I am overwhelmed. There you go, I said it. I had a day last week where I came home and just sat on the stairs for an hour not knowing what to do. If you’re not currently having bouts of the same feeling every now and then, I envy you. Actually, I’m more worried that you might be dead inside. How can we possibly be unaffected after everything that bucketed down on us two years ago?
I’m not trying to bleak you out here, but I really don’t think we’ve even begun to deal with it. Mainly because we’re still living through it. But we need to look after ourselves. If you’re finding it hard to make your way back to life BC (Before Covid), that’s absolutely normal. My memory is shot. I can’t even remember the old me sometimes. I’ve been trying to find him, though.
I’ve been going out – popping to the pub lots, parties a bit, gigs when I can stay awake – but every now and then, when someone asks me how I am, I begin to start spiraling and reel off a version of this introduction. I then start worrying that I’m boring. And then doubting that I’m even a person anyone wants to speak to at all. I sometimes float above myself and start laughing at the words I’m saying and that makes the words I’m actually saying stop making any sense because I’m thinking of me floating above myself.
So, I thought it might be good to write it all down and get it off my chest. And maybe offer some helpful advice if you’re in the same boat.
But actually I’ve just realized I don’t have any advice apart from maybe take the occasional Monday off work (like I have today), call your friends and do stupid voices to each other (I’ll do that when I’ve finished this) and remember that, after two years of our lives being upended, riddled with new anxieties, extra workloads added and all fun cancelled, it’s OK to accept it might take a while to regain some calm. So there, I hope that helps a bit.
For the next part of this piece, I’m going to switch to the first person perspective of my dog, Barney, because I’ve gone mad. And maybe he has better advice anyway. Barney is a three-year-old chunky chocolate Labrador who doesn’t even know what Covid is. I saw him sitting on the grass yesterday peacefully trying to work out what a butterfly was and occasionally farting. This is where we’ll pick up the story. (In my head he’s always had a cheery Manc accent.)
“Such a nice day! So warm. Shame I’ve got this massive load of fur on me. I’ll sit directly in the sunshine until I start panting and look like I’m about to burst, though. That’ll keep Greg on his toes. Oh, what’s that flapping around? Never mind. What was I thinking again? When can I eat more food? I’m going to bark now. I’ve just remembered I found a dead bird over by that tree. I’m going to go and see if it’s still there. It’s not there. Let’s do a little stretch. Oh! Some of that wind came out of me again. Am I sure that dead bird isn’t still there…
“Greg seemed really excited when I proudly brought it into the house a few months ago. He was waving his hands around and dragged me back into the garden for more playing. I’m a good boy…
“What’s that? Is it someone in the kitchen? I’m going to go and look. Hi! It’s me! I’m wiggling! Pay me attention please. What are you cooking? Probably for me, isn’t it? Even though it never is. Can I have some? I’m just going to follow you around for a bit. Where are you going now?
“OK, what are we doing now? Do you remember about that bird I brought in, shall we go and find another bird? Maybe let’s sleep now. There’s a noise outside! It must be a security breach! GREG! GREG! There’s a potential intruder. BARK! BARK! BARK! It’s an emergency!
“Hiya! Oh thanks for the bone. I’m tired now. I’m going to bark. I’m going upstairs. I’ve overdone it. Bye!”
So… yeah. What can we learn from that? Be more Barney? Say what you like about the big idiot but he certainly lives in the moment. He only deals with what’s in front of him. And when you’re feeling overwhelmed, that’s not a bad idea every now and then.
Focus more on solving the things you can solve. It’s hard for us non-dogs to do but trying to ground yourself in the here and now once in a while could perhaps help us find our old selves again. While I sit there panicking about the potential horrors that lurk around the corner, allowing my brain to catastrophise events that may never happen, Barney’s having the time of his life pulling apart on old basketball he found in the park. Who’s the sane one here?