I feel as though I crept back home from London ahead of the second lockdown in the pandemic without really mentioning why or what happened. It wasn’t intentional to keep it quiet, I just focused on settling back in at home after the lockdown rules changed than explain any of those decisions – despite being quite open on here usually with the ol’ life changes.
I signed on my flat back in June/July as things were opening up and with the knowledge restrictions may tighten again, but things were improving steadily. As I discuss in this blog, I have always wanted to live in London, so when the opportunity arose to live with some friends it was one of those, I’ll always regret it if I don’t kind of moments.
The problem is, nothing about this year is going to plan for anyone, so it’s probably no surprise that it didn’t work out.
Whilst I loved my flat and my friends (and they’re top pals for being a-ok with all of this) my mental health deteriorated rapidly.
It’s really lonely being a single person during the pandemic in London. I think the misinterpretation when being single is that you’re lonely as you miss dating, which couldn’t be more wrong. You miss seeing friends, going for drinks, a dance, a movie, a walk, a musical. You miss connecting with your people and 99% of those are (and always will be) your friends.
A lot of the restrictions have leant towards families and couples, with support bubbles offering single people of single households a lifeline, but it’s still difficult to do anything together within the government guidelines. Also, in the summer a walk in the park was quite appealing, in rainy October and freezing December (with 8 hours of day light) it’s not. And lets be honest, a virtual support network is not the same as real life.
Another factor that impacted my mental health a lot is that the restrictions keep changing. By the time things open up again, they’re slammed shut a few weeks later which really doesn’t help the situation; as soon as you adapt to the rules, they change. I know Tabby at Take Heart spoke about the reality of London in the pandemic as well and why she decided to move back up north for now. It really resonated with me.
It does effect you mentally not being able to go out and see people, do whatever it is you usually do to cope with the lower points in life. I learnt that I London does feel like home, but everything that appeals to me about London, isn’t there right now.
I’m an introverted extrovert (more here on that) and while I enjoy my own company, I love seeing people, exploring new places (don’t we all) and living as opposed to ‘just getting through’. I could have kept going and ‘pushing on’ through the loneliness and seeping depression, but they are no prizes for grin and bearing it. You don’t have to sacrifice your mental health for the sake of doing ‘what’s expected’ or not looking like ‘a failure’ or a ‘quitter’.
I had thought I’d stay until 2021, but then the second lockdown came in and I didn’t want to put myself through living in one room without seeing my family for a month. All the reasons I moved to London – work opportunities, seeing friends, going to the theatre, great restaurants weren’t there anymore.
I’m grateful for my friends who have been wonderful throughout and that they’ve got a new pal moving in with them next year so it’s all been worked out.
If there’s anything to take from this it’s to do whatever you need to do to get through this mentally straining time. If that’s moving home, move home. If it’s living away from home, live away from home. It doesn’t matter if you change your mind or you try something and it doesn’t work. That’s ok. Try something new.
It doesn’t matter what it looks like, if it makes you feel better so you can get through this time then please do it.
I’ll move back to London one day and I’m sure I’ll be there in 2021 for some work and all the fun I can afford and stomach (when the world reopens). But I need to prioritise my mental health.
It’s been one hell of a year, which has only been made worse by the last minute announcement yesterday that ‘Christmas is cancelled’. So be kind to yourself, do what feels right for you and remember that one day we’ll sit in a coffee shop and hear the bustle of people going about their day, the sound of your friend shouting your name across the club dance floor, and hugs will be available in abundance.
If you do need mental health support I’d recommend these amazing charities: