The pandemic has been a difficult time for us all, and yet there have been some positives to come out of it. Chloe Quinn tells us what she has positively learnt about herself and life over the past two years.
Trigger Warning: Mentions of mental illness, suicide, anorexia nervosa.
[Image: a white woman with brown hair and wearing shorts and a tank top and ankle bracelet, is sitting in a red checked hammock. She is peering around the side of the hammock. She is in a lounge room that has parquet floors, and antique furniture. There are some plants and pictures dotted around the room.]
by Chloe Quinn.
2020 and 2021 were two of the most challenging years we’ve ever faced worldwide. Yet, I’ve managed to find many valuable lessons and heal in more ways than ever before. While many have found these years to be brutal on their mental health, I’ve found it to be largely the opposite.
At the beginning of 2020 I was in a dark place. My partner and I were at breaking point and my mental health was steadily declining. The previous year had broken me, and I was dragging myself into the next decade held together only by hope. I’d suffered a severe burnout and relapse into Anorexia Nervosa. All while dealing with the traumatic loss of my grandparents. I was, for lack of a better term, overcome with constant thoughts of suicide.
Still, there was a part of me that expected 2020 to be ‘my year’. I was meant to beat anorexia for good, begin to travel and generally enjoy my life. Although my travel plans didn’t make it past my driveway, I somehow managed to find a part of myself that I’ve not seen in over sixteen years. In the face of a worldwide pandemic I was forced to slow down and was able to find my way back to a girl (now woman) that had been missing for the majority of my life.
Now, as I write this securely in 2022, I’m able to reflect on all the lessons COVID-19 has taught not only me but my husband.
Your health is your wealth.
Last year I was taught that I shouldn’t be embarrassed for wanting to protect my own health.This includes both mental and physical health. I’ve cancelled plans, stayed indoors more and even (begrudgingly) took six months of isolation just to protect myself and my family. The old me would have felt embarrassed and guilty, and don’t get me wrong, I did. But as time went on and it became apparent just how serious this all was, I saw it as a necessary step rather than something to be ashamed of.
But what has this taught me in the long run? It taught me that even when COVID-19 is a distant memory, it’s still important to look after your own health and wellbeing. There’s no shame in taking medication, nor is there shame in taking a day or two to cope with personal health issues. We should also be more understanding of each other and any hidden ailments others could be going through. Remember, all struggles aren’t necessarily visible.
You can do a lot more when you slow down than when you’re overworked.
I’m just as shocked as you to hear that we can actually achieve a lot more by taking the time to slow down. There is such a thing as moderation, and the harder we push ourselves, the closer to burnout we get. It’s important to take time to relax, unwind and simply do nothing every once in a while. Without downtime we run the risk of not only increased levels of stress, but all the side effects that can come with it which can hinder our productivity in the long run.
When you’re off work, be off work. That includes putting down the phone or laptop, and taking time to do the things you enjoy. If work is something you enjoy, find something else to fill the gap.
Appreciate the time you have with loved ones. It’s not always guaranteed.
This lesson actually came to me from a combination of both 2019 and 2020 when I lost three very important people to me within the space of 18 months. Now, more than ever before, we should be reminded of the fragility of human life. While many of us are lucky to see another day, it’s never a guarantee.
Life is about the little things.
Never mind the big houses and fancy cars, life is about the small things. It’s about the things we take for granted, the flowers we don’t stop long enough to smell and even the time spent cuddling with a pet. Sometimes it’s just about that extra long lie in on New Year’s day, with a cup of coffee and a cat for comfort. As I’ve said on numerous occasions throughout, slow down and take time to just be.
You can’t control everything, everyone or every situation: Let it go.
I’m a type A personality. I like to know what’s going on, when and how I can control it. Although I’m able to handle my controlling nature more, I still find myself itching to take control of things my husband isn’t doing fast enough (or at all).
If you’re like me and find yourself rising to every occasion, even the ones that aren’t meant for you; Let it go. It serves us no good to try and control the world or the people around us. If anything, it leaves us with more stress and frustration and, ultimately, an uncomfortable life.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.
It’s taken me until now to not only learn what boundaries are, but to learn how to implement them. I’ve watched as generational boundaries have been broken again and again in my family. As a daughter I was expected to continue the tradition of ‘boundaries, what boundaries?’. But this year, with the help of COVID-19, I was able to begin to build boundaries not only for myself, but for the future generations.
It’s okay to say NO when you don’t want to do something or go somewhere. Equally it’s okay to say YES when everyone else is saying NO. Understand? Boundaries are all about protecting ourselves, whether that be from other people, from opinions or from events that may trigger a harmful emotional response.
You can make do with a lot less than you think you can.
2020 was the year of lockdowns. A year when we could no longer nip into town to do our shopping. Some of us were made redundant, others were furloughed and some worked night and day to keep the world turning. No matter who you are, you had to do more with less. Less money, less freedom, less time with extended family, less food etc. Although difficult for many, my husband and I learned that we can do more with the little food we have left. Instead of letting things go bad, we made soup and obscure dishes to keep us going. Instead of throwing things away, we started to think about what else they could be used for and who else would benefit?
Healing takes longer than you think.
Healing is a journey. It’s not a destination, nor is there a timeframe on healing. It takes as long as it takes, and that might be different for every person and circumstance.
Chloe Quinn is a freelance writer & Illustrator, a proud cat Mum and is recovering from anorexia. She is also a mental health ambassador. You can find Chloe here on twitter - @Nyxiesnook and on Instagram here. - @Nyxtrix