Guest post: What lock-down looked like to me

By Kath

My friend and favourite fellow blogger, Christa asked me to write a guest blog for her blog (ahead of her Blogtober series) – on whatever I liked. She suggested lock-down as a subject – and being that I haven’t written very much on my own blog for a while, I’m glad she did. I’m not sure I’d come up with very much if left to my own devices right now.

To be fair to me, I do mostly write about new movies and books I’ve recently read – and for a good chunk of this year there have been no new movies (certainly not while the cinemas were closed), and I’ve just not been able to concentrate properly on a good book while all this has been happening.

If any of you have been checking in on my blog this year you’ll have already seen what I have been up to during lock-down, and the months that followed but I will try and do a round up for those of you who don’t know me, or those who just haven’t kept up with what’s going on with me.

It’s been a weird old year for me. Firstly, I moved house. The housemate I’d been living with since my last landlord died – forcing me to move out so they could sell my flat – needed some headspace and kindly gave me 6 months notice to move in October last year.

However, I managed to find an ideal flat within 4 months and moved out in February. Good thing too as come March we were all locked down. It was partly a really good thing I moved when I did, firstly because I think my housemate and I might have killed each other had we been forced to spend lock-down together 24/7, but also because if I’d left it any longer I might not have been able to move until, well around now I guess. Which would have been nearly a year rather than 6 months after he’d given me notice to move.

But going from living with my housemate, and having company whenever I wanted it, to suddenly not only living alone but also working from home full time too, it was rather isolating to say the least. I was grateful to still have a job though, when many people were either being furloughed or laid off completely. It meant my days still had structure, and more importantly, I still had something to DO for 8 solid hours each day.

I also:

Started a new TV obsession

Some time ago, a friend of mine sent me the first series of a TV show she thought I might like – Outlander. I’d never got around to watching it and so thought now was the time. Within about 5 episodes I was hooked. I devoured all 5 seasons within 3 months and then started on the audio books – as I can listen to those while I work. I’m currently on book 7 of 8 and am thoroughly down the rabbit hole.

Joined several virtual “watch-alongs” with groups of friends

Three nights per week I simultaneously watch a show of our choosing and chat along with the group. So far we’ve worked our way through The Stranger, Dirty John Season 1, Unforgotten, Dead to Me, Wisting, Self Made, Good Girls, The Society, Knightwatch, The Golden Girls Season 1 – and most recently, Des.

Took part in a regular pub quiz

I take part in Jay’s Virtual Pub Quiz on Thursdays and Saturdays with two different groups of friends.

Joined a writing group

Last but not least, I joined a ghost story writing course and met a fantastic group of women writers. We have now formed an off-shoot of the main group where we meet virtually two nights per week to do writing sprints – 10 minutes then a chat – 20 minutes then a chat/cup of tea – 30 minutes and then a final chat before signing off.

I cannot begin to tell you how much being a part of this group, and all of the others I mentioned, has meant to me during this mad, bad year. As well as having Covid to cope with I also lost my mum this year in her battle with dementia. All of the people I have mentioned above have helped to support me while I come to terms with her loss, all the while not being able to see anyone and get within 2m of them to give me a much needed hug.

I have no doubt I’d have lost my marbles this year if it weren’t for all the amazing people in my life keeping me sane. So I want to say a big shout out to those of you who have helped, no matter how small you think your contribution has been. It’s meant the world to me, so thank you.

How have you all been coping with lock-down?

Feel free to ramble at me like I’ve just rambled at you all. You’ll find me at Lady K’s Movie Dialogue.

Image of woman with laptop by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash 

Friends of the blog

In a bid to stoke the creative fires I’ve asked a couple of my favourite bloggers to guest on here over the next few weeks. My brief has been very casual: “Write whatever you like” but I did suggest a lock-down flavouring.

Maybe that’s just me being selfish, I want to know how other people have been coping since March.

Expect gems from Jill, Meghan and Kath – all writers I greatly admire. I don’t know what they all have planned – and it doesn’t have to be themed at all – all I do know is they’ll be good reads and I like good reads.

In the meantime, if anyone chances upon this post and feels like sharing something, just drop me a line and I’ll probably share it.

All topics considered except Trump/J.K. Rowling appreciation or any sort of bigotry.

Who’s in?

Guest Post: RuPaul, Childline and Me

For nearly a year now I have been volunteering for Childline, so I thought, what better subject to write about for Christa as the first anniversary approaches of something that has changed my life.

When I initially applied I was living in Aberdeen, having moved there from Glasgow for – as always – a boy.  I found being in Aberdeen very difficult; I was a three hour train journey away from my friends and it took me ages to find even a part time job. I wasn’t adjusting very well to my support network being so far away and to having nothing to do but shuffle about a flat that was a tad “in the sticks” all day.

I am not somebody who does very well having too much time on my hands. I suffer from anxiety, so give me enough space and time and I will string myself up into a quivering mess with worry and stress. I also, as the Dr put it, have” touches of depression” so endless time to stare and churn over dark thoughts is to be avoided at all costs.

So, I was feeling miserable, lonely and without having much in the way of employment, didn’t feel like I had much to contribute – to the world. At all.

I felt under my BF’s feet and didn’t know how to adapt to my new situation. While he was taking everything in his stride and striving, I felt like I was curling up at the sides. It didn’t take long for the darkness to start creeping in at the edges, chewing  up any self-esteem I had. Hours would go by and I hadn’t moved from whichever spot my BF had left me in that morning, I hadn’t washed and I’m not convinced I always remembered to blink. I couldn’t face going outside. I’d spend all day like a housebound dog waiting for him to come home, literally sat at the window from about 4pm waiting for his car to turn into the driveway. The relief everyday when I saw that black Peugeot was heavenly.

My anxiety was getting pretty bad, not the worse its been, but getting there. I would get the shakes just thinking about having to walk the 4 minutes to the Spar. I got into this vicious circle where I believed the only good thing I could bring to the relationship was the certainty of milk in the fridge, but because I was feeling so slow and meaningless, going to the Spar became something I almost couldn’t face. All I had to do was buy a pint of milk – I couldn’t even get that right.

I needed to pull myself out of my slump, I was keeping how I felt a secret from my BF, depriving him of the chance of helping me. A stupid decision, and yes, I got out of it, but with hindsight I should have said something. I decided I needed something to fill my days, having so much empty time was giving my mind too much roaming space, too many gnarly horrible logs to look under. It needs a tighter leash. So I signed up for an OU introductory course in counselling. It was all theory based – lots of reading and researching – exactly what I needed! I found it really interesting and not only did it cement in  me that counselling was an avenue I wanted to pursue, it also helped me step back from my own thoughts and view everything I was feeling more logically.

One day when I was job hunting, a cheery, engaging and very green Childline advert popped up looking for volunteer counsellors. It was the enthusiastic, daring shove I was looking for. It promised the outlet I needed, the distraction I wanted, and the vindication I craved. The interview was the hardest I have ever endured, but I was OVER THE MOON when I got a call telling me I had been accepted.

But, things then went pretty wrong again and having accepted the place I found myself having to move back to Glasgow. Out of the blue, My BF ended our relationship and it felt like I had been hit by a train. Just as I thought my life was taking the right turn it was smashed into a million pieces. So, I was back to staring, back to thinking, crying until I was sick, back to feeling nothing and like no-one.  I resisted and resisted getting my Childline application transferred to the Glasgow office – this, for me, would be finally admitting that everything was over with my BF and I really, really didn’t want to do that. Every time the woman from the Glasgow office called me about it I had another excuse, then another. If I moved my application then I was DEFINITELY going back to Glasgow, and it was definitely, definitely all over.

During that time, I spent most of my time up in bed, I stopped working and festered with my broken heart. But I was saved by a man, no, many men, in wigs. Surrounded by decimated tissues I binge watched Ru-Paul’s Drag Race – and never have I found refuge and peace in such a bizarre place before! It’s pomp and colour, its glamour and irreverence was the exact opposite of what I was feeling – I was a stinking, blotchy, sweaty sack of shit. But it turned out to be exactly what I needed! I found the whole thing so uplifting and beautiful that it managed to shake me out of my trance. I saw life again as some daft, silly romp full of chances for fun and that I could just fucking get through it on my own. I was going to get my head up, hit that runway and sissy my walk.

Before I got to the end of season 4 I was phoning the Glasgow NSPCC office to confirm a training spot and it was honestly the best decision I’ve ever made.

Whenever I have dark pukey moments now I have something to immediately counteract them- something I did all by myself, something that scares me each week  but that I still do. I  feel appreciated – when do you really feel that way at work? – and I like that I have this lovely, giving thing in my life. Hearing a young person laughing at some goofy joke you’ve made, having been in floods of tears half an hour earlier is glorious. Or just having them go “huh! I didn’t know that, that’s cool! I feel so much better” is THE BEST thing. Since last October I can honestly say that I like the person that I am now and that I deserve good things to happen to me. I never, EVER thought I would feel that way.

I have met wonderful people that make me howl with laughter, enrich my soul and make getting up at 4.30am on a Saturday morning so very worth it. It’s nearly my one year anniversary and its the charities 30th this year – I thank the world for its existence every day – it has done as much for me as it does for young people 24 hours a day.

I have recently been offered a full time job there, obviously I bit their hand off, but I was asked: “are  you going to carry on volunteering as well?”

– for the second time in my life, the decision was blissfully easy.

Guest Post: Depression Is Fun and Other Lessons from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Christa asked me to participate in her blog series focusing on inspiration and empowerment amidst all of the shit that has been this year.  I was both honored and terrified to contribute because (a) I don’t radiate positivity on my best day and (b) I’d been feeling the lowest I have in a long time (which realistically is probably a month) for nearly a solid week and I had trouble even getting through the weekend.

It’s well established that I can’t talk about anything topical without losing my shit.  (The first draft I put together reached a level of angst I haven’t achieved since my teenage journaling days.)  Other years have been a challenge too, but this year feels especially like a sucker punch to the gut.  I’m really tired of hearing about how the world is heading to hell in a handbasket when you know, the same thing was said about women riding a fucking bicycle.  (Thanks, Kate Beaton.)

That being said, I’ve still been staying up late to follow the Republican National Convention, which only succeeds in aggravating me right before bedtime.  I KNOW it’s bad for me, and I follow politics way more than I intend to because I care about social justice.  I honestly don’t know how you can be a librarian if you don’t since it’s essentially about helping people find information and learn things for themselves with no financial incentive whatsoever.

But so I don’t lose my goddamn mind (further), let’s talk about a familiar topic that is a mere stone’s throw away from the bad movie blog:  TV.  My latest binge-watch is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which is a relatively short binge as it’s only 18 episodes so far.  Despite what you might conclude from the show’s title and truly terrible promos, it’s an incredibly funny, subversive, musical dark comedy.

The show follows Rebecca Bunch, a career-driven New York lawyer about to get everything she’s always wanted and become partner at her law firm.  Or so she believes.  She receives a wake-up call in the form of a butter commercial and a chance meeting with Josh, her ex-boyfriend from summer camp 10 years prior.  Realizing she’s miserably unhappy, Rebecca impulsively moves to Josh’s hometown, West Covina (an LA suburb).

Stay with me because I KNOW the premise sounds cringe worthy, cliché, and anti-feminist.  But like so many current TV shows, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend takes a familiar premise and twists it into a self-aware, satirical social commentary.  And refreshingly, Rebecca carries a great deal of emotional baggage without being dismissed as crazy (except, you know, in the show’s name).

I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that I love so much about this show, but the characterizations of its main and supporting characters are certainly a huge part of it.  Honestly, Rebecca is the character I’ve related to most since Liz Lemon (well, also sarcastic supporting character Heather).  Don’t get me wrong—I’m not sure either of these characters are great to emulate, but they feel real to me in a way that so many female characters don’t.

Rebecca is one of the few characters I can think of who has anxiety and depression that isn’t used solely for comedic effect.  We see her processing her problems logically but ultimately choosing the most self-destructive path possible.  She worries about not really having any friends, being a bad feminist, and not being able to convince everyone that she’s doing fine.  Among other things, there are songs about Rebecca’s depression, self-loathing, and being a good person (or not)–all of which get stuck in my head for days.  Whenever I’m watching, I constantly swing between laughter and the terrible suspicion that someone has stolen my memories and made them into a TV show.

It’s nice to see a character trying and often failing to stop lying to herself and allow herself to feel what she feels.  Sometimes the only thing you’ll be able to do is sit on the couch all day and fail to motivate yourself to go outside.  Not that I speak from experience…

Which is, of course, a blatant lie.  My experiences with depression are a major part of this show’s appeal to me.  Reading was my escape for a really long time, and I fell apart a little when it stopped working for me.  There are still days when I pick up a book that I’m desperate to finish only to put it down a few paragraphs later when all I can think about is how badly I fucked up that one conversation from weeks ago or why I haven’t done more with my life.

I  wish reading were still my escape because it was for years and years, but I’m working on giving myself a break for my needs and interests changing and simply giving myself time and space to be nice to myself.  True, reading is a more intellectual pursuit than watching TV or terrible shark movies, but sometimes my brain just needs a fucking break.

This is also a reason I fail to understand the drive for constant self-improvement.  I appreciate that goals help push people to achieve their dreams and look back in satisfaction on their accomplishments, but sometimes a goal feels like the opportunity to break another promise to myself and to fail (again).  There are days when I just need to survive.  As TV is currently proving, it can be something really stupid that gets you through it.  And when I say “through it,” I mean temporarily because there’s nothing that will ever drive the bad thoughts away entirely.  And I’d be an intolerably peppy person if I never had any dark thoughts whatsoever.

I don’t like to give advice because it’s a really bad idea to follow in my footsteps, but these are the things I try to remind myself.  It’s ok to not feel strong, but you are, especially when you know you need help and support.  It’s ok to reach out to people and tell them you’re feeling shitty.  It’s also ok to have your own personal feeling space where no one is allowed to enter.  It’s ok to be fucking sad.  It’s so ok to do nothing except breathe and remind yourself to keep on breathing.  And journal, you guys.  I can’t say enough for journaling.

Of course I want to feel happy and I want you to be happy, but I think it’s more important to find the strength to accept what you feel.  Even when you’d prefer to gloss over it or repress the shit out of it (I’ve been there so hard).

This self-care reminder is something I look at A LOT and probably one of the best things to come out of Tumblr:

Finally, NEVER get rid of your old iTunes playlists because Eva Cassidy, Missy Higgins, and Brandi Carlile got me through last week.

On that note, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite sad songs, “Penny to My Name” by Eva Cassidy. ❤

All images via Unsplash