It Will Be OK

The last week has been difficult for a lot of us locked down and cooped up within Melbourne and its surrounds.

The fact of the matter is that after a brief period of what we thought was a respite, the danger of COVID-19 is back with a vengeance; and a lot of us have run out of steam going into this second wave.

It’s wild to think that none of us have lived in a so-called ‘normal’ world since March of this year. In fact, the last weekend I felt anything close to ‘normal’ was the Labour Day long weekend, which I spent at the pub with friends celebrating my birthday and planning a murder mystery dinner party we were all supposed to be going to the following week.

But around that time, the world seemed to change overnight. Suddenly we were all busy preparing for lockdown, scared of this deadly new virus.

What stays in my head is the government telling everyone to prepare by having at least 3 months’ worth of medical supplies. Well, that was 4 months ago, and for a lot of us our supplies, both physically and mentally, are running very low.

Mental health appears to have been a priority during this time, but what does that mean? How do we look after ourselves in these times, which may not be ending as quickly as we hoped?

Phone calls to crisis lines have drastically increased this year; reach out to care providers has jumped. There has been plenty of funding allocated to support mental health during lockdown, and overall the mental health sector has worked hard to adapt. But adaption takes time, especially in situations that are unprecedented, at least in our cultural context.

It is also true that when this is all over, the focus on the mental health ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis will be at an all-time high, as people from all walks of life have been impacted by this collective societal trauma at least in some capacity.

The question is though, not about how we get through the year but how we get through the next week, and through the one after that.

This question seems to be a much bigger question the second time around.

When the first wave hit, a lot of us stocked up on supplies; did online social gatherings; picked up hobbies like art or poetry; even took a stab at making sourdough.

We distracted ourselves with the novelty of the whole thing and held onto the idea that this is all just a blip in time.

Well it’s not so much a blip anymore.

A lot of those survival distractions have lost their novelty and have become a lot more taxing, especially as we briefly moved to seeing people again for a few weeks and remembered how good we had it pre-lockdown. Most importantly, those supplies we prepared are starting to dry up and becoming increasingly difficult to source in a post-lockdown world.

Back in March, I was organising a new mental health treatment plan that had to be put on hold during lockdown. That hold is starting to feel like an awfully long time at this point. My usual coping mechanisms struggle to keep up with the ongoing physical and social isolation, and navigating the complexities of telehealth systems that sometimes just don’t give us the support we need, is tough.

All of this right now is a lot to take. A ‘whole wide world’ of a lot.

We have never been prepared for this and that is OK. It is OK to be scared; it is OK to feel defeated, flat and worn out – or any other term that means we are just fed up.

I don’t think any of us can know right now what the best thing to do is, or how long this is going to be. But we will adapt. Our world has changed and maybe it’s only in the short term, or it could be the start of something bigger.

We as a species, at the core of it, suck at change. We often do OK at first, embracing the new and the novel, but after a while, it gets us down as we learn to deal with the things we no longer have. That is the stage we are entering now as a whole society. But this too shall pass. Soon we will find a way to resupply our shelves; address our long overdue needs; find new coping mechanisms and ways to connect with those around us again.

It will be OK. Not great, not terrible, but OK; because sometimes it’s fine to just be OK.