I have been writing this post in my head for a couple of days… not quite sure how to write it, what form it should take, or how much to share… oh man I just read that and realised it sounds super dramatic and serious… I am fine!!

But I have been quiet on social media and apart from a couple of stories, I haven’t posted anything since NZ went into Level 4 lockdown a couple of weeks ago, and while I don’t feel like I need to do a big dramatic explanation on why I haven’t posted on social media in 3 weeks… cause seriously, I don’t think anyone even noticed lol!! I do think that we are all guilty of only sharing the highlights of our lives and that’s not healthy for anyone out there who is struggling, and if I can normalise struggles and let someone know they are not alone, then I think this is worth it.

So… get to the point… already super wordy sorry!! (I had thought this could just be a quick insta post caption… think it’s a blog post… oops) … I have posted before about self-care and how I manage my mental health in my everyday life, which I do mostly successfully. Well, it turns out that global pandemics and nationwide lockdowns trigger a bit of anxiety in me… I mean who knew!

(Full disclaimer I realise that living in NZ we are super lucky with lockdowns and covid related tragedies, but also we can’t dismiss our own struggles by saying that other people have it much worse so we should be fine… (mental health doesn’t work like that)… it helps with perspective, but it doesn’t help with acknowledging your struggles so you can deal with them).

After going through the same thing last year in our first lockdown, I realised pretty quickly what was happening and knew that ignoring it, pushing through, “hardening up” and “hustling” actually only makes it worse for me.

So, I had to just stop.

Now in a lockdown, I am in a bubble with my two kids and no other adults, which even though my kids were great (largely because of sooooo much screen time and WhatsApp group chats with their friends), it is still hard being the only adult in your bubble. I work from home most of the time anyway, and I am by no means an essential worker, so you would think this would just be a walk in the park, carry on as usual, just with kids at home. But alas, I didn’t have the mental capacity to function.

A personality trait I have is that when things get hard in my life I start shutting down/off and stopping things until I get to a point where I can cope, and then I start adding things back in as I can deal with them… this does work for me, but it means I am not great at asking for help and luckily my close friends and family know that if I go quiet and they don’t hear from me then I am probably struggling with something and they check in on me (Life tip: surround yourself with amazing people and love them hard).

So, when we went into lockdown again my priorities became real simple, me and my kids’ mental health and did we have food/shelter/warmth. That was basically it to be honest. If I tried to sit at my computer or “be productive” I would get waves of anxiety where my chest would get tight, and I would feel low level panicky and if I tried to ignore it I would end up in tears. Now I am a pretty logical person, and this emotional stuff is super frustrating to me because my logical brain knows that we are totally safe, there is no immediate danger, I have everything sorted, I trust that people much smarter and knowledgeable than me have this all under control… I just have to stay home… seriously, we are good. But my emotional side is not logical… like at all.

So, I just got through day by day, I read trashy books, ate treats, watched trash TV, knitted fugly blankets, did online video workouts with my personal trainer and spoke to my friends and family on video calls. After the first few days the worst of it settled luckily, but I still felt really brain foggy, un-motivated, couldn’t concentrate or focus, tired… (I have since read a post by @shityoushouldcareabout about Languishing that gave me a name for how I was feeling) So I wasn’t really productive at all, just getting the most urgent work done and leaving the rest.

One of my “fugly” (f@#king ugly!) blanket creations. These are an antidote to creating beautiful things that follow client briefs or need to be beautiful so that people will buy them… they have no rules, I can change my mind and cast off at any point, I make it up as I go, it can clash and not work out and it keeps my twitchy creative fingers busy while I am watching TV. I used to draw, but since I started Penny Royal Design drawing feels like work, so I started knitting instead.

And day by day I felt better and was able to do more and 2 days ago (when we went back into Level 2) was the first time I could feel my motivation and creative inspiration come back and it was glorious… like, I can actually do this thing again… life, work, being a self-employed creative.

I did do some work over the lockdown, but not much and only the most urgent, and nothing particularly creative. I realise the privileged position that I am in, in that I am self-employed so I can choose what I do, and my part-time job was super understanding. I have also got several passive income streams that were not affected by lockdown, this was in part to the lovely, amazing people choosing to support small local businesses at this time and I am soooo grateful to everyone who purchased art prints, greeting cards, t-shirts, fabric and wallpaper over this time… you kept the lights on and the food in the cupboards xxxx

So, what is the point to this post… know that even if you don’t have a serious mental illness, stuff is hard and it’s ok if you have a hard time and can’t do all the things, all the time. You are human and it’s ok. Life is not normal at the moment, and it does suck, yes other people have it worse, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have every reason to feel a bit shit, or a lot! Do what you need to, to be ok, ask for help and know that you aren’t a failure, you aren’t alone, and it will get easier.

Ok… so enough with the unsolicited advice from a creative with absolutely no training/qualifications in anything related to mental health or pandemics!!! This is why I have been quiet, but I am back now and am going to get back to creating pretty things and sharing my creations with you.

Big, virtual, socially distanced hugs to all of you xxx

Penny

P.S. If you are struggling with mental health issues, just like if you were physically sick you would go to a trained professional doctor, please get help and advice from a trained professional (not a random person on the internet!).

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