I am a strong, independent woman. I have been a strong, independent woman for some time now, and in a variety of circumstances from buying my first home to being the only woman in the room at a networking event. Recently however, I’ve been a strong, independent woman ordering tile samples as I watch videos entitled “How to tile a floor, step by step”. because right now, I am also a strong, independent woman that lives alone. Living alone doesn’t usually doesn’t mean being alone; I’m fortunate to have an active social life and I’ve regularly been that person that’s got to build in a night or a weekend day to stay in and do nothing, or risk burning out (or early onset liver problems). As with everyone else in the country, lockdown has entirely flipped that narrative. I’m still a strong, independent woman, but it has become more of a mantra than usual for me; a statement of my intent to remain engaged and occupied whilst I’m alone and a big part of my life has been removed. Once if I needed company, I could easily seek it out, arranging to see family and friends and taking delight in the simple pleasure of spending time with people I care about, doing things we enjoy. Now, I am more aware than ever of the other rooms in the house being empty ones. I get conscious of the elasticity of time and how an hour can sometimes feel like a day, a day turns into a week. I don’t want to think how long time will have felt when we’re all unlocked. Whether you’re working from home, providing a key worker service or on furlough, going through a lockdown solo is hard. But it is no less easy or hard than doing it living in a couple, a family you and your partner have created, or re-joining your parents. It is just a different type of hard and something those of us doing lone lockdown need to find coping mechanisms to get through, as with any other difficulty our lives present us with. Some of my coping mechanisms have seen me revisit the hallmarks of my youth for comfort and solace; my current reading has leaned into some of the fiction I devoured as a teenager and of the films I’ve turned to, more fall into the “80s/90s/00s nostalgia” pile than the “gripping new cinematic releases” pile. Others are embracing those things I don’t have time to do (my kitchen is going to be hella tiled by the time I’m allowed out again) and still others are tweaks to how I was used living; the hangover I had on Good Friday after a virtual night out with friends will attest to that. For all those mechanisms and attempts at finding contentment whilst in lockdown by yourself, the mental toll that living alone during lockdown takes can be a lot to deal with. Sometimes the visit to pick up groceries can be your only chance to interact with others that day and so all interaction can feel blown out of proportion; a random act of kindness may equate to the warmth you feel after seeing an old friend, and a harsh word can feel like a verbal assault. More regularly than ever, emotions turn on a sixpence and your good mood can be bought low by the simplest of problems…or the supermarket being out of pasta. Still. Of course it will end eventually, but it’s easy to feel as though that’s a long way off. That said, spirits can absolutely be lifted and there is a wealth of help and support out there to keep you sane. Talking to friends and loved ones is more vital than ever, and I’m thankful for the myriad ways we have to stay in touch with each other now. If you are struggling to cope with the impact solo lockdown is having on your mental help and you don’t feel able to discuss it with friends and family, there are a wealth of independent organisations and charities out there who can support you. As a starting point, Anxiety UK may be of help; they have a wealth of information on their website and JCI Manchester is proud to support them as a charity partner. Remember, even though you’re doing this solo, you don’t have to do this alone. Find your mantra and embrace it, just as you’ll get to embrace everyone important to you when we’re on the other side.
By Danielle Gibson, Marketing Committee