This post is going to be a vulnerable one - I know that I might find the words to say a bit of struggle right now. But I know that’s important to say it. I am not coping well right now. I feel low, sluggish and like I want to hide away from the world.
Twelve months of lockdown and uncertainty fatigue have hit me hard.
To give a bit of context, for the past year I have been working pretty much full-time in mental health services, planning my wedding which is due to happen in August this year while being in mostly full on lockdown. Then for the past seven months I have been building a coaching business on the side of everything else.
In addition, I have been doing some deep work on myself – letting go of what path I thought my life would take, making the decision to give up alcohol, pushing myself so far outside my comfort zone that I can’t even see it anymore.
While it’s been the most challenging year of my life so far, it’s also been the most fulfilling and exciting. I invested in myself in ways I never had before. I made decisions that suited me and not other people, probably for the first time in my life.
Something that has been in the back of my mind for the past few months is my wedding. It has been a source of grief for a long time.
I appreciate that I am very privileged that this is the main source of stress during a global pandemic.
Whilst I know that the most important thing is that me and my partner Jonny are healthy and happy, I am that girl who has thought about her wedding since she was 12 years old and watched 27 Dresses for the first time. I have found my soulmate and I have never been as excited to plan my wedding and celebrate the start of our lives together.
In March last year, that all vanished.
I scrambled to make sure I had vendors booked as I anticipated lots of couples moving their weddings to this year. I was proactive and did all the sensible things. People were amazed at how resourceful I was and how quickly I managed to get it sorted.
But inside there was a dull ache which grew with every lockdown change and U-turn. I have felt pretty much every emotion under the sun – excitement, fear, hope, guilt, positivity, anxiety and hopelessness.
So many of my friends messaged me last week with the road map announcement – “your wedding will be on, yay!” – yet I couldn’t share in their excitement.
I still don’t know for certain if or when I will be able to get married. I don’t know how many of my suppliers will still be in business. I’m still waiting to taste my food and register notice of marriage. I don’t know if some of the most important people in my life will be there. I have gone through a lot of this experience alone – I haven’t felt able to even ask my bridesmaids if they will be a part of my day, because I don’t know if I’ll be allowed to have them there.
With every announcement, I just feel sadness and grief.
To top it all off, I tried my wedding dress on, and while it does still just fit, I have put a lot of weight on over lockdown. While this usually wouldn't be a major concern, if I put any more on my dress probably won’t zip up. And that was the one thing within my control.
After realising how badly we can all be burned with Christmas last year, I can't allow myself to get excited. It could be taken away at any moment. It honestly feels like there is a hole in my heart. What was meant to be the most exciting time, has largely been spent in isolation with so much anxiety and stress.
I keep telling myself to focus on the positives and to stay hopeful. I keep thinking that I have moved on. But writing these words a year down the line, it still cuts just as deep. I will never be able to get this time back. And just like any type of grief, while time will make it easier, it will always be there and can resurface in the most unexpected times.
Last week, I realised that I have been doing a lot.
At work, I have been holding space for trauma, loss, anxiety, panic, grief and so many other things. I do that multiple times a day, four days a week. And while helping others has always been my calling, it’s something that can wear away at you if your usual coping strategies are no longer there or are no longer working.
I also have a hamstring injury (a Grade 1 Strain apparently) and the fact that I can’t exercise has got me to the point where I really am struggling. To me, this is the most ironic thing in the world, as I usually hate exercise. Note to self – be grateful for a body that is healthy and without injury.
The main problem is that the only way I can see people at the moment with the national lockdown is by going for a walk with them. But if I do any more than 20 minutes, the pain becomes pretty intense and puts me out for the rest of the day. I’m even more cut-off from people than I was before.
I’m in the house most days, whereas before I was making the effort to walk everyday. And it’s really bloody hard.
I’m also building a business – which let me tell you is a crash course in “how to have a growth mindset”. I’m consistently doing things that I have never done before. I've never had to look after myself and prioritise rest as much as I am now. While it brings me so much joy and fulfilment, there are still days where I really can't be bothered with it.
This isn’t the first time I have felt like this. It probably won’t be the last.
The last time I was off work for two weeks for my mental health. I’ve realised that isn’t a long term strategy. Now that isn’t to say I don’t advocate taking time off for your mental health – no job is worth your sanity.
But, I’ve realised that I’m not helping myself and waiting till I’m burnt out and unable to continue isn’t the best approach. So here are some of the things I’m doing to help myself:
I’m asking for help
As a therapist and a coach, one of my main blocks is around getting my own help. Yet I can’t very well tell my own clients it’s okay to need help and that everyone should get therapy when I’m reluctant to do it myself.
It doesn’t make me any less of a therapist, coach or expert. As of right now, I’m receiving mental health support through a scheme at work. I also work with a business coach, have seen a physio about my injury and will start working with a health coach this month.
While you might not have the means to have all this support, I have had therapy sessions that cost me £40 a week in the past, and they were exactly what I needed, so I was happy to let go of purchases of clothes and makeup that weren’t benefitting me anyways. There are also lots of charities that offer support for free and the NHS offers free talking therapies, although it does depend on where you are as to how long you may have to wait.
I’m focusing on what’s within my control
For so long I’ve focused on what’s going wrong, without realising it. I do journaling everyday and I still didn’t spot it. The subconscious mind is sneaky and you have to be pretty self-aware to catch it in its tracks.
This also isn’t to say, when things feels overwhelming that I’m going to push myself into toxic positivity either. But continuing for weeks and months to focus on the fact I can’t exercise in the way I want to, that there’s still so much uncertainty around my wedding and my business isn’t growing as fast as I would like it to, is really not helping me. No wonder I feel hopeless.
I’m underestimating my own power and the ways that I can take back control. It’s time for that to change.
Instead I’m going to focus on a health and exercise routine that works for my current ability and work with a physio to recover from my injury. For my wedding, I’ll honour the grief that comes up and assert my boundaries with those who want to talk about it (I really don’t want to talk about it at the minute).
With my business, I’m going to focus on showing up for my community and creating the impact that I know I am capable of. And I’m going to work on improving my resilience to enable me to support others without depleting my own resources.
I’m reminding myself that the journey is the goal
Self-development has allowed me to become clear on what I really want out of life and make the steps towards it. I will be forever grateful that I came across it at such a young age and am able to share what I’ve learnt with others.
However, it can be triggering to be in a space where everyone seems to have their shit together all the time. When you feel low and your inner critic is loud, seeing posts of how much money someone has made, how much success they’ve experienced and how many goals they’ve ticked off is triggering.
What I have forgotten is that we will never be “there”. We only have where we are right now. And when we focus on being over there, we lose the joy of experiencing the person we are becoming. We forget about the day-to-day experiences that at one point would have been monumental for us to even consider.
When we’re too focused on the end result, we feel like we’re never doing enough. From today, I’m committing to making the experience of reaching my goals as joyful as possible.
This has been a truly vulnerable share for me. I needed encouragement from my coach Vicky to even consider writing this post. But I’m so glad I did. It’s been extremely therapeutic to get what has been swirling around into my head onto paper.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart if you have read all the way to the end, it was a long one! I never want to make my content a highlights reel, and I hope that me sharing this helps you in some way.