Remember the summer of 2020, when we all stood on our front door steps every Thursday evening, banging pots and pans underneath the setting sun? The feeling of anxiety slightly at bay because there was still a ray of hope that this will all be over soon? That ‘ray’ being direct sun light, of course?
There’s no denying we tried really hard to give it that old wartime feeling of togetherness in the earlier days, laughing awkwardly and rolling our eyes as we leapt dramatically out of each other’s way on the pavement and excitedly arranging more Zoom quizzes than would ever be necessary.
It’s been almost a year and our third national lockdown is harder than the first two combined; it’s colder, darker, more monotonous than ever and collectively, mental health is on a downward spiral. According to the Office of National Statistics personal well-being scores for ‘life-satisfaction’ are at an all time low since March 2020, happiness levels were at the lowest this week since April. I can’t say i’m surprised by any of these results, as i’m noticing it in all my friends who are feeling lower, fed up, isolated and increasingly anxious.
My own mental health continues to spike and dip on a daily basis; I can feel anxiety increasing every time a friend engages in conversation about Covid, or the government, or the future. I live alone and I find myself retreating into a quiet bubble of self-soothing; watching wholesome, funny TV and devouring books like the hungry hungry caterpillar. I listen to audiobooks, play acoustic music and clean my kitchen counter hourly. Combine that with the tragic death of a friend at the very beginning of this brand new year and you could say i’ve been feeling a little hopeless.
I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks trying to pull myself together, thinking of all the positives in my life, how lucky I am, and feeling a real sense of shame knowing I don’t have it bad at all, embarrassed about how utterly sad I feel about my friend and guilty that I’m not taking enough time to look after my other friends and family members who are here and trying to exist as we speak.
I’ve learnt that this is called Toxic Positivity. According to Dr Jamie Zuckerman, a clinical Psychologist in the US ‘“Toxic positivity is the assumption, either by one’s self or others, that despite a person’s emotional pain or difficult situation, they should only have a positive mindset or — my pet peeve term — ‘positive vibes,’”. As it turns out, TP has been prevalent throughout the pandemic, largely, i’d imagine (though un-researched) thanks to social media pressure. Everyone’s becoming a baking extraordinaire with a penchant for interior design and i’m guilty of it too; I can’t go on an countryside walk without providing photographic evidence on the ‘Gram and yet I never point out the fact that, actually, 6 out of 7 days a week I do not step foot outside my front door.
Everything about this lockdown is harsher; that feeling of collective understanding is waning and now we’re all just doing our best to get through the day without telling our colleagues to Fuck Off on the Teams chat. At least last year we had the hope of maybe, perhaps, potentially going on holiday but this year I shan’t even bother tempting myself I don’t think.
For now, it’s all about coping mechanisms. Where once I looked forward to that hard line where it would all be over, now I follow in the foot steps of my favourite animated snowman and control what can be controlled.