The Obligatory Lockdown Rant

Well in typical me fashion, I disappeared off the face of the earth for a bit and it’s now been nearly 6 months since I last posted here. I’m not sure if any of you still read this word vomit, but I am very much in need of somewhere to vent, so here it is anyway!

So, other than a global pandemic, what’s happened since I last posted? Well after getting an initial extension for my master’s due to a serious illness*, I ended up needing a second extension due to a combination of things including depression. The last year hasn’t been the best and I initially felt terrible about once again being left behind while my classmates had long since graduated. It also meant that even before lockdown started, I had already gone about 6 months having barely spoken to anyone except my family, my boyfriend, and mental health professionals. I’ve also long since discovered that due to my perfectionistic tendencies, academia is not good for my mental health. I finally finished my master’s project in mid-April and had to then immediately start looking for work as I’d been living off my savings for the past 4 months and my student loan ran out in August 2019. I actually had a job interview for a seasonal ecology role back in March, which seemed to go well, but my application has been put on hold for now due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I can’t do any other ecology-related work for similar reasons. I was starting to get really desperate, as my savings were very close to running out altogether, but finally managed to get a job at the same supermarket I used to work at, doing the exact same role.

*I’ve since made a full recovery so I’m not at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19.

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)

I felt very lucky just to have any job at first (and still do, to some extent, given that there are people far worse off), but the way we’re treated by both customers and management has made it quite unbearable at times. There is a one-way system in the shop but no one enforces it and many of the customers ignore it and any idea of social distancing is completely out the window, as customers come far too close to us and it’s impossible to socially distance from colleagues. There are still too many customers being let into the store at once, and there can be more than 15 people in particularly busy aisles at one time. The customers therefore get very impatient and cut in in front of each other and us. We’ve had to deal with all kinds of abuse from frustrated and impatient customers, and from a management team that doesn’t even treat us like human beings. On the plus side, one of my colleagues said that it’s the most appalling treatment by a management team she’s ever experienced in any job, so if I can make it through this, hopefully I will actually be treated a bit better than like a pile of dog excrement in future jobs! I actually had to (politely but sternly) ask one customer to keep his distance the other day as he cut in so close to me that he was practically breathing down my neck. Even if we weren’t in the middle of a global pandemic, there is such a thing as personal space, and he was in clear violation of it, despite the rest of the aisle being totally clear. You know things are bad when even I start to tell people off. I really can’t for the life of me understand why grown adults can’t either say “excuse me”, wait a few seconds for the other person to move out of the way, or (if the person is taking a really long time) stare at the object they want off the shelf until the other person gets the idea. So yeah…working at the supermarket again during this time hasn’t exactly endeared me any more to humanity. I don’t think I have encountered so many selfish, entitled, impatient or downright nasty people in my life as I have in the past month. Please, PLEASE, be nice to retail workers (or at least don’t be a total $@£%!) We’re people just like you, just trying to do our jobs. On the plus side, we are currently being provided with PPE, for those of us who choose to use it, but I’ve no idea how long that will last. Given that I come within 2 metres of probably in excess of 1,000 people who aren’t from my own household on a daily basis, it is a bit of a concern, especially as one of my sisters currently works in a care home. Absolutely no one from the management team has at any point asked any of us how we’re coping/ if we feel in any way unsafe, or if there is anything they can do to make the experience safer for us or customers. But it’s all good, because I’m getting paid minimum wage and risking my health and life (and those of my family) in order to be overworked, sleep deprived and have abuse hurled at me! It’s fantastic!

Linnet (Linaria cannabina)

Anyway…that’s my rant about work (nearly) over. I’ve been working full-time and while I do technically have a lot more time outside of work that I did during my master’s (during which time my work-life balance was basically non-existent), I am far too sleep deprived from both early starts and doing in excess of 20,000 steps most days that I often don’t have the energy to do much of anything. I don’t even know where the time goes. I sleep absolutely terribly here as my bedroom gets so hot in the late spring/ summer despite me never having the heating on and having the windows open all day and night. We also live close to a busy dual carriageway and with the window open, even with my earplugs in, the noise is constant, as is the noise of cars and people going past in the street outside while I’m trying to sleep. I’m also really sensitive to light when trying to sleep, and there is no way to block it all out. I even have one of those eye masks but it still doesn’t block enough of the light. I’ve been getting less than 6 hours of sleep most nights, which really isn’t healthy, especially on how much exercise I’m doing (and how much social anxiety I’m dealing with on a daily basis). I’m actually getting less sleep now than I was when I was doing bat dusk and dawn surveys last summer. I’m not really sure what I can do, other than trying to get some extra sleep when I get back from work.

Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

I suppose I’m lucky that my mum and stepdad are still letting me live here for drastically less than the average Edinburgh rent, even if it’s not the ideal situation for any of us. I hadn’t exactly planned on still living with my mum at this age (though to be fair, I also at one time hadn’t planned on being alive for long after my 18th birthday, so I suppose that’s a considerable improvement) but here I am. I suppose it helps that my three younger siblings are all still at home too (for now). My boyfriend and I were actually supposed to be moving in together this summer but obviously that’s been put on hold as a result of the lockdown. I haven’t seen him in person for 9 weeks now and I miss him terribly. It looks like the Scottish government will start easing us out of lockdown tomorrow so we hope to finally meet up again for a socially distanced walk soon, but it’ll be really hard to see each other and not be able to hug or even hold hands. I have even less of a life now that I did before I finished my master’s (yes, really!). It’s pretty much just work, walk the dog, and do couch to 5k twice a week, on the days when I actually have the energy (I’m definitely enjoying being able to eat as much as a man and still lose weight! I’m nearly back down at my target weight already.) I pretty much went straight from seasonal depression to lockdown without any respite in between, though I seem to have handled it fairly well, all things considered. The poor sleep definitely hasn’t helped my mental health though, and the intrusive thoughts (which seem to happen a lot more frequently when I’m not sleeping right) have returned.

I’m been feeling very, very lonely. I coped fairly well with lockdown at first as I’ve basically been in training for this (re: social isolation) my whole life, but even I have my limitations. Not being able to see my boyfriend is rough and I do worry that I’ve made him the only person in my life that I can truly talk to about anything. I don’t even bother telling my family how I feel as I don’t think they’d understand. My aim was to go along to more meetup/ other social groups after finishing my master’s, in an attempt to meet new friends/ acquaintances, but it looks like that’ll be on hold for quite some time yet. To be honest, I don’t know that I really have any hope of making friends at this stage. I haven’t ever really learned how and I feel that I’m too weird and too unlikeable for anyone to truly want to be friends with me. The situation with my colleagues at work has been making me feel miserable as well. I can just about have a one-on-one conversation (though I do worry a great deal that they think I’m a very odd person), but I just can’t seem to join in with group conversations at all. This has always been a huge problem for me. I assume that I’m not welcome and that no one else wants me there. Even if someone asks me questions and tries to bring me into the conversation, I assume they’re only doing it to be polite. Today at break time, I tried to show interest and lean in to the rest of the group (as much as I could while we were all sat at tables 2 metres apart) but no one took any notice. And I didn’t want to risk pretty much shouting at them (what with the social distancing measures) in an attempt to join in. No one sat with me. I get the feeling that other people really don’t like me very much, and it does (combined with the abuse from customers and management) strip away at my already virtually non-existent self-esteem. I often feel like there’s no point in even trying to talk to people because they’ll inevitably reject me for being weird and not like them anyway. I yearn for close friends but I have absolutely no idea how I would ever have any at this stage, and even if I did, I’m not sure I would have the courage.

Small Copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas)

The counselling that I was receiving previously has now stopped due to COVID-19 and I have no idea when it will resume. There were a few times when I felt it might be helping, but mostly I feel it hasn’t helped me that much. I sometimes felt that I’d be as well just throwing £10 into the sea every week. Still…it’s something I could do with right now. My boyfriend reckons that I may still be suffering from stress after everything that’s happened in the past year, but I don’t feel especially stressed, I just feel miserable much of the time. Maybe that’s just how I am. Nature walks on my days off are the highlight of my week at the moment, as sad as that might seem to some people. (In case you were wondering what all the terrible photos of wildlife were about! I was lucky enough to see a Kingfisher a couple of weeks ago but unfortunately didn’t have my camera with me.) It’s the only time I really feel alive these days. I’ve been getting really into my birding recently and took an online course on bird calls and songs a while back. (I’m not sure if this is the sort of thing that “normal” people – particularly people my age – enjoy, but it’s what I enjoy!) I can’t wait until I can resume wildlife surveys and hopefully start working towards becoming a proper ecologist, if it’s not too late now.

I will try to post further updates (including a bunch of blog posts that I’d started writing months ago but didn’t finish) when I can.

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8 Responses to The Obligatory Lockdown Rant

  1. I just happened to stumble across this post and I am glad that I did. I cannot imagine the stress experienced working in a supermarket, while having insults hurled at you. When I get stressed enough atm just going in there to buy food…
    Also I relate to the feeling of finding it difficult to connect with others. It is so difficult, and the fear of being dislikes/not accepted can feel so overwhelming.

    • Gemma says:

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, I think it tries the patience of even the most patient people at the moment. Sorry to hear that you can relate. Though I think it’s also good, in a way, to know that we aren’t alone.

  2. klodo says:

    I do hope that after all this is over you manage to get into ecology or something nature related. Working in something that you are not only passionate about but is also important is so much better than making rich arseholes even richer. I was thinking last week that working in a supermarket must be just about one of the worst jobs going at the moment. Its bad enough going in for 10 minutes let alone working there full time. All these big companies seem to think its OK to treat their staff like slaves. It was noticeable that in my last job just moving up from working in the warehouse to one of the offices people began to treat you better, its almost like a modern day class system. Anyway I hope you are not stuck there for too long an I like the nature pictures. Oh , I also suffer from too much light in the morning. being a mad person I actually use scarves to rap round by head to keep from walking up to early. Not so good when its hot though!

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks klodo. Yes, I hope so! They really do and I think it’s only going to get worse. I can’t imagine small businesses ever being able to get away with treating their employees like that. Thanks. Yes, I can’t imagine having a scarf wrapped around your head would be very comfortable in this heat. I’m definitely buying a proper blackout blind one day, if I can ever afford it.

  3. Anita says:

    Gosh, work sounds bad. I am also in a company where the management are showing their “true colours” during this pandemic. Hopefully you won’t have to stay in you job much longer. I too have been feeling very lonely with no one to talk to. I understand your pain.

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks for your comment, Anita. Sorry to hear your company aren’t treating you very well either. And sorry that you can also relate. Hopefully things improve for us both soon.

  4. Hi! Been following your journal since you were 19. Honestly, you come across as intelligent, interesting, articulate and introspective. I would very much love to be your friend irl – but I live allll the way in Singapore. I have social anxiety and depression all my life (surprise, surprise). Tried CBT, EMDR, MBRS 8-week classes (the most helpful so far), talk therapy…I’ve done most of them. Now, at 30, I’m thinking of getting on SSRIs. Do you have any experiences with antidepressants? I can’t really remember if I read about them on your blog.

    • Gemma says:

      Hi takeoffeh. Thank you so much for your comment. I’ve never heard of MBRS before. What does it involve, if you don’t mind me asking?

      To be honest, my experience with SSRIs hasn’t been great but please don’t let that stop you from pursuing them as a treatment option, as everyone reacts differently to them. I’ve tried fluoxetine, sertraline and citalopram before but didn’t find any of them particularly beneficial. I’m obviously not qualified to give medical advice but from what I’ve heard from other people, it will sometimes take a few different medications before you find one that is helpful. Personally, I’m reluctant to try them again right now but I may try them again in the future. The only other thing I would say is that they can often have some quite unpleasant side effects and also withdrawal side effects. But the side effects should subside a bit after you’ve been on them a while (if not, the doctor/ psychiatrist may try you on a different type of medication or treatment combination). Sorry I can’t be of more help with this!

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