If my life were a film or book (as I still so desperately wish…) the follow-up blog post to Strong Girl Summer would be an empowering and anthemic read, a rousing review of how inspired and changed I’ve become. Written as I sit at my desk, like Carrie in Sex and The City – pulling faces to myself as I gather my profound reflections from having lived life to it’s fullest. Charlotte 8.0 (or whatever number I’m on at this point) would have arrived and would be here to stay. Sadly, but not embarrassingly as I write with no shame here, it’s not going to be.
I’ll be honest folks, it’s all been a bit shit lately. Nothing particularly bad has happened, but nothing particularly good or great has happened either. I feel flat. Totally deflated and bitterly tired. All the time. I genuinely feel like I’m surviving on a day-to-day basis, existing and doing what I can to get by. It feels as if I’m wasting my life, stuck in a purgatory of sort-of my own making whilst waiting for life to begin.
I’ve a strong suspicion that I’m not the only one feeling this way. In fact, it’s what inspired the title for this blog post. Since last year, mostly March for my UK readers – earlier for any international visitors – we have all experienced a global trauma. We have all experienced something that had previously only existed in textbooks and works of fiction. It’s one of the only things in our lifetime that 99.9% of the world’s population will have endured in some capacity. But that capacity and that extent differs so so greatly. Not a single person in the world, not even in the same household, will have had the same experience over the past year and months. The country in which we reside, the county in which we reside, where our families live, the size of our families, our race, our class, our gender, our age – every single one of these factors will have played a part in our experience and our comprehension of what exactly we have endured.
If Covid was the Titanic, we’ve all ended up in different sized lifeboats. The very existence of those lifeboats, the weariness of our spirits are as we drift within them, those are things we share. But the size of that lifeboat, and our capacity for how much more we can take, that’s the big difference. The thing that can divide us and make it all feel so brutally overwhelming. The thing that makes us feel like our lifeboat isn’t floating well enough, isn’t stable enough.
The thing that makes it feel like our lifeboat is sinking.
I’ve been consuming as many think pieces and reflections on the past year as I can find. It’s not just a fascination from a sociological standpoint (although people really are bloody weird, brilliant and absolutely fascinating) but a desperate search for answers. A pointless grasp at understanding something that really can’t be understood. A yearning to know that I am doing okay. That it is all going to be okay.
I wish I could give you that, an assurance that it’s all going to get better soon. I can’t tell you how much I wish I could tell you and myself that. But what I can do is say that I’m not okay, and it’s okay if you’re not feeling okay either.
Yesterday, during my daily debrief with my housemate, she made a point I’ve thought about near constantly since. When I vented, yet again, over not feeling together or whole and in fact really bloody lost – when everyone looked sorted, certain and found – she pointed out I’d made that conclusion from social media and personal accounts. I’m holding myself to account of a standard that doesn’t exist, a curated editions of people’s lives that will often scarily touch beyond the surface of what is actually going on or how they feel.
Whether my social media, or how I present myself in person actually reveal it, here’s what’s going on under the surface. My body constantly aches from Long Covid. By 4pm each day my brain is clouded by brain fog and my thoughts become harder to gather. I’m struggling to sleep and the sleep I do get barely makes a dent to my tiredness levels. I’m terrified that it might take the 2 year recovery time the Post-Covid clinic anticipates. I feel lonely all the time, craving intimacy to an extent I fear can be seen and felt from miles away. I feel unwanted, undeserving of affection and attention. I don’t feel good enough for my job and ground down by how I wish I was better at it. I feel jealous all the time of other writers and of opportunities that feel so out of my reach. I feel broken, held together by increasingly unsticky Sellotape that could fall apart any minute. I fear I’m wasting my life and on the wrong path, not making the right choices. I just don’t feel enough.
But hopefully, by admitting all of that, by acknowledging those terrors and unadmittables in the depths of these psychological icebergs – maybe then I’m starting to make steps to ensure my lifeboat keeps on floating. And maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance it’s helped yours a little bit too.
*Being a bit earnest here, but please do get in touch if you liked what you read here. Not only does it let me know that someone is actually reading this (which will never not be just the most amazing thing ever) but also it’s incredible to hear these thoughts resonate. I’ve had a bunch of messages in recent weeks with feedback and I can’t tell you how much they mean.
Hi Charlotte. I’m so sorry you’re having an awful time with long covid. I try to imagine how frustrating and exhausting the brain fog must be. However none of that is apparent in your excellent writing, I tried to think of something positive to inspire you. One thing to take out of your situation is that you are writing from a pretty unique perspective at a unique time. I realise this might come across as very crass and showing a lack of empathy for your situation, but I think your diary/blog of the long covid experience from someone so articulate is extraordinarily helpful to others who are suffering and those trying to understand what its like. Maybe you could list these blogs under a heading on your website to make them easier to find.
I am not sure if this is been helpful, but I wish you the best with your recovery and hope you continue to write more.
Thanks so much Marek, this means the world! Fully agree with you about making the blog more functional – I’ve no idea where to start, so working it all out is one of my goals for the summer hols 🙂