Why I’m feeling anxious about ‘going back to normal’

This afternoon, I was expressing to my therapist that as lockdown lifts, I’m actually a little anxious about getting back to normality. I’m not entirely sure if I want to re-enter the full speed rat race that I used to be part of pre-lockdown.

Whilst a lot of people are super excited about things opening up, making plans to see everyone, booking holidays, I don’t know why but I feel extremely apprehensive.

These are the thoughts that go through my head:

‘Will there be too many people in large events’ ‘Roads will be busy’ ‘What if I burn out again?’ ‘Will I have enough time to balance everyone in my life?’ ‘Will the environment and climate change suffer with the uptake in more activities and travel?’

I shared this with a new friend earlier this week and she explained, that it’s because I’m an introvert, that’s why I’m feeling like this.. Me: I’m sorry what? I’m an introvert? I’ve never been told that lol

This friend said, introvert comes from how you choose to recharge… Mine is to be invisible sometimes and just slowly recharge. Sometimes I like to just sit and veg out in front of the TV for hours. I used to do this during my single days! Nobody would ever judge being in your PJS all day as I used to live alone… leaving the kitchen with mounts of dishes stacked up on top of another for an entire 24 hours so it reminds you of a dangerous game of Jenga.

I was scrolling through my phone calendar a few months back and came across the month before lockdown was announced, and I could believe my eyes. I looked at it and thought, how did I used to manage all of this?! I’ve actually taken a screenshot of this to prove to you how full my calendar was and that’s on top of working at a corporate part time job.

I remember during the summer lockdown, my therapist asked me what I had learnt during lockdown. It took me ages to think of an answer. At the time, I could only say my Dad was irritating me because he kept calling me every day because he was so bored of lockdown. He would call and ask the exact same questions every time because he was always call when he was cooking or tidying so his attention would be split during the call. I would end up getting irritated and end the call fairly quickly. This because a routine for a short while until he went back to work.

In hindsight, I know that what I did learn was that, lockdown offered me to opportunity to be in the spotlight of myself. I could no longer shy away from my insecurities, my triggers, my fears, and my past anger. Lockdown invited me to lockdown with my inner child and deal with her tantrums and ask her why she acts the way she does. What lockdown taught me was that without the everyday distractions of commuting, meeting from one person to another, rushing straight to a yoga class from work, making new plans and replying to messages, was that I actually had none of these distractions anymore and it forced me to really work on myself.

That’s why I am anxious. And I know this is true. A few days earlier, I had a dream of my teeth falling out. I looked it up and one of the definitions was this:

Some believe that the dream about teeth crumbling or falling out is caused by a loss of power or control over a situation. ... There's a chance you might have this dream during one of those times. Others, however, think that teeth crumbling or falling out is a sign that you may have said something you now regret.

Source: AK Dentistry

Of course, I’ll take this with a pinch of salt but I certainly believe that dream aligned with my feelings of anxiety. It’s the loss of control.

Today, I had my final therapy appointment before his two week Easter break, and we were talking about my plans to return to work. I’d recently been helping out my Dad’s business on the weekend during lockdown months and with my new plans to return to my original place of work, would mean I would have to give up helping him out which I felt bad about. My therapist was suggesting choice of words to inform him of my change of circumstances in the coming months. Instead of accepting it graciously, I responded: ‘I don’t want to let him down though...’

And my therapist replied and said: ‘What about letting YOU down?’ ‘What about letting your new relationship down’?

And there, I sat. In silence absorbing this mirrored response.

How true and adept was this question. I realised that maybe before lockdown, I have been abandoning myself and letting myself down. I had denied myself of that time to recharge and just offered my energy and love to everybody else but me.

I now know that self-love is about being selfish with yourself and it’s completely fine. It’s healthy to place boundaries. How ironic that I teach this but I don’t even practice this enough in my own life.

So what have I learnt during lockdown?

To love myself more and not let myself down anymore.

If we are not 100%, how can we be 100% with our loved ones and in the jobs/projects we do.

So if we work on ourselves, we can truly approach this world with pure kindness and compassion rather than feeling heavy and overwhelm with over committing.

The ‘going back to normal’ mentality isn’t as black and white as people think. Whilst there are people who can adapt to change more quicker than me, there are others who are also battling with some inner issues, and re-learning how to place healthy boundaries for themselves. (Especially the ‘people pleasers’).

So let us have compassion for each other and we can begin to approach the lift of lockdown in our own time, our own pace with the right mental health.

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