My Mental Health Journey in Tier 4 Restrictions

As we start the countdown to New Year’s Eve 2020 (oh the joy), I’ve realised how anxious I’ve become since we heard the announcement that London was being thrown into Tier 4 restrictions. It’s becoming steadfastly more and more mentally exhausting to remain upbeat, when you’re being told the virus is spreading like wildfire and I still live with a vulnerable person. Despite writing a pretty cool article on managing your mental health during lockdown, it’s still really, really difficult to try and not let it affect your day to day life.

Just like it was for a lot of people, this was never supposed to happen. If life was how it should have been? I would have in Australia by now, watching the world from a seafront cafe window, writing away and conversing with a mask-less waitress. I can imagine the conversation would go something like ‘oh you’re not from around here’ and I’d respond ‘Nope, I’m from the other side of the world and I’ve just finished my nearly two years travels’ and then I’d assume SHE wasn’t from around there either and she’d go on to tell me she was also on her working visa… 

Sadly though, that’s my imagination running away from me. I got stuck in London visiting my family for my mother’s birthday in March. Australia locked their borders and I’m unsure how I’m going to return when it’s clear my visa will run out beforehand. I’ve been in email combat trying to get refunded by money locked away in my STA account (STA were a travel agency who I booked ongoing flights with and who have now gone into administration) and I feel pretty trapped not knowing what to do with anything right now. Before I go on, I do think it’s very important to communicate with someone when you’re finding it difficult to manage your mental wellbeing in lockdown. In times of need I’ve reached out to SHOUT, a 24-hour free, confidential text service, who have listened to me when I’ve felt low or scared.

The first few months living back at home were hard. Unless you’ve been travelling, it might be difficult to understand the impact lockdown has had on me. Not only was I trapped from a physical perspective, unable to have the freedom I’d been used to for so long, I was trapped from a mental perspective, suffocating under bouts of Depression and Anxiety , panicking my Dad (who’s disabled) would catch the virus and it would all be my fault. It’s been a balancing act to try and keep everything as clean as possible without tumbling into previous germaphobic, obsessive habits. As well as this, lockdown gives you so much time to THINK, observe and compare, that sometimes my head wants to explode. It sounds ridiculous but I was more certain of my place in a random country than what my place is in my hometown. It can be hard to not judge yourself against people who are leading different lives, following societal norms and doing what’s expected of them When you’ve gone from experiencing everything to doing nothing, thoughts can be difficult to rationalise and it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not.

It sounds laughable, but do you know what the most frustrating thing is for me during this lockdown period? Deep down, I thought everything I had magically learnt travelling by myself would have been my safety net. I thought the more relaxed attitude, the ‘see what it happens, when it happens’ mindset would have prepared me for this gigantic, coronavirus-induced rollercoaster but it hasn’t and instead, every defence mechanism, every experience that strengthened me travelling solo has come crashing down on my shoulders. I feel like I’ve regressed back in time, that old habits are rising to the surface and old fears are growing with every damn news conference. I FEEL uncertain of everything (just like everyone right now I assume) but with the added sprinking of living with a vulnerable person on top of that – and that’s scary stuff.

Also, I can’t accept this world situation. I still find it unbelievable what’s changed in the last year, like for example, no matter WHAT country, it’s the done thing now to leave the house and think ‘Keys? Phone? Mask?’ That’s still CRAZY to me. It’s not just the change in routine though, but I’ve noticed a definite change in people I know and those I don’t. Ultimately this pandemic seems to have brought out the best and very worst of people, selfishness prevails and some people think only of themselves. On the other hand, you’ve also got the people who really care, dropping shopping off for people more vulnerable and showcasing the best of humanity. You guys are angels.

For now, just like you all, I don’t know what the future is going to bring – with anything. I don’t know if I should try to save and move out, or stick at home for as long as possible and use the money saved to continue my travel plans when it’s possible (I was meant to visit New Zealand after Australia). I don’t know if I should keep pitching articles or find jobs to support me. I’m trying to balance gut decisions with rational, brain choices and it’s a constant tug-of-war. Also, it’s been a delicate balancing act writing this little blog. I’ve always written during my travels – whether it’s itineraries or diary entries to keep track of my thoughts. I love writing – it’s not only therapeutic but beneficial to others in the same position, and I’m determined to make a career out of it that ALLOWS me to travel the world at the same time – whenever that will be. On the hand, the more I’m putting into my writing, the more I’m thinking about things like analytics, socials, sharing and getting my name out there. Although in many ways this is useful, I don’t want that to be the main reason I’m putting a pen to paper.

With that in mind, I wish you all a very merry Christmas. To those with their families, enjoy, and to those who sadly cannot be with them, I’m sending you a whole ‘lotta love your way. Stay safe, keep positive – we move forward, every day.

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