Remember, we all have the power to ask for help
Life; it’s up and downs, its twists and turns
Love; how it makes you feel
Happiness; the genuine and unending kind
Peace; the serenity and joy it brings
Faith; and how it keeps you going
Dreams; till they one day become reality.
Almost two years have passed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As an individual merely existing through this time, switching off from the grim realities of COVID has been a losing battle. The media has made any attempt to keep my mind COVID-free impossible. Therefore, trying to achieve a sense of internal peace or freedom has been an ongoing losing battle. Throughout these two years, my guard of protection has been more vital than ever as I diligently watch and protect the backs of the nearest and dearest in my life. Determination to do everything possible to ensure the virus does not knock on the door of any members of my family has been priority number one. At least then I could feel a sense of comfort in knowing we were safe.
As we all know, lockdowns have been a key strategy: stay at home and stay safe. In Victoria, we’ve been on a rollercoaster ride of unpredictable and unrelenting lockdowns. One day we have limited freedoms dangled in our faces, the next, these freedoms are chaotically snatched away. This ride has seen many parts of Victoria take the title of the most locked-down place in the world. Not one of our proudest achievements.
Lockdowns are wearing thin, and our commitment is wavering. The rules underpinning these lockdowns are becoming harder to endure. Still, on the other hand, this strategy does give a sense of comfort and safety. After all, if we’re locked away, the chances of contracting anything are significantly reduced. That is an immense comfort.
Early on, our goal as a nation was to maintain an elusive ‘Zero COVID’. In other words, we would stay at home until the case numbers were driven back to ‘zero’. More recently, however, the stakes have changed dramatically and sent this ideology of ‘Zero COVID’ to the bottom of the political agenda. The approach to dealing with the pandemic now aims to vaccinate the nation and open up regardless of the number of positive cases. This new approach has been received with mixed emotions.
New agenda taking Victorians by storm
I frequently wonder if I’m alone in feeling alarmed at the thought of softening restrictions during a time when cases are at an all-time high. Attaining ‘zero COVID’ had been repeatedly drummed into our minds, and suddenly we are told about this new and widely divergent approach. For me, the change in mindset is overwhelming.
Today we aim for maximum vaccination rate and opening up, regardless of the case numbers. I do not feel emotionally ready to take on this new approach which is also partly responsible for the widening divide between two groups, the vaccinated and non-vaccinated. These groups are open to new scientific discoveries, and conspiracies are doing the rounds. We are told the unvaccinated people will be unable to enjoy the same level of freedom as those who have chosen to be vaccinated. This has the potential to cause unrest and the breakdown of friendships and associations.
Under a façade of indifference, this idea of living life regardless of the case numbers is tearing me apart. The world feels like it’s out of control; life feels out of MY control. To add greater insult, I feel like a monumental hypocrite. Lockdown is tearing my family apart, yet the thought of getting out and mixing with people fills me with an intense sense of fear and anxiety.
Despite living in Geelong, where restrictions have eased somewhat, and despite being fully vaccinated, the lingering fear of contracting the virus means I continue to lay low in my home. I’m terrified of sending my kids, who are too young to be vaccinated, to school. The thought of them being near other children in the classrooms sends shivers down my spine. I fear one day soon, they will be exposed to a COVID positive individual. That is one of my greatest fears.
Living in a time of uncertainty
Uncertainty dictates our reality. All of us are travelling blind along a painfully long road. We make up the rules as we go along; no wonder some of us continue to struggle; we have no clear sense of what lies ahead. Control is a powerful tool to have. Like myself, maybe you find yourself questioning:
- Will the vaccine protect me?
- Do I need a booster? If so, when?
- What about virus mutations?
- What if my children get COVID?
- Is it safe to open up when cases are so high?
- Is it safe to travel?
- How can I trust humanity?
I could go on with this list, but it already demonstrates the level of uncertainty. This uncertainty paves the way for intense anxiety. Add whatever other struggles life has thrown your way lately, and you have a recipe for emotional torment.
A little over two weeks ago, my home was broken into during the early hours of the morning. A place where I should be able to feel safe and comfortable. A place where I’ve spent many hours in lockdown. My family were home at the time, and luckily or unluckily, I disturbed the offenders. What these low-lives stole on that night is irrelevant; I couldn’t care less. It’s the deep feelings they’ve left with me that have had a lingering impact.
The week following the night this all took place, I thought and kept telling everyone, “I’m fine, I’m angry and would like to express my aggression on these gutless offenders in a physical manner!” Yes, that’s correct, all I wanted to do was punch them, and I’m pretty certain I would have done so if given the opportunity. Next came a warning from my doctor, who advised me to monitor these emotions because they tend to change instantly.
To say he was right would be an understatement. Having the intent of inflicting pain, true to my doctor’s word, my emotions took another dramatic turn just one week later. One week following the break-in, I found myself on the floor inside my wardrobe, having an episode that I now know was an anxiety attack. My whole world came crashing in on me in an instant, and I couldn’t control my reaction.
My mind was in a state of frenzy as it dissected everything that was currently bothering me. Tears, physical pain, mind racing and inability to control my breathing took over my body. That firm woman, revengeful, ready to beat up those two men who invaded her home, had been suddenly reduced to a somewhat irrational and highly strung mess, laying inside of my wardrobe. That night, I woke several times. I sat at my window in darkness, looking out to where I had seen those two men just one week earlier.
The next part of my story-taking action
So how do we keep moving forward when faced with an influx of worrying situations? I don’t have definitive answers for this; I don’t think anybody does. Back to my anxiety attack, I immediately called my mentor June as I sat on the floor in extreme distress. Credit to June for successfully talking me out of the dire state I found myself in.
Situations like this cannot be solved instantly, and I knew that when I dialled June’s phone number. I called to talk to someone who also had much emotional baggage in her life. I called to talk to someone who would understand me and could help bring me back down and see a little more clearly. At that moment, I knew there would be no judgment for showing my vulnerability, asking for help or crying my way through a conversation. Making that phone call was the only thing I could’ve done to help myself in that moment of need. Let that be an important message; we all have the power to ask for help.