By Julie-Ann Sherlock

Finally, after years of pushing mental health issues under the rug, many countries are starting the conversations that need to be had. Back in the mid-90s when I battled postpartum depression, it was talked about in hushed tones and almost considered shameful.

I felt like I was an alien. I couldn’t speak to anyone other than my mother, doctor and unsupportive (now ex) husband about how I was feeling. I, too, felt like I should “snap out of it” and be grateful that I had another healthy baby to love and cherish. 

Baby number two came at a time of great stress in my marriage. The combination of financial worries, a husband whose immaturity and instability was increasing, mixed with baby hormones to reduce me to a quivering wreck on the sofa. I was breastfeeding a baby who just wanted constant feeding, while trying to keep my 3-year-old alive, run a house and deal with a surly husband. I just couldn’t continue. 

Getting Better

Luckily, my mother noticed I wasn’t coping and brought me to my doctor, who prescribed some medication and put me in touch with some counselling services that really helped. My marriage survived only another year, which was also around the time that my beloved grandmother died, adding more sadness to an already fragile me. 

Somehow, with the help of therapy and medication, I managed and moved on to a more positive chapter in my life. I raised my boys, worked my butt off and finally followed my dreams of leading a digital nomad life when baby number two went to university. 

I tell you the above to show that even when we are at our lowest, we can bounce back. Now, many of us are struggling with so much crap, thanks to COVID-19. Whether we are stressing about elderly or sick family and friends, worried about our jobs and incomes, or fearing the virus itself, we all have added anxiety heaped on us right now. Positivity is all well and good, but what if it’s not possible?

Surviving Lockdown Lows

To counterbalance pandemic stress, some people find solace and joy in giving their house a makeover. Others are baking as if they are the new Mary Berry, while more are taking up “productive” hobbies such as learning a new language, training for a marathon or upskilling for work. If this is you, congrats! 

But remember, we are all different. While some find that keeping busy and being productive helps their moods, others just want to sleep, watch Netflix and eat their body weight in chocolate. As one of my favourite Irish musicians, Paddy Casey sings “whatever gets you true”. Yes, I know it’s the wrong spelling of through (for us Irish, anyways), but that is the artistic licence for ya, and he means finding the true you.

Being true to you is the essence of surviving this unprecedented moment in our human evolution. If the Instagram influencers bouncing around your screen, screaming the virtues of their newly discovered hot-to-cold-to-hot yoga regime or TikToks of family dance routines are not your jam, switch them off! Take to your bed and play endless games of candy crush if that will make you happy. 

Ignore The Positivity Pushers

Too often we are bombarded with the positivity brigade’s messages as they try to guilt us into being happy. The only message you need right now is that you are human. By nature, we humans react in different ways to situations, so how you are coping with being in self-isolation for the seemingly 30 millionth day, is not wrong. 

It’s all about survival at the moment. Putting pressure on yourself to emerge from the COVID cocoon fluent in Urdu, able to crochet the Empire State Building and supermodel thin, will only do more damage to your mental health. 

Find the things that make YOU happy, help YOU relax and keep YOU sane — to heck with everything else. When this does end and we have to face a changed world, we will cross that bridge. For now, keeping your mind, body and soul safe is your primary concern. 

Me, I am once again glued to the sofa. Thankfully this time, I am not struggling with depression, but there are days when I fear it could come back. I think the fact that I am super busy with work is my saviour. Then, when the weekend comes around, and I am not working, I immerse myself in my pleasure holy trinity of Netflix, reading and eating. 

Be kind to yourselves and remember, it is ok not to be ok. If you are really struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to family, friends or medical professionals. Also remind yourself that this is temporary and will pass. One day, everything will be glorious again. Until then, do you.