When we were first plunged into lockdown my initial concerns were more about the pubs than anything else. As I’ve stated in previous entries, they play host to my most fruitful non-acting work and they’re also one of my favourite places to be. As the nature of lockdown became clear, however, I realised its largest impact would be on my mental health.
I must point out that my experiences with poor mental health (before and during lockdown) have been very mild. Everyone who suffers from depression goes through it in their own way and I consider myself very lucky to only live with a splash of it. Since my late twenties I’ve struggled to keep my self-worth rating above ‘waste of space’ and as a result I’ve gone through several spells of numbing self-doubt. It’s difficult to create anything when a part of you believes you’re a resounding failure. My first blog entry alludes to these trials and I’m sure none of what I’m writing now comes as a surprise.
A couple of years ago my depression reached a new height and on the advice of wonderful friends I sought counselling through Mind. I can’t speak highly enough of that charity and the help I received was invaluable. I’d urge anyone who’s struggling with their morale or their identity or anything, in fact, to get in touch with them.
I’m mentioning all this to try and put my mental health into some perspective for you. I have friends who wrestle with far greater troubles and the last thing I want is for anyone to think I regard myself as unfortunate and tortured. I am a hugely fortunate individual who travels with very light cerebral baggage.
One of my friends (who suffers a lot worse than I) spoke to me of his need to do four or five things a day in order to stay ‘well’ during lockdown. This really chimed with me as suddenly losing all daily structure had left me feeling rather adrift. Enforced domestic isolation has taught me I need a little routine in order to maintain a healthy mental state. I’ve learnt I need to get up, get showered and get dressed because if I don’t, midday arrives and I begin to feel useless. A little exercise or stretching is also a must and getting outside at least once a day helps enormously. They’re just small things that I find make a big difference.
I was really struggling with not seeing people, though. I get a lot of essential identity affirmation and self-esteem from spending time with friends. I think I’m happiest in myself when I’m laughing with mates. It recharges my batteries and they were pretty fucking depleted until recently.
Sitting in a park talking to a three-dimensional person has been fantastic. Easily navigating talking over one another is also a real boon. I’m sure many people have found the lack of proper socialising difficult and I welcome the freedom to do so with open arms.
It is at difficult times like these one really needs their friends (and family, of course). It sounds counter-intuitive but I kind of need to be mocked and ridiculed by my mates in order to feel safe and secure in myself. As long as this ‘new normal’ permits time with my pals I’ll be content.
I’m irritated in myself for not having made better progress with the play. Act One remains unfinished. It’s not that I have a strict deadline or anything it’s just that I know the reason it’s not finished is down to laziness on my part. I’ll sort it out by my next entry. Thank you very much for reading.
Thomas Willshire is a writer/actor/comedian who just about lives in London with his wife, Polly and dog, Fergal. He considers himself the fortunate product of a supportive and loving environment.
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