Pandemic diary 39: Methods of denial and coping

Blue tit mum-to-be live webcam – link far below.

As I witness people around me experience mental health issues – from insomnia to inertia, depression to anxiety, leaving Facebook to distraction through creative projects –as a direct result of a very real threat but also due to enforced isolation, I look at how I am coping and realise I am deep in denial.

I do feel better being in denial. I feel much better than I did a month ago. It's not ideal for helping other people, though. (Although there is some irony here in that several people have told me that reading this daily diary is cathartic / therapeutic for them in some way. Maybe not tonight!)

It's happening but out there, far away…

My methods of denial are showing up as follows:

  • Caning Mad Men episodes on Netflix – I am now up to series 6 (of 7). Don Draper, Peggy Olson, Roger Sterling et al have become my comforting TV family in all their disfunction.
  • Avoidance of online video calls for group meetings – I find them quite trying now.
  • Retail therapy – trying really hard not to spend any money but the urge to comfort myself with random online purchases is strong.
  • Reading fiction – I mostly read non-fiction but I've dropped my academic book about 'the night' for an escapist novel of backpacker fiction by Emily Barr.
  • Not watching any official news or daily pandemic updates for several weeks now.
  • Scrolling by any negative updates on social media and just engaging with inane banter (I muted nearly all groups on FB and WhatsApp about a month ago).
  • There has been some unusual cleaning activity – mostly triggered by Furloughed Pete who is looking for lost structure in household chores.
  • Writing and emptying my brain every night into this public diary.
  • Weekly goal, reward and gratitude activity go into a private diary.
  • Jigsaws (maybe) – good for alternative consuming focus.
  • Watching live animal webcams (maybe).
  • Inane games of 'Threes' before bedtime.

Embracing lockdown a bit too much?

I also asked Pete if he had observed any changes in how I am dealing with things, and apparently I might be embracing lockdown a bit too much, if anything. Which is not a problem now but may be in the future as things ease up. He also thinks I am thinking about it constantly in the background, which explains why there is such relentless denial activity perhaps.

I think he said this because I said I was actively trying not to get Covid-19 whereas he thinks we are all definitely going to get it. I'm not prepared to do the research at the moment to find out if he is right. But I am pessimistic about opening things up six weeks into a potential two-year outbreak. I am similarly worried about the big economy picture. I have no answers and so I try not to think about it. I worry about enough things.

Denial is my go-to coping mechanism. Denial of atrocity is how I cope with life. When I do think about things I get inordinately upset and sometimes I turn this into positive action. Probably not enough but life is a balance. Denial (and positivity) allow me to function. Not being able to switch off means I wouldn't function at all.

Everything and nothing has changed

The things that are upsetting me currently – strangely – are not the death toll and the political inaction/lies and the Covid-19 issues of the day. Not that they aren't upsetting – did I mention the denial?

No, the things that are upsetting me are the same things that were upsetting me before: the environmental issues and the lack of human ability to effect long-term change over carbon emissions, something that is being highlighted by the relative short-term priorities of Covid-19. The parasitic nature of humans on the planet and the fear that we can't or won't change to being better but grind down to the lowest common denominator. The general shittiness of people in their cruelty to animals and children and fellow humans. The wealth inequality and how poorer nations are going to be affected by all this. Plastic in the oceans. Pollution in the air. Elephants dying out. And a million other things that felt futile to change before and feel even more futile now.

Not that they are necessarily futile because I think them to be. There's always hope for change. In many ways I think we are standing at a crossroads for potential massive change. Let's hope some of it is good and try to make it so.

You do what you can do, but maybe you can do more.

One thing every day.

Today I got in touch with someone I'd fallen out with to wish them a Happy Birthday. Not because anything has changed in the dynamic between us, but because life is too short to hold a grudge (and especially now) and putting aside such negativity can only be good for my own mental health in the long run. So that happened. That's my one thing for today.

I know this has been a bit of a negative post but the boil obviously needed a lance. Sorry. This is why I always end on a positive note…


Today I am thankful for:

  1. Being able to sleep – insomnia and disturbing dreams are rife right now.
  2. Wildlife Kates' Blue Tit webcam – I've tuned into this a lot today. It is affirming to be watching a mother bird keep nine eggs warm. Hatching is any day now. Here's the link – she is currently fast asleep with her head tucked under her wing:
  3. The privilege of being able to embrace lockdown and not have to take daily risks as a key worker. Of having food and shelter and someone to love and something to do. I wish everyone the best of luck getting through all this, for whenever sh'appens and however it happens.

It's 1.11am. What a beautiful time to press publish.

Good night. x

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One thought on “Pandemic diary 39: Methods of denial and coping”

  1. Thanks, Fi, for sharing this. Nail on head as usual on several points.
    One is: “I think we are standing at a crossroads for potential massive change”.

    Like you, I have been increasingly anxious about climate change. It’s still happening and it’s still a crisis. But human consciousness doesn’t seem good at multi-tasking crises. I suspect little sympathy would be offered to any media coverage alongside Covid-19.

    But, again like you, am hoping that the lockdown experience, along with its issues of food and job insecurity, might generate the sort of long-term change essential to surviving any climate crisis.

    And regarding denial, I don’t see you denying The Situation, only refusing to be overwhelmed by it and living each moment. We’re human and have a limit on horror tolerance before our brains implode.

    Of course it’s easier for me to say this than someone working on the frontline, isn’t it??

    And, yes, I do follow the deaths statistics, but not every day, and only because I want to acknowledge each loss, so they stop being statistics.

    For me, I am simply very grateful for today, every day a gift. Can’t even explain how strong this feeling is. More a state of mind than a feeling. My family and friends have never been more precious. The trees. Birdsong. People. Even the bloody annoying ones.

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