It’s the theme for this year’s mental health awareness week. It’s something that is so simple yet often forgotten – how many of us grew up with parents telling us “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?”
I imagine this theme comes from the increasingly cruel online world we have today, with trolls and keyboard warriors launching personal attacks, some so persistent that it sees some take their own life, and high profile celebrity deaths bringing its severity to the forefront. It’s a devastating issue, and one that needs highlighting, but I have reflected on it and interpreted it in my own way during this unusual time.
For me lockdown has been, in a word, relentless. As a parent of 2 children who are both at ages where they are still very dependent on me; working from home, home-schooling, meeting the kids’ needs and still trying to generally maintain a home (and doing most of it solo as my husband is still out to work 6 days on the trot as an essential worker), I have been pushed to my limits. Some days I feel like I have my shit together, I’m up to date on work, my son has completed all school activities AND the optional extras, and my daughter hasn’t broken anything – hurrah! But others, I’m running on empty, relying on screen time for the kids and locking myself in the bathroom just so I can use the toilet without anyone watching me (though demands for snacks are still shouted through the door). Physically exhausting and mentally draining. I need a break or I’m going to break. And perhaps it’s the not knowing when that break will come that adds to weight of all this.
And that’s where the kindness comes in. I’d like to think I am a pretty kind person, I try to be a good friend, be there for people, lift them up, I’m even one of those people who will smile at strangers on the train because they might just need to see a friendly face. I believe my own breakdown and spout of poor mental health a few years back showed me what true compassion was and therefore made me kinder. But there is one person I’m not that kind to, and that is myself.
I have an inherent need to do my best and not settle for anything less, in all manner of things. I believe most people who know me would agree I go above and beyond, I have a passion that drives me to do well in everything – I really am an all or nothing kind of gal. After a few weeks of living in lockdown, trying to fit everything in, whilst also maintaining my high self-set standard…that positivity hat I’d placed firmly on my head at the beginning of it all, had well and truly fallen off.
So how was I going to survive the rest of the time? What was on the list that I could give up to take the pressure off? Well, pretty much nothing. When everything I do is essential, and has to be done to some degree, it’s the level at which it is done to that must be compromised. I have to lower my standards, no matter how much it pains me, if I’m coming out of this thing with my sanity…I have to be kinder to myself.
And I think that goes for many people out there. If it’s not your own high standards then it’s the constant comparisons. Lockdown has presented new challenges for everyone, it’s bound to take its toll mentally, and regardless of responsibilities or situation, it doesn’t make your feelings any less valid.
Whether you’re thriving, or surviving in this lockdown, or a bit of both – just remember you are not alone. We are in this together – quite literally humanity as a whole, is going through this together. So talk. Reach out. And always, do it, and receive it, with kindness.