Up until a few days ago, I was having a pretty rough time.
COVID-19 hysteria and the lockdowns haven’t been kind to me – particularly in my city (Melbourne, Australia). I’ll leave all the nitty-gritty details out of it, but needless to say, we’ve been under a pretty hardcore lockdown, and I haven’t been taking it well. People are social creatures; we don’t do well with being caged. And I definitely haven’t dealt with it very well.
If you’re a reader of my work you know I’m a huge proponent of individual freedoms, finding your own answers, and not manipulating anyone into doing what you want them to do. So being locked up and told what to do and having my freedoms stripped away – and then making it illegal for us to even leave our own city (there are border checkpoints around the city) – goes against every fibre of my being. I’ve essentially been having an existential-crisis.
Up until a few days ago, I was drinking a bottle of whiskey a day (minimum) in order to cope. Don’t worry, I’m a few days sober now – I won’t drink for the next few months at a minimum. Life lost a lot of its meaning, and my goals seemed worthless – like there was no point to anything. (The clinical definition of depression).
I’d go to start writing an article, and then think, “Why? What’s the point?”
I’d go onto my forums, read other people’s threads and go to reply to them, and think, “Why? What’s the point?”
I’d see my girlfriend and she’d want to have sex, and I’d think, “Why? What’s the point?”
I’d start watching a funny YouTube video to cheer myself up then turn it off halfway through, thinking, “Why? What’s the point?”
It’d get to 2am in the morning, and know that I “should” go to bed so I don’t feel horrifically-tired the next morning… but I’d think, “Why? What’s the point?”
The world became a little more grey and desaturated; like the life had been drained from my very being. After all, when you’re locked up against your will, unable to travel even a few miles outside your neighbourhood/suburb… Unable to go outside without a valid reason and without wearing a mask… Unable to sit in a cafe or sit on a park bench or hang out with your friends… And then being unable to leave this madness and get away from it even if you want to, aka literally being imprisoned… what’s the point of anything? When you stop living, is there really any point being here?
It’s not all doom and gloom though. I’ve been depressed before; I know how to handle this. I immediately ran to my go-to manual on depression, You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought. It’s helped immensely. If you’re depressed, please read this book. I’ve also found solace talking to my girlfriend and two of my friends – though we’re not allowed to congregate in groups of more than 2 people (not even in each other’s homes), we do our best to communicate in whatever way we can. They’ve been my rocks.
I’ve also found a hell of a lot of comfort – and inspiration – in a book a coaching client of mine recommended to me: How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World. It’s like this guy has tapped into my brain and written out all of my thoughts on freedom, on not letting other people affect you, on just getting on with your mission and working on your goals, regardless of what’s going on in life.
I absolutely recommend grabbing this book. Doubly-so if you’re struggling with lockdowns right now. It’s a how-to manual on focusing on the things you can change and not stressing about the things you can’t. I’m only halfway through the book but I suspect by the time I finish it, I’ll be recommending it as highly as something like The Slight Edge.
The final thing that’s helped me has been giving myself a schedule. My girlfriend was the one who came up with this suggestion. I’m not normally one to have much of a schedule when it comes to my writing, instead preferring to write like crazy in bursts of creativity and passion. But a symptom of depression is feeling like your days just blend into each other; like there’s no clear finish to each day. One day blurs into the next and before you know it you’re laying on the couch staring at the wall, wondering if it’s Monday or Wednesday or if it really even matters.
So I set a made myself a schedule; meticiulously planned down to the exact minute. I’ve allowed myself plenty of free time in the evening, but everything until 4pm is set in stone. I’ve set alarms that go off at each stage, to keep myself on track.
8am: Wake up. Have shower, listen to positive podcasts. DO NOT CHECK EMAILS (I have a bad habit of answering emails/starting work on my website before I wake up up, and it feels miserable. I need to allow myself to wake up properly first).
8.30am: Spend 15 minutes planning out what I’ll do today – the tasks I want to have done.
8.45am: Spend 15 minutes writing an article. Yes, it’s only 15 minutes – but as a writer my biggest issue is procrastination. If I can have 15 minutes of writing done before 9am, the rest of my day is always infinitely more productive.
9am: Spend 30 minutes answering emails and responding to people on my forums.
9.30am: Spend 1.5hrs marketing (this usually means replying to people on Reddit/other forums and helping them/offering advice, as well as posting some of my articles and sharing them around the net. Basically, building my brand).
11am: Lie on couch and write articles for an hour. (I do my best writing whilst lying on the couch).
12pm: 1hr break. I usually eat food, or go for a walk (though, less of that since lockdown), or chill and read a book. Whatever I feel like doing.
1pm: 3 more hours of writing on the couch. I allow myself as many “mini-breaks” as I want where I watch a funny YouTube video for 10 minutes, or listen to a podcast for a bit, etc. As long as writing gets done, I’m happy.
4pm: Free time. (I’ve been spending this doing more writing, mostly – but I’m allowed to do whatever I want).
This schedule really has worked wonders at pulling me out of my funk and giving me something to focus on. I’ve found myself caring about my goals again, and having a purpose when I wake up. Yes, the outside world has gone batshit insane – but How I Found Freedom has helped with that. And this schedule has absolutely kept me on track and reminded me to focus on myself and the things I can do each day to make my life – and the world around me – better.
If you’re struggling with mental health/depression due to lockdown, or even just feel frustrated by it all – try some of the things I’ve listed above. Especially the schedule – you have no idea how much sticking to a regimented timetable gives you a sense of purpose; a reason for being. It’s dumb, maybe it’s meaningless and arbitrary, maybe the times & tasks you put down don’t really mean anything… but it still works. It works and that’s all that matters.
But most importantly of all, reach out – don’t be alone. Post a comment below and tell me how you feel. You aren’t supposed to tackle depression/mental health stuff alone, so drop a comment and you’ll feel at least a little better. I promise.
And I’ll leave you with a quote from one of the best articles I’ve read all year, “The Return of Brutalism“:
“There is an answer to this rampant incivility. Don’t let governments and their egregious mismanagement of this crisis wreck your integrity, your capacity for love, your belief in rights, your aspirations for yourself and others. The only way to fight back against Brutalism is with freedom and beauty, and that begins in your own life.“