Isolated, Inside and Out? Reach Out

Sam Tench / Photo blogs / / 1 Comment

Today I share my honest and raw narrative of my thoughts during a particularly difficult day in isolation.  A day i’d rather forget, but certainly not the last of its kind. If you identify, my hope is that you’ll see you’re very much not alone and like myself, are strong enough to be ok. 

Somebody, please pinch me and tell me this is a very bad dream. I’m searching for some reassurance this isn’t happening for real? How could it be, I’ve been thrown back into an uncomfortably familiar world of feeling helpless, out of control, sad, and alone.

This story, this new place that if find myself stuck, it repeats itself over and over again. It’s horrible and scary, its expectations are far too demanding, but flexibility has never been my strong point. I don’t know how to allow more of the color ‘grey’ into my life. But I know I can’t stay here, it’s destructive and it’s a target directed straight at me. Sam, please wake up to the real world, you’ll soon see it’s nothing but a really bad dream.

Why can’t I do that? Wake up from this horrible dream? This dream that is strange but somewhat familiar. It’s like a parallel world where my life doesn’t matter. But I must keep everyone else happy, I must avoid being responsible for anyone being upset because as far as I’m concerned, my thoughts don’t really matter. More important is to do everything possible to ensure they are happy, not sad or in a bother.   Oh, how this world is so familiar and it’s slowly but deeply draining my soul. Whoever is listening, please help me, I can’t stay here any longer. I need to get back to my newly-found state of healing and recovery, a world where I was learning to look after my own best interests. A world of discovering lightness and freedom of discovering something about me. Something that was purposeful, refreshing and new. Please don’t put me back in that eating disorder’s horrible place, I haven’t the strength to contest it.

In this strangely familiar place where I have found myself uncomfortably stranded, every day is tirelessly hard and relentlessly demanding, it’s crushing any hope and life out of my core. Where I should go? Who should I turn to? Everyone seems to have advice of their own, yet nobody has an answer because know body really knows.  I sense I’m walking along a dangerous tightrope, just one slip and I will fall. But this tightrope requires an element of balance, balance of which I have none. This dream world I’m in, it’s very one-sided; I feel I must keep giving as much as I can until I tirelessly have no more to give.

Meanwhile, the noise of a loud and judging voice plays on rotation all day long in my ear: “Be a content and loving parent who has it all under control. Be a competent and skilled educator of my impressionable young children! Appreciate the things I’m lucky to have.” But wait a minute, I’m not sure what I have, my view of the world has become skewed and disappointing. My ED has unquestionably become so much louder, he’s trying so incredibly hard and is determined to sneak back in my mind.  Playing on my vulnerabilities and weaknesses, ED’s playing every trick in his book to convince me my insecurities are indeed true. “I’m not good with my kids, and my teaching is questionable.   I’m a ball of unrelenting stress making me someone you’d never want to be stuck in a house with.  Hurting the feelings of others and having too high expectations of them.  Who’d want to be around me by choice, let alone by the law.  And if this wasn’t enough, the old trickeries are penetrating the forefront of my mind.  I’m putting on weight, getting fat and disgustingly big and when this quarantine is all over, I’ll actually want to remain at home”.

All the god-damned noise, if it’s not one child yelling, it’s the other! Or it’s my eating disorder screeching and screaming at me. The insistent complaining and whining on a daily occurrence, it goes on all day long, every day of the week.  I feel I can’t win, no matter what I do and no matter how hard I try. The relentless workload, the unspoken pressure, “Get everything done (you have to do this, or these kids will suffer), with no regards to any sense of self-harm this may bring about.”   And in conjunction to all these expectations, comes a sad feeling of being very alone.

It’s true, I feel stuck in a world where I’m inundated by constant noise of demanding, unforgiving and sometimes thoughtless voices. No matter what I do, they’re never happy and I’ve done wrong again. They are exhausting, they’re sucking away my life. Sam, these expectations are way too high and sigh, yes, I’m sure many of them are my own creations.

In this place, I’m being pulled like a rag doll, in one direction and then another. It’s ugly and relentless and it repeats itself over and over every daily. With no life or hopes of my own to look forward to, I’m wondering what this is all for? I’m pretty sure every eye is judging me as I struggle through each day, even those who are inside, the so-called safety of my home. “This isn’t that hard, what’s the big deal?  Why is she finding this all so difficult and why can’t she do it all on her own? It’s really not that big of a deal, just get over it and get it done.” “She’s not actually doing real work and is certainly doing nothing important, she’s no nurse, doctor or teacher, she’s a homebound mum with a newly found passion and skills that have previously helped her not feel worthless and of no value. That’s not important, she should be okay, just deal with it Sam, move along, move along, move along.”

And with me insignificance, I find myself struggling like never before. “Now get your butt into the kitchen, clean, prepare cook and repeat again. And while you’re at it, clean up the mess from the kids as many times as you have to, all whilst organizing the kids to do something distracting and fun.” I feel like I’m failing, oh please just let me run.”

At this point exhaustion has set in and I realize hours have passed since I’ve eaten, it’s the last thing on my mind and im unable to find the time to sit for a meal.  All I can focus on is what needs to be done for my family members and I feel guilty for stopping when I do. Even the sound of the phone or the doorbell irritates me to the bone, “Don’t they know I haven’t got time for this stuff?” And I become even more defeated and on my own.

In this world that I hope is merely a dream, I live to serve the needs of others. With no life, hopes, dreams of my own to look forward to, everything is fearfully unknown. And so, I travel along in this place that’s a mystery. The picture it paints is familiar; I know it well and I fear it’s my history repeating itself. “Don’t worry about me, I can get it all done,” but I’ll silently be in pain and struggling all the way. As always, I will endeavor to prove myself as being a useful and worthy human being. I’ll get everything done and maybe have time left over for me. Maybe. The internal pressure of not losing my marbles is building each day and I sense it getting ready to explode, it’s bubbling away inside of me, just a matter of time before I burn. I’m not sure for how long I can maintain this state of existing or how long it will be until I slip off that rope, losing all sense of balance and rational healthy thinking.


Take Home Messages

These thoughts and words all came through from a particularly difficult day in isolation.  The long days and the lack of time to just breathe, I’m not really sure how I came out of it, but I did.  However, just as I thought the day couldn’t get any more stressful, it took my kids the need to remind me (at 5pm) the following day was their father’s birthday!  My jaw dropped to the floor, I couldn’t believe it and it led me to wonder if I’m getting worse than I ever did before.   My day concluded with me sitting in my wardrobe, crying and feeling like I could do nothing right.   It wasn’t a day I wish to remember and I know I’m likely to have more of those to come.

I did however get through, admittedly, a little bruised and battered.   And while I wish that our daily life experiences could go somewhat back to normal, I know it’s not realistic in the conceivable future and somehow, I need to find my way through, a way to survive without trying to thrive.

  • The following day, we all took a day off from school. I found time to have a nap, get organized for a birthday dinner and engage in some creative activities with the kids.  Nothing too complicated, just a happy birthday sign that sits in our front window.   It was such a nice relief to have nothing to do and gave me a small but much needed boost to get through the following day.
  • Stop feeling guilty about everything, I’ve really done nothing wrong. There is no right or wrong way to deal with being isolated as we currently are, nor am I responsible for how others are feeling.   There are no written guidelines to how to do isolation. Rather, we all should just try to do the best we can in order to make it through each day.
  • This one is particularly difficult for me as I’ve always set high expectations of myself. However, these high expectations of what I should and shouldn’t be doing need to go in the bin!  If that means having a day off once a week, then so be it, let’s do that and all enjoy it, rather than being in a constant state of stress and unrest over zoom, school tasks and meals.   At the end of the day, everyone’s mental stability is far more important than running ourselves into the ground.

1 Comment

  1. Julie Johnson  —  5 May 2020 at 7:14 pm

    You already have worked out many answers Sam in your Take Home Messages section and I love the depth of reflection you have put into these. It is hard to hear you speak of your feelings of not being able to cope and the voices that tell you you can’t. Might not hurt to use can more often in your self talk. You do have very high expectations and there is nothing wrong, in fact it is the best thing that you can do to have not just one but two or three days off where you can get out and not feel the pressure of the work and cleaning. Tomorrow is supposed to be another lovely day, take some time off to enjoy it with the kids. Get them outside playing, take some lovely snaps of this. I know you are looking at photography in the sense of the environment but nothing wrong with a few private happy snaps with the family. They will appreciate them in a slideshow or just later on as they grow and I’m sure you will too. My best advice to you is to enjoy the weather however you can while it is still nice some days as soon it will be cold and you may be able to get some of the snaps you enjoy but you won’t get the time back you spent inside in iso. No expect knowledge, just encouragement. Doing a great job xxx Julie


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