Finding a ‘new normal’

Lockdown hasn’t felt too different from some other times of my life when I’ve felt isolated and unable to go out due to my mental health. In some ways that has made it easier to deal with, in other ways more difficult. I kept thinking, at least I’ve got practice at this and know how to find things to do to keep myself occupied! But it was also very frustrating to find myself back in a place I’d worked so hard to get out of.

I think it has forced us all to do some reflection about the way we are living, as a society and within ourselves. For me, coming out of lockdown is forcing me to do even more of that reflection. As lockdown restrictions started to ease, it brought up a lot of mixed emotions I wasn’t expecting. I was and still am feeling anxiety about adapting to the ‘new normal’ but I also felt a deep sense of dread about my life in some ways going back to how I was living before this. This is the thing I didn’t expect because before lockdown I was doing pretty well. I was enjoying university and I was feeling more myself than I had in quite a while, but what has always been lacking for me is a sense of satisfaction or content about how I am spending the rest of my time when I’m not focused on things like uni or work.

I started a new job as a peer worker a few weeks ago now and I think it is going to be great for me, in a really supportive team. I will be going back to university in October to start my third year and I feel confident and excited about this. But something always feels missing. Although I’ve known for a while what these missing things are, lockdown has made them even more obvious. The things I feel are missing from my life, and have been for quite a long time, are more feelings of connection and belonging to community, people, family and friends.

Loneliness is not an easy thing to talk about for anyone. It brings with it for me a feeling of shame because I tell myself I shouldn’t feel like this and I should be grateful for the things and people I do have when so many more people are far more isolated than I am. Telling ourselves this doesn’t help us feel any better though does it? One of the biggest things trauma has brought into my life has been a feeling of disconnection and although this has massively improved over the years, I still feel it. Despite having more moments where I do feel that connection now, when I’m not focused on uni or work I spend large amounts of time on my own feeling disconnected from the world.

Healing from trauma has meant I’ve had to change my life dramatically. I don’t drink anymore, I try to stay in a routine and structure that means I can manage the practical parts of life and I have cut ties with people who held me back from making any of these changes. This has been a long process and I often find myself feeling stuck and unsure what steps I’m supposed to take next. The last few months have helped me realise how much progress I have made in so many parts of my life, but that this more personal part of my life where I don’t feel the deeper connections that most of us need in life is not how I want it to be.

So how do I move forwards with this? I’m not entirely sure but I am trying a few things. Over lockdown I have started doing yoga classes on zoom and I’m hoping to go to classes at the studio when they start them again. I have been taking part in a mental health drop in on Zoom which I hope I’ll be able to go to as well once things are back on. I have reached out to a women’s rape and sexual abuse centre who I hope will be able to help me work out some of these things and find a way forward. Being able to write and talk about these things helps too. I guess I just need to do what we are all trying to do right now, the best we can and to hope that finding a ‘new normal’ will help me find some more ways forward.

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