navigating uncertain times, including covid19
the wisdom of lived experience
What I realised was important to me during COVID:
This period of uncertainty really taught me the importance of having a safe space – and the fact that this is not the same as just having a roof over your head. This year I have had the mantra – ‘I deserve to feel safe’, and ‘safety’ has looked different for me at different times. Sometimes safety looked like being able to carry hand sanitiser with me everywhere. Sometimes safety looked like setting boundaries. Sometimes safety looked like being wrapped in an Oodie on the couch playing PlayStation, and sometimes it looked like going for a hike or a bushwalk.
Because this pandemic helped me learn so much about what safety looks and feels like, and that it is possible to feel unsafe in your own home – even when you can pay the bills, have food in the fridge and toilet paper under the sink – I really felt for other people less fortunate than myself. I worried endlessly about transgender teenagers stuck at home with parents who didn’t accept them. I worried about people who couldn’t pay the rent, or who didn’t have a kitchen to cook sourdough in. But I took solace in stories of kindness on Facebook, and looked for ways I could create my own kindness in the world.
Tips, tricks and strategies that help me navigate uncertain times, including COVID:
I think self-care is so important, but it has to be done within a community that respects your boundaries and wellbeing. I am so lucky that my partner not only helps prioritise self-care in our house she actually champions it – and we remind each other when we haven’t had enough sleep, when our brains are making up stories (internalising things) or when we need to play with some sensory toys.
When restrictions lifted, I felt my mental health be hit the hardest, not only was it winter (which is always a tough time for me) but I had forgotten some of the things I used to do to keep well. I ended up sitting down and writing a list of things I used to do that made my heart sing – things like camping, seeing friends, watching the footy and going to places like the museum or zoo. Then I prioritised them in my schedule.
Words that describe my experiences before, during and after COVID:
Before: Bushfires | Smoke | Grief
During: anxiety | Cleaning | Fear
After: Gratitude | Connection | Kindness
During the ‘Circuit Breaker’: Anxious | Numb | Grief
What decision makers and service providers need to know/do for people living through uncertainty and tough times:
Whilst during COVID I felt concerned about the virus itself (anxiety and distress around getting unwell or making others unwell is part of my lived experience) I was less concerned than others seemed to be about issues like unemployment, housing, or social isolation. The reason for this was because of my lived experience – I have been unemployed before for long periods, I have had almost all my belongings packed in storage as I lived a nomadic lifestyle and I have been in hospital for long periods of time. The emotions I felt during this pandemic (including a fear of contamination) are all BIG feelings I have had before. Because they weren’t new to me, I knew how to manage them.
For me, uncertainty has been in my life a long time, and I know all too well that things can change in an instant, money comes and goes, and we can never take our health for granted. I know there are so many other people with lived experiences like mine who have wisdom to share, and I really felt for people experiencing uncertainty for the first time. I think it is important for decision makers and service providers to know this is not unprecedented. This is not a novel event. Whilst not global, uncertainty affects people everyday. And those people represent a wealth of knowledge we should be investing in and learning from.
by Tanya, LELAN Team Member from SA