Hello after pandemic
Mental Health & Well-Being, Perspectives

Hello from the other side …

…of the pandemic? Of my depression? Of the world?

(Drafted in March 2023 and finally finished and published in June 2023)

I haven’t written a blog post for 3 years. I’m sorry about that. I haven’t felt creative or inspired. I haven’t done a lot of anything these last 3 years. Other than for work I haven’t left my apartment. I’ve existed. I’m still breathing. I guess that means I am alive. My insides have felt numb, almost dead and I have been living in a fight or flight state of fear, loneliness, feeling totally lost and like there is no way out of my situation. I’ve been surrounded by darkness.

But as the spring starts defrosting the cold winter I feel like I am just coming out of hibernation, or realistically depression, from the last 3 years. And I’m not talking about the economy. Lockdowns and mask-wearing regulations have lifted and people are starting to get in the swing of living life again like they did pre-covid pandemic. Even all the new ways of working in home office and zoom meetings seem to be falling by the way and companies are retreating back to their old routines.

I feel like time has stood still since the pandemic broke out in 2020 and I have lost 3 years.

So much instability, the protests and demonstrations, the lockdowns, President Trump, the Ukrainian-Russian war. The rise of Antifa and the black and LGBTQ+ movements. The deaths of Prince Philip and her Majesty the Queen. So much change in such a short space of time—my brain cannot process it fast enough. It’s like a riot– people all shouting to you at once from every angle. You see and hear everything but understand and process nothing and you feel trapped. Paralyzed. You can’t move. There’s just so much noise. My tinnitus is screaming. Somehow in the midst of this chaos, I started to feel as a straight, white, liberal working class, Christian woman, the most hated “race” and I should apologize to everyone for even existing. Where did this come from? I never had this feeling before. This fear led me to clamming up, retreating from social media and blogging and not wanting to engage with people. I couldn’t offend someone if I disappeared.

I decided I would take my writing in another direction, and focus on my novel that I started in 2019. Everyone in the real world seems angry, resentful and bitter and has an agenda to pull you down and destroy you instead of see you shine. It’s jealousy. Everyone needs to feel seen, heard, special, and entitled to some compensation. Everyone is playing the victim card. I feel safer knowing I am writing and creating a world I like and know, can predict and where the characters are nice. I’m in control. Leave me to my happy storybooks, colouring and jigsaw puzzles. I’m retreating back to my 80’s childhood. So I went AWOL and slid back into the shadows.

I’m a sensitive, empathetic person so when the tension out on the streets gets too much, it affects me inwardly and I need to board up the house and close the shutters to protect myself; my heart and soul. But I am a writer, a thinker. I can’t bottle up my thoughts, fears and emotions because I am drowning in them.

And honestly, in the last 3 years I haven’t done a lot. Even the novel is going at a snail-on-crutches’ pace. I think I have 30,000 words down on draft 1. Only another 50,000 words and 15 chapters to go. I am writing romance and comedy but I feel so heavy and depressed so the words do not flow. Like my dreams, goals, motivation, confidence and mojo, it’s all evaporated into work stress, depression, fear, tears, a lot of sickness and heartbreak and grief. I’ve hardly seen anyone as the couple of friends I have here live in different states and we couldn’t travel across state lines during lockdowns and I lost both my bunnies within 6 months of each other in the last 12 months. Bonnie passed away at the end of June last year while Snoopy died on January 2nd this year and I spent all Christmas and New Year’s not only in what I can describe as a sleep deprived-frazzled-scared-to-death state trying to save him but spent all my savings and anything I had tucked away for a rainy day. I was alone. Don’t even talk to me about rising costs and inflation. And when you’re this low in life and living paycheck to paycheck with student loans, the last thing you want to do is write blog posts and bring everyone else’s mood down. What do you even say?

The pandemic was a huge catalyst. A sobering awakening to my own mortality.

When people die around you, you start to think what if and look at where you are in life. When Germany announced in 2020 they would close the borders for the first time in decades and no one would be leaving or arriving and that they wouldn’t know when they would be reopening them, I instantly thought of the Berlin Wall and the DDR. My history lessons and all I know about German culture came flooding in, my 10+ years in Saxony in the former DDR and what transpired there feeling trapped and like I’d never get out, (see my Goodbye Karl Marx Stadt post) I started to cry and feel imprisoned, yet again. This time in West Germany. The GDR. What if 30 years passed by and I never saw my family and friends again? History repeating itself in a new way. I suddenly had this realization that I don’t want to be here anymore. Not in the East and not in the West. I needed to get out altogether but it was too late.

The train had left the station.

The plane doors were sealed.

Depending on how things unfolded, I’d have to do a Great Escape or von Trapp family over the mountains and wondered how I’d illegally cross countries and the English Channel with 2 bunnies in my backpack.

I should have left when my divorce came through in 2019

but I was battling health issues and hadn’t quite processed everything and certainly hadn’t thought about the next chapter and where I was going. I needed to calm down and breathe first. But I didn’t get that chance.

My previous job was connected to the travel industry so of course in 2020 the company struggled and I couldn’t leave the country. So I jumped ships instead to ride out the storm. Really, it was a desperate impulsive decision to run away from a job I hated (banking and finance) only to land in another similar job that not only had a 40km commute each way but would equally be a job that wouldn’t fulfill me and cause me additional stress. It was survival. I had no plan. It was a stopgap until I could figure things out.

That stopgap and the pandemic lasted 3 years.

And during this time I have been observing, learning about people and my colleagues and society and how we have been treating one another. I’ve been watching how the economy is becoming a huge mess. My nephew died and I couldn’t leave the country to go to his funeral. I’ve appeared in court as a witness to a violent incident which was very stressful, lost my bunnies and I have been doing a heck of a lot of internal work. I’ve been thinking about The Secret–Maybe I have been attracting all this shit in my life for 14 years and it’s just escalating. I need to break the cycle.

Adele’s song “Hello from the other side” has resonated with me lately as if my soul is talking to me saying stop and listen, I’ve been showing you the signs but you aren’t listening.

I’m inching ever so precariously closer to a big birthday and you probably do this too but, you start to question what the hell you’ve actually achieved in the last decade when a big round number approaches. You chuck all the tangible stuff you can pull from your memories onto some imaginary scales and decide if it’s been productive and led you in the direction you want to go in. I got a big fat zero.

Survival and international skills: check.

Society’s scale of success by tangible achievements like house, car, marriage, family, savings, holidays: zilch.

Happiness and inner peace: *tumbleweed*

Health: hormonal train wreck around the corner.

When Snoopy died I cried in bed for 2 days and couldn’t even get out (except to use the bathroom) nor eat. I lay there in the same clothes. It wasn’t pretty. I didn’t open my shutters. I just faced the wall. I didn’t want to face reality that I now had no bunnies. A huge decade of my life abruptly ended and brutally. My comfort, safe place and confidants were in heaven. I don’t like using the phrase emotional support animal but in effect that’s what I am describing. I didn’t want to face an empty cage nor hear a quiet apartment. And I’d have to clear up all the medicines, food, mess, chaos, and make those gut-wrenching, heartbreaking decisions like what to do with the bunny cage, bedding and toys. It took me a week to eventually do it. While I have loved being a bunny mama and they have been the only good thing in the last decade of my life, and brought me so much love, happiness and joy, they have also kept me tied to this country and flat; my flat being more a homely bubble of isolation and escapism than prison. On a single income, it has been financially more than tight. Now the cords were severed.

What next?

In order to help me with my grief, and to pull me out of the thoughts of just wanting to die and be with my bunnies, I started looking at my family tree.

I’d previously started it in 2019 along with my novel. I am a self-declared family genealogist. I bought Roots Magic, a genealogy software, so I could have whole control and access to my family tree instead of paying an expensive subscription and slowly I’ve been researching. I don’t know why I decided to dive back into it in January, I just got a feeling like I had to do it, divine intervention from my ancestors maybe, but it helped distract me from my pain. I started uncovering some things about family members and wondering who I am made of. I started getting obsessed with Charlemagne and finding out about his history in Germany. This led me to wonder more about my name, my personality, my features, my job. What work did my ancestors do? Am I like them? What am I meant to do for a job here? What is my purpose? What is going to give my life meaning? Why am I even here? Am I in the right country? Which country am I supposed to be in? What do I even like? The list goes on. Literally, I wrote pages of questions.

A series of coincidences might seem to be not very coincidental but rather the hand of fate.

Since Snoopy died there have been many little signs and things happening and a feeling that the universe is changing for me. Tiny baby steps. Gentle vibrations. Things are shifting. Little messages in small ways to make me take notice and listen.

I ended up on the Ancestry website wondering. I wondered and also wandered there. The DNA test is something I’ve always wanted to do since I saw The DNA Journey years ago. Back then the tests were expensive but now they are cheaper and guess what? They had a sale on! Fate. I’m telling you.

So I bought it in February. I sent off my juicy spit for analysis. Lovely. And waited anxiously to find out exactly what ethnicity I am to give me clues where to look and research in my family tree. But also, I was hoping it would help me make some decisions and figure out who I am and where I am going. I needed inner peace and answers. I needed something to steer me away from falling further into depression. To grasp my life by the horns and take action. I don’t want to be a victim to my circumstances. I want to change my life around and create a life I want. I don’t want to be in a flight or fight, high cortisol and adrenal-damaging state. I don’t want to be alone. I want to make my own luck and opportunities and be successful, healthy and financially secure. And if looking at my family DNA can help pull me out of this funk and get the cogs moving and the gears grinding then I am grateful. You gotta do what works for you, keep pushing on, keep finding those little lifelines and ignore the noise. Just do you and keep swimming to the surface. Whatever helps you.

So I guess, we will see you on the other side of my results for the next post and to see where I go from there. I’ll try not to leave it so long next time.

As always, wishing you all much love, light, and health in abundance

Until next time,

love charlemagne