managing my health. It is easy to forget the good things. I can spend so much time thinking about what else I need to do or all the things I haven’t achieved yet but there have been so many good things that in a time like this I need to hold on to.
This pandemic is bound to change the world in ways we don’t understand yet. The uncertainty of that can be scary, but it can also be an opportunity. The time to reflect has helped me to think about the things I want to change in my life or how to keep moving forward. I have made so much progress recently but being forced into isolation like this has made me realise I spend far too much time choosing to isolate myself. I am no longer as unwell as I used to be, but I still spend a lot of time stuck in that comforting cycle of isolating myself. The value of community is so obvious right now. I know this from growing up feeling like I lacked that sense of belonging. That is why I’m studying Community Education. I know how important it is, yet in my personal life I still cut myself off a lot. With the fear of stepping into the unknown and feeling vulnerable, I still hide instead. But we need that vulnerability to live (Brene Brown says it best). Connection is so important, and I know the damage it can cause to go without it.
I hope that the changes that come out of all of this for myself and the world, will realise the value of connection and community. The individualised society we have become has caused damage and trauma that can be seen everywhere we look. The way we ‘other’ people and create a hierarchy of those we value most whilst others are left disposable. The way we hate, blame, shame and create a polarised world where we are right, and others are wrong. The lack of compassion when we dehumanise and demonise people. I hope the world we can become after all of this is full of compassion and kindness. A world that can look past only our own viewpoint and listen to the stories of those we spend so much time silencing. A world where the child is embraced by the village. Who doesn’t need to burn it down to feel its warmth. Who doesn’t need to heal from the damage and trauma that disconnection and isolation has caused. A world where everyone belongs.