On the evening of the 28th August, my cat began her carefully scheduled saunter into my bedroom. Her goal – as always – was simple. First, she would knock my water bottle off my desk, then sharpen her claws on what she perceived to be the most valuable object in the room, before finally rolling around on my fresh bedsheets just enough to cover their entire surface area in a thin layer of fur.
On this occasion, however, she froze in the doorway. She looked around, as bewildered and wide-eyed as a cat will ever allow themselves to look, turned on her heels and left. I didn’t see her for several hours.
You see, my family were moving house, so my room had been almost entirely emptied. There was nothing to knock ever, no valuables to damage, and no new bedsheets to ruin. From the cat’s perspective it had all happened overnight, and she found such a sudden disruption to her routine more than a little bit distressing.
This phenomenon is certainly not unique to cats, I’m sure you’ll agree; a lot has gone missing from our own lives in recent months. It was gradual and almost imperceptible at first, but before we knew it, we had moved from what we once called normality to the way that we live now.
As it stands, many of us have not been able to see friends or family for an extended period of time, most of us have experienced disruptions to our jobs and/or our education, and all of us have experienced changes in routine. However minor or major these adjustments have been on an individual level, we cannot underestimate the effect that they can have on our collective mental health and wellbeing. As complex as human beings believe themselves to be, we are all creatures of habit and we all crave procedure. Even the most spontaneous among us struggle without some familiarity.
Certainly, some will have suffered more than others, and it’s incredibly easy to look at specific situations that our peers find themselves in and compare them with our own.
‘I couldn’t cope with what they’re dealing with’, we think. ‘How can I complain when so many others have it worse?’.
If you’ve been faced with these thoughts, congratulations – you are likely a kind and empathetic person. However, we must remember that the experiences of others do not invalidate our own feelings. Whatever your emotional response has been to the events unfolding around you, your thoughts are valid, important, and worth discussing.
Just as a housecat can never comprehend real estate, much of the current world situation is beyond our understanding. Uncertainty has the capacity to be scary in any form, but some of what we have to live with on a day-to-day basis now can be paralysing. Sometimes we feel the need to run away and hide from it all.
Forgive yourself for fearing the future, for missing the past, and for wishing the present was different. Take no shame from feelings of sadness or anxiety about changes that are out of your control, but feel empowered to make changes of your own. Give yourself permission to seek relief, but do your best to seek it in a healthy way.
You are not enduring this alone; we have all been affected in one way or another. Sometimes that reality can make our own struggles seem small or insignificant. But it has also gifted us a phonebook full of empathetic voices, more than eager to talk about the worries, fears, and hopes that we all share.
Don’t let change get the better of you.
Start a conversation.
You’ll be glad that you did.
Xav, Editor and Media Manager at PROJECT:TALK CIC
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