Lockdown hit and my stability and routine went out of the window.
I began living in a very small house with a six-year-old! Lockdown brought up very specific issues for me, as part of my anxiety revolves around a feeling of needing to control and manage my own time and situation, as well as escape a place/ situation if I need to. Of course, those coping mechanisms werent available, especially during the strictest lockdown measures.
Memory was a vital part of my support during this time. Before lockdown and Covid, we were actually preparing to cease sessions, as I no longer felt the need for such continued therapy. But during lockdown, I needed all the consistency and outlets I could get and without hesitation, she offered me unlimited sessions until I wanted them.
Some weeks, even the thought of being able to have one zoom session with a familiar face was more valuable than I can explain. We both had technical problems occasionally ,yet she was patient and always reassuring. She often reminded me of the simple things, to relax and to try and have fun, even when life was incredibly stressful. I was constantly surprised by her flexibility she offered to use whichever software I felt most comfortable with, at short notice, even though it was not necessarily the one she would have preferred.
She varied the tone of our sessions, sometimes I think intuitively, according to what she sensed I might need. She is a therapist with a lot of integrity, and honesty, who is not afraid to challenge you once she has gotten to know you. She also isnt afraid to bring laughter into sessions, something I have always valued. And most of all, she is flexible and professional and never seems to be phased by the most complicated of sessions.
I have an office based job and in theory I could work anywhere in the world, with just my laptop and a phone. However a big part of what I do is interacting with my team, with my clients and forming relationships is also part of my performance review. So one can imagine how working remotely on a long term basis can easily cause anxiety. Whilst before lockdown I appreciated the flexible work policy at my firm, I always knew I could choose between the office and my home as it suited me. Since March, I had to actively make an effort to remind people I am available to help, to pick up new work, to keep in touch with the wider team and also it became more and more my responsibility to ensure I am not overloading.
I worked with Memory during this entire time and therapy helped me to gradually move my focus from work management to personal self-improvement. Together we set some goals to work on outside my work; I previously spent a long time commuting so I could now focus on improving my diet by cooking healthy meals at home and increasing my activity levels by picking up online classes or taking long walks in the park. Therapy was a regular check in point that I used weekly to ensure I’m staying afloat over a period of increased uncertainties. I was anxious to see people being laid off, having my holiday plans cancelled and dealing with a sick family member abroad, not being able to visit my home country.
Memory was very flexible in navigating all these aspects depending on how acutely they would manifest from one week to another, but also touching on some of the deeper rooted matters that could trigger my anxieties. The lockdown period ended up surfacing feelings and resolving matters that I have previously ignored – the wish to reconnect with my family, putting an end to my exhausting efforts put into a one-sided childhood friendship, learning how to support my partner who is a key worker that dealt with their own insecurities, and re-assessing how a healthy work-life balance looks like for me in the future.
Therapy helped me during lockdown. I don’t usually keep in contact with my friends, due to anxiety I always want to, and I remember constantly every day who I haven’t spoken to in a long time and how much I want to speak with them. Usually it’s in the form of wanting to ask them a question, but my anxiety makes me believe that they’ll think “oh that’s all Henry ever wants, favours, he never contacts me just to ask how I’m doing”.
So during lockdown, having a weekly therapy session over Skype really helped my sanity more than I can put into words. I wasn’t used to being totally alone 100% of the time. Usually I’ll get enough social interaction with colleagues in the office. Unfortunately being made redundant just before lockdown reduced that to 0%. Whilst I still feel bad for not making the most use of my therapy sessions (for working on myself, putting in the effort) they were immensely helpful during a period of zero social interaction.
Memory has, I think, the perfect balance of pushing me out of my comfort zone but not becoming someone who triggers me to avoid my obligations (usually it’s only by an obligation to someone else that I will actually get stuff done). At every session, Memory has helped assuage my anxiety/fears over the smallest of tasks, the biggest contribution being helping me finally send out a tweet that I’m looking for a new job 2 months after losing my last one! which resulted in my hiring literally within the following 24 hours.
My work Memory had progressed well and by Feb 2020, I was actually looking forward to my weekly slot and working towards an ending. My self-esteem was at its highest in a very long time. Even though I still have other challenges to work on, I was in a good place. From feeling positive it was all panic and before we knew it, we were amidst a pandemic. I began to panic and the fear of catching the virus and possibly dying drove me to not want to venture outside my front door. The fear for me was very real and unsettling that when some family members and friends did not take me serious enough, I became very angry and started lashing out.
Memory told me that we would have to do our next session via zoom or skype and as much as it was a relief, I knew I needed the space more than ever. I was relieved when she said we could carry on. She began to challenge me and together we explored my existential angst. I swear before this I would laugh at anyone who said they believed in anything other than what science says about creation and human existences. Yet for once I became interested in Spirituality and open to Eastern philosophy and other cultures around the world. From roughly end of March through to June, I was keen to read more and explore further through meditation which Memory encouraged as a means of grounding myself amidst givens of life a term Memory used a lot during these sessions.
I may sound like I am exaggerating my gratitude yet I believe that not only did the therapy sessions help me stay sane, but in Memory I found that gentle and balancing voice which kept reminding me that this too would pass. As I write this, its August and I have resumed going out and meeting with a few friends apart from family. I am comfortable working from home and not under pressure to go back to the office. Memory and I have agreed to work towards an ending in about six weeks and I feel like the roughest part of the pandemic for me has passed!
I had been working with Memory for roughly 6-7 months before lockdown. Our sessions were once per week and face to face. I had an unsatisfactory relationship with someone I was seeing at the time, compounded by a very complicated relationship with my parents whom I was living with. The lockdown definitely had a massive effect on me. It was very difficult from the beginning as I was unable to spend time with my friends. Having to work from home which was not very motivating, not being able to go to fitness classes to let of some steam. Being stuck at home with parents who ignored me and also going through a breakup. It felt really horrible and lonely. It was like being in prison.
I was glad that I had the space to communicate with Memory every week, as it really did help me to let off some steam and to refocus again, not giving up on hope when things got unbearable at home with my parents, also giving me the strength to keep going even when you feel that everything around you was falling apart, and also making me realise that everything is temporary, so there is no need to over worry about things. This virus definitely made everything extra challenging for me.
Although with time things got better with my parents – which was unexpected, and lock down was relaxed thankfully. Our sessions also helped me recognise that I was worth more and needed to be with someone who appreciates me and treat me as an equal.
Lockdown sent me into depression and the thought of working from home (shared house) was triggering anxieties. Having the weekly sessions was very helpful during this period that my grandmother offered to pay for an extra weekly session. Two sessions spread apart in the week helped to keep me grounded with Memory teaching me over Zoom some deep breathing techniques.
I loved these and if a panic was coming, I would remind myself to breath and even though it did not always work, it certainly helped. I also used Memorys gentle voice to remind myself that thoughts would come and go and it was up to me how much I allowed them to linger on.
We were told that at the end of July we were expected to return to the office. I dreaded this and again I felt overwhelmed. Memory suggested I talked to my boss and be honest about how I was struggling with the thought of going back to the office.
To my utter shock, in our next team meeting the boss asked if we had any concerns. Sheepishly I nodded my head. I managed to remember to breath while I spoke of my anxiety at the thought of going back to the office as it felt too soon. Out of the eight employees, six agreed with me and the boss said she would review this because it was important that we were supported and our voices were heard.
Its now September and I am still working from home. I stopped sessions with Memory as we both felt I had the techniques and skills I needed to manage my stress triggers. What is nice is that she reassured me that she would welcome me back if ever I was struggling or feeling overwhelmed. So far I am doing quite well and going for a first date in a few weeks since lockdown. My relationship with my boss and colleagues is healthier although there are still some difficult days.
My only regret is work doesnt seem to value our mental health well enough to offer to pay for these invaluable sessions.
The combination of therapy and lockdown happening at the same time – with a slower pace of life, and a break from some of the triggers, really gave me time to focus on myself and take stock and also take the time to learn and practise new ways of coping with my anxiety and low self-esteem, the meditation and mindfulness really worked well for me.
I dont think I would have been able to take the time to do all this if it hadnt been for lockdown and having therapy simultaneously. Lockdown allowed me to get back to appreciating the simple things in life, which I had lost sight of. I also started using the calm app which was a real life line for me particularly during the night if I was awake and could not switch off. Lockdown also gave me time to exercise, as I didnt have to commute anymore.
During lockdown I suffered another pregnancy loss. In all honesty since then things have taken a bit of a downhill turn and I have struggled to keep up the good habits and practices I had started. Again it came at a point where it was hard to give my-self time to grieve. I had to go to all the appointments alone. I also felt a responsibility to be there for my husband who found it hard also. People, even my husband, seemed less sympathetic than previous times, I felt very lonely and isolated in what I was going through. Having Memory to talk to helped and I was better able to voice and understand my emotions this time.
I still feel I have a lot of work to do, but the most significant thing I have gained is that I now have a good idea of how to cope better in difficult times, understanding my limits, and I am reassured in certain aspects of my personality which I used to question. The mindfulness practice and meditation has given me real hope, because I can see the potential of what I have learnt to help me more and more, as long as I continue to do it. I feel more positivity within and a big sense of relief that I have a way to unwind from all this and that Im not crazy or a lost cause, but that I have been through a lot and just need to stop to look after myself when I need it. I know this is something I must prioritise now, particularly with improving my relationship with my parents and as life gets busier again.
I think I will always look back on lockdown as a turning point in my life, as prior to having therapy I was completely unable to manage or understand my anxiety and stresses. I am determined to continue with this after lockdown eases and I dont have my weekly calls with Memory anymore.