The fear that COVID-19 could come knocking at our door any moment has created a reality with two rival thought patterns. On one hand, we are critically aware of our mental health. We hear ads for helplines that will aid the loneliness, see exercise regimens that are supposed to combat the anxiety, and bake banana bread to give ourselves a sense of purpose and accomplishment. We understand that we can’t be at our happiest right now, and we (hopefully) know what supports are available to us.
On the other hand, we are so intensely and constantly reminded of how much worse other people have it, that we (or at least, I) feel guilty for expressing our concerns, which obviously pale in comparison. Am I really going to waste a helpline’s time chatting about how college is a nightmare right now when people are grieving loved ones? Am I really going to complain about being stuck at home with my family, when my granny has only been able to see one person for almost a year now? Am I so selfish that I’m going to worry about my Zoom-induced eye strain, when our neighbour is in ICU on a ventilator as we speak?
This lockdown is the hardest for me because the novelty of being home with my family has worn off. It’s hard to feel plentiful gratitude for something that has become mundane, like my evenings watching movies with my brother, my dad cooking dinners for me, and the peace and quiet of my village.
I’ve noticed a pattern lately, where my brain attempts to censor its own ungrateful thoughts.
I don’t like the dinner we’re having tonight? Well wouldn’t it be worse if I was in Dublin and had to pay for my own dinners? I should be grateful,
This house is too loud? Wouldn’t it be worse to be in Dublin during the lockdown where I would be desperately lonely? I should be grateful.
I miss my friends? It’s not like I’d be seeing them in Dublin anyway, it’s a lockdown, cop on. At least I have company here at home; there are so many people stuck either alone or at home with families they don’t get on with, I have it pretty good here. I should be grateful.
Even writing this article feels incredibly self-indulgent. I SHOULD be grateful, it’s true!
But I have come to realize that this censoring of negative thoughts is pointless and doesn’t do anything to improve my mental health. I wanted to write this in case anyone else out there is feeling this way, feeling like you’re not entitled to your trivial complaints and your mild concerns. It is important to acknowledge these negative feelings and understand that sometimes you are going to feel upset, anxious and angry.
NiteLine has a slogan ‘No problem is too big or too small’, and I’m happy to report that that really is true. You don’t need to have a life-threatening, all-consuming issue to get in touch with us. It is very okay if you just wanna talk about how you burnt your toast, or how you feel tired/sad/numb/upset/not-quite-sure-what-this-feeling-is-but-it’s-not-right, or if you want to celebrate an accomplishment but feel like it would be callous to make a point of it publicly at the moment.
We are here, and we care about what’s going on with you, regardless of the context.
We’re open every night from 8:30 to 12:30, please don’t hesitate- I promise, you’re not wasting our time x