Hello everyone. Are you alright? If so, can you tell me how you manage? Because I’m dying to know.
I was recently launched into the real world as a university graduate, and I’m still not over it. I keep “forgetting” to pick up my diploma so I don’t have to deal with the realities of no longer being a student, but a full-grown adult. It still feels unreal to write down my occupation as “writer” instead of “student”. My Tallinja bus card still says student, and I’m keeping it that way.
I was once told the brains are fully developed at age 21. Whether that's true or not, I never thought I would make it to 21. Yet here I am, still roaming this planet. And to be honest, my brains feel anything but developed. It’s like a bowl of soggy cereal up there.
I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, me, or the time of the year. 2020 was a rough one, and it took me till the day of today to recover from my mental health trauma. Sometimes it feels like I’m still recovering. And maybe I am. While I feel sane and relatively stable, I’m starting to realise mental illness isn’t a matter of recovering and being fine. It’s something to take care of, every single day.
I’ve integrated healthy practices into my daily life. Good sleep and good food are crucial. I feel drained when I drink a few days after each other, I feel depressed when I order food several days in a row. But generally, I’m doing fine.
I am absolutely blessed to live in Malta right now. In all selfishness, I’m fond of the barely-existent Covid measures. Life continues, but with a mask. I went to a party last weekend. I’m not proud of it, and wasn’t planning to broadcast it, but I did it. And for one night we caught a glimpse of our old life, nostalgia washing over us as if we’re settled down with three kids. We’re in our twenties, for fuck’s sake. Weren’t these supposed to be the best years of our lives?
I’m testing the grounds. How messed up can I get before I end up in a psych ward again? Where are my limits? How much can I endure? How far does my mind stretch?
Who I was before the psychosis was different from who I am now. In a way, the pandemic has been good for me. While I was slowly recovering and getting out of the house more and more, there were no major events I missed out on. I didn’t end up getting peer-pressured into staying out all night and popping pills. I didn’t suffer any FOMO, because there was little to miss out on. In fact, I probably slept more in 2020 than I ever did before.
And I think I’m doing alright. All the things are as they are supposed to be. I eat three times a day, I sleep eight hours a night. I see my friends often enough and talk to my family regularly. I exercise and write. I work - not a lot, but enough to sort of sustain myself. And I enjoy life, generally speaking.
Yet I can’t understand how all of you do it. How you wake up at 7.30 when you have to, how you work a job next to studying, how you make it on time to your work every single day. I can’t comprehend how you manage to prepare healthy meals for yourself every day. I don’t get how you turn on your computer at 9am and start doing whatever you’re supposed to do. How you feel generally neutral. (Do you really?)
I don’t understand how anyone can work forty hours per week, for someone else, doing things they’d rather not. I can’t imagine selling an hour of my life for 10 euros, 160 times per month. And even if you enjoy what you do, I don’t understand how you can do it for forty hours per week. Am I the only that goes clinically insane after focusing for an hour and a half straight?
So - you graduate from university and suddenly you’re there, in the middle of the real world, all by yourself. Suddenly it’s up to you to make money and to have a daily routine. Suddenly no one cares about what you do, as long as you do something, as long as you contribute to society in a way. You somehow need to make money and do your groceries and laundry, you need to cook and clean and have fun at the same time.
And while I’m struggling to adjust to the realities of a recently graduated human, Covid has changed the world as we know it. Malta’s prime minister announced new measures today, and they hit harder than I hoped they would. We’re not going into a full lockdown, stores are staying open. But restaurants are closing tomorrow and we’re not allowed to meet with more than four households in one place.
That’s just one of the many things that add to my current low mood. These are other reasons:
My grandma sent me a handmade postcard because shops are closed in the Netherlands - I miss my family a lot
I lost my ambition and future plans
I don’t really have money
I’m literally mentally ill
I can’t afford to see my therapist
I want to be held by someone I love
I lost my phone, money and bus card, which led to stress
Stress is a trigger for either depression or mania
We can’t organise student events anymore
Some of the sports I’m doing are being cancelled
I wouldn’t say I’m depressed, because I’ve been worse. But life feels mundane, and I don’t have a lot of hope left for the future. I know there’s no reason to, because things are looking up: there’s a vaccine, the end of the pandemic might actually be near. Soon we’ll be able to dance and fly and kiss again.
So instead I tell myself I don’t have the right to feel sad, because there are people that are worse off than I am and I’ve got a roof and food and safety. Because I’ve got good things going for me. These are the good things I have going for me:
I just got offered a contract for a writing job, with someone I enjoy working with and who teaches me a lot while paying me well
I have pretty great friends I’m seeing on a near-daily basis
The sun’s out
It hasn’t actually rained in weeks I think
The cute guy in the café smiled at me and I smiled back
Today has been alright actually
I’ve done groceries and cooked for myself for almost a week now
Malta is probably the best place to be during this pandemic
I lost my phone but I still have my old phone and it was really easy to get a new SIM card with the same number
I am doing what I can with mental health organisations to spread awareness and talk to people suffering throughout the pandemic
I’m close to the sea at all times
I can still go scuba diving and surfing
I stargazed last weekend to feel a little less significant and reminded myself we’re just monkeys on a floating rock
Music in my ears
My brain functions
My friend told me to take it day by day. To not think about what’ll happen in the next year or so, but make sure that at least today is okay. And it is. Today is alright. And maybe tomorrow will be, too. Maybe life is just a whole lot of todays. And if most of those are alright, it's okay.
But tell me, genuinely: how do you do it? How have you been coping with life during a year-long pandemic? How do you stay sane when you don't enjoy your job? How do you feel about life when the future is uncertain? How do all of you just do it?! Help a girl out.