I chose to go on annual leave at the most peculiar time. I am a mental health nurse. It’s my job to ensure that people who are facing mental health concerns have the support suitable for them to maintain a good quality of life.
I took annual leave to further my studies into CBT. That, and I was turning 40. Then, isolation became a thing. We had plans to party and travel. Plans that are now postponed.
But I’m not sad about it. I’m doing all the things that have been on my list. Those things that get pushed way down to the bottom because there is always something more pressing to be done.
I’m a rusher. I rush here there and everywhere. From the moment I wake up in the morning, until the moment I close my eyes I have something I ‘have to do’. Even at the point where my eyes are closed, the ‘to do’ list continues, reminding me of what I haven’t done, causing me some mild forms of panic. This effects my sleep, which increases my stress levels. And the cycle continues.
This pandemic has given me an opportunity to stop.
Having the privilege of this time has forced me to be calm. My bond with my children has expanded, as that mum-guilt alleviates. The pressure I’ve put on myself has subsided. I’ve home schooled and cooked with them. They’ve let me into their world of play. They’ve crawled and climbed my body and hugged me more deeply and extensively. They’ve side-eyed me with those cheeky grins just to look at me, looking at them.
I have taken time and crocheted myself a blanket- deliberately something for myself. Time that I never would have allowed myself before. I have indulged in the way that I have always wanted to exist, but never had the headspace or energy to achieve.
For me, that existence is simple. I’m not after anything fancy. My shoes have been off and I have been grounded. My veggie patch is expanding. My compost is churning. My worm farm is doing whatever it is that worm farms do.
And mate, you should see all the things I have in jars right now. It’s like a science experiment.
I have kombucha, sourdough, apple scrap vinegar, wild honey mead (locally sourced raw honey) and a ginger bug. I have locally foraged olives in brine, homegrown preserved lemons and friend grown pears in vanilla and cinnamon sugar syrup. I have sauerkraut, and I even made a video about it. It’s cost me hardly anything as I scavenge and forage.
The interesting thing is, my connections within my community have grown because of my love of fermenting and foraging. Prior to iso, I swapped and traded. Some of us are still managing to do this, although keeping our distance. I received some beautiful leek seedlings that were placed on a neighbours porch for me. I traded a kombucha scoby for a sourdough starter. Tonight, I’ll be raiding olive trees.
The irony here is that previously I found I often felt alone and lonely in all my rushing. The stress was intense and I often just could not think straight. My to-do list was exhausting. There was rarely time for genuine connections.
And now- I mean, I’m not allowed to go anywhere or see anyone, but I have been in contact on a personal level with far more people than I usually am. I am opening myself up and loosing that self consciousness that normally haunts me.
I am smiling at strangers. They smile back.
I’m feeling connected.
And pal, it feels so good.
On Monday, I’ll return to the frontline real world. I’ll be there to support others with my feet firmly on the ground.
How are you feeling during this time? I encourage you to talk. Talk to anyone. A family member, a friend, a stranger. If things are feeling overwhelming, talk to your GP who can organise a mental health plan for you. Alternatively, if in Australia, call Mental Health Triage in your state or Lifeline on 13 11 14 for support. Talking is important. You might be surprised at how much it helps, not only you- but those around you.