Sitting down to write this, it feels like I’m settling in to do an annual review post not a round up of a single quarter. Who signed off on 2020 being this much for this long, and why was that allowed?
Somehow not much at all seems to have happened (hey, lockdown) and yet there’s still quite a lot to say. Here are my reflections on the shift from spring to summer.
Thinking back to a time where lockdown still felt like a bit of a novelty is a funny one, isn’t it? Nowadays I struggle to picture what life was like outside it. April was a time of adjustment, trying to figure out how to cope with being on my own 24/7, not leaving the four walls of my little flat, whilst still keeping on top of work and life as normal. I started a new contract at the beginning of April too, signing up to work with YoungMinds part time until the end of this year. I’m thrilled to be able to stay on, designing and delivering a brand new youth engagement project, training and supporting young people with lived experience of mental health problems to tell their story to effect change.
The strange transition period of early April was made a little sweeter with a mix of baking (why yes, I am a cliche) and sweet treats arriving in the post, to sustain what felt like endless, unsettled days.
It wasn’t all sweetness and light, though, as a clinically vulnerable person trying to manage this situation on my own. All of a sudden I was unable to access my regular treatments to manage my conditions, reckoning with a new pharmacy to deliver my medication to my door (when my GP surgery approve the requests, that is, and that itself has been 50/50), trying desperately to get some sort of food delivery sorted (whilst watching vast swathes of healthy people take slots for “convenience”, readily letting disabled people who couldn’t go out remain without sustenance; forced to spend eye watering amounts on a local alternative that delivered my food to an entirely different house), too afraid to go for walks because of the risk from other people and trying not to panic at the feeling of my health getting gradually worse.
It’s fair to say that seeing able bodied people write their takes on being isolated after just a few weeks indoors – with their health, the most accessibility that has ever existed and daily exercise – was grating for many of us whose lives have looked much like this for a long time before and in many ways, under lockdown, have seen them get harder or worse. My initial optimism for how I’d cope, and how chronic illness had prepared me, was short lived.
It has been difficult seeing disabled people so often left out of the conversation, especially those of us who are young and disabled – an intersection the government and the media seem to forget exists. The weight of dealing with it all – especially alone – has been a lot these past few months.
One of the key ways I tried to refocus and feel better about it all – outside of cosy pyjamas and endless Netflix binges, continued to be through creative outlets. I spent hours on end using my iPad Pro to keep developing my digital art skills, and leaning into the meditative process of drawing and self-expression.
Playing with colour and some of the skills I learned way back when at House of Illustration in January/February offered me a positive distraction when it all began to feel too much.
I also used one weekend in April to create art offline too, making a new zine – my first in a long time. There is something about creating by hand that is very soothing and rewarding, and it felt nice to focus on and finish a project at a time where my brain has felt so scattered.
The resulting zine was something of a self-love workbook, with illustrations, quotes and reflective exercises. I’m selling them in my shop with a portion of the fee going towards Action for M.E to support their crisis service through the pandemic. If you’d like to buy a copy you can get one here.
One of the best things about May was that my project at work really took off and I so appreciated the positive focus and structure it gave me. As well as finalising the recruitment of young people for the project, May involved running a digital training programme for them, the bulk of which I designed, and getting to know the young activists and how to support them best. I feel so lucky to be able to do this work and to have something so important and impactful to focus on right now.
Another key focus in May was the fact that it was M.E Awareness Month. I decided to take on the daily post challenge from Spoonie Village to raise awareness (and keep busy). Each day had a prompt and for the most part I used my iPad to create a response, although later on I diversified a little including an attempt at a science lesson via my instagram stories about the complexities of rest.
I didn’t manage to post every single day but I did do catch ups when I had had to take days off. I can get really nervous about sharing so much about my health on social media, in case people react badly, but the response I received was really powerful. I was touched to hear from other people with chronic illnesses who saw themselves reflected in what I had to say, and also messages from able bodied people thanking me for helping them to understand. If you are interested in my posts, they are all saved in a highlight on my instagram, or you can find me on @lucy.goodwill.
Outside of my M.E.A.M creations, I continued to lean heavily on digital drawing as we went through May, focusing on increasingly colourful portraits in an attempt to brighten up my mood.
Sharing my art was something that helped me to feel connected before the pandemic, when I was having to spend so much time isolated because of my disability, so it has been comforting to continue to have that to lean on at this time.
I turned 31 in June in very unspectacular fashion, so much so that there isn’t much to say about it, really.
I took the week off around it to try to rest and recharge, as I realised I hadn’t taken any time off work in 2020. My dad sent me a flowers and a delicious cake (which formulated 50% of my meals for days after), I got lovely messages from friends, relaxed and watched TV but I also spent a lot of the day thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement.
I took some actions online, wrote to my MP, ordered some books to better educate myself and began making lists of things to watch. I always get reflective on my birthday, so I guess this year, on the day itself at least, I opened up that reflective space to consider what I can do to help achieve much needed change and justice.
Later in the week, my reflection continued and of course I used creativity to channel it. I got out stacks of old magazines and began cutting out pages and images for collage. As stress relievers go, it turns out collaging is great.
After a few days of material gathering, I got out a big bit of card and began picking out the words and images that I felt spoke to the future I’d like to create for myself. Yes, at the grand age of 31, I gave into the urge to create a vision board.
At first, I thought it might sound and look incredibly naff, but I think it actually might be the best thing I’ve done in lockdown. I allowed myself to create a vision unrestricted by the constraints of the pandemic and to allow myself to really think about what I want. In a way, the pandemic has crystallised some of those ideas for me, highlighting what matters the most in my life and also what is missing.
The best thing about this exercise, was that at the end I made myself a set of themed actions I can take now, and for as long as I need to live my life in restricted circumstances, that will help me to make this vision of reality. It has given me a sense of control back and created a tiny window for hope.
My creative streak continued into the second week of the month, but in an outward facing fashion. My writing group and I had been due to go to GrrrlCon – a three day writing extravaganza for womxn and non-binary people – in June but of course could not. Instead of scratching the dates entirely from our diaries, however, we decided to run our own one day, digital version. I ran a workshop on making mini zines, my friend Vici ran a workshop on creating blackout poetry, we had sessions for reading extracts or poems as well as writing sprints, with a finishing hour to chat and reflect. It was exactly what I needed and I’m so continuously grateful for my little writing community.
I was also lucky enough to have my words published again by the ever excellent Dear Damsels on the 10th. For their theme of “connection”, I shared a personal essay about the challenges of long term grief, and the difficulty of maintaining a sense of connection with my mum. The piece is called “Linking Objects” and you can find it here.
It is probably one of the most honest and vulnerable pieces of writing I have ever shared but I often think those are the stories that most need telling. I had tried looking for stories like it when I was feeling alone but couldn’t find them, so I wrote the piece I needed to read when I was struggling the most.
Towards the end of June, after three months of total isolation, I decided to take advantage of the option of forming a social bubble. My dad isn’t too far out of London and was able to collect me to go back to his house for a week, where both he and my step mum have been taking every precaution.
It wasn’t the ideal situation – such a thing doesn’t exist at the moment – but I had definitely reached breaking point when it came to being alone. It was a relief to be able to spend time in a house, making use of a variety of rooms instead of just one, sitting in the garden after work when it got warm and playing with their new kittens.
I found it harder to come back to London than I had expected and to go back into isolation on my own. I like to have my own space – and I was beginning to crave it by the end of the week – but it also feels extra heavy having to go back to doing everything myself, with all my symptoms, after a week of feeling the difference of a burden shared.
I think it’s the unknown element that is challenging here too – not knowing how long I’ll be alone for now or when things might start looking up, all too conscious that my world can’t open up much more until COVID is no longer a threat.
Now is the time, I suppose, to lean on my vision board and action cards, to try and feel a sense of meaningful movement when everything feels either chaotic or unbearably still. Even through all of this, I have to believe that there is still the capacity for hope.
Until next time.