I try to force my eyes shut, hoping in vain to sleep. All day my eyes have felt the weight of the pandemic on my lids, pushing them down. Yet now that I am in bed, I lie wide awake.
The room is dark except for the small, blue light from the quiet television. It gives the room an unearthly glow that slips through the thin space between my eyelids. The light creeps into my mind. I’m awake and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
I try to direct the light toward only happy thoughts. I try to summon the memory of the warm sun in the back garden, or the beautiful artwork I’ve ordered, or toward memories of travelling that seem like another lifetime ago. Leave the darker thoughts alone. Don’t set the panic alarm off. A constant drill has been ringing through my ears for days. Sometimes, I can dampen the sound by distraction, but when we reach this time of the day it can be deafening. The daily reminder of lives lost in the last 24 hours reduced to a number, a physical, inhumane figure. 917 today. Oh, three figures, that’s okay then? There’ve been worse days, right? There are places losing more, so that’s a good sign.
Then it hits. There’s nothing minor about any of these numbers. From one to nine-hundred-and-seventeen, each number represents a life. Someone’s mum, dad, brother, sister, grandparent, cousin, auntie, uncle, husband, lover, friend, companion, confidant, voice of reason, reason to live. There are memories, ambitions, regrets, successes, all of which lived and breathed with each number. All that remains are small bits of themselves, left with the people who loved them.
These ideas are incomprehensible – is this why I can’t sleep? Am I stuck in the purgatory between giving these thoughts too much time and the worry of disrespecting each life lost by not giving them my thoughts? The unanswerable questions break the glass on my internal panic alarm and trigger the ultimate emotional rollercoaster. I hope we’re strapped in tight.
My eyes open slowly, the sound of Norah Jones’ angelic voice is no longer filling the room from the Alexa and a small crack of sunlight is breaking through the gap in the curtains. I must’ve finally got to sleep. What time is it? 7:23am. My mind fights with my body to move. I know I must get up, but I can’t summon the strength. It’s like trying to move a car without turning the key. This inner turmoil continues for what feels like another hour. The clock tells me it’s been ten minutes.
For a few hours I get lost in work and its normal anxieties. “Normal” ends, however, when I take my usual five-minute break. Social media is a piercing scream. Every tweet, every status, every advert is about Covid-19. I scroll for one bit of release, one bit of positive; it seems harder to find daily. Then I see it, a beautiful water-coloured post on Instagram; a little square filled with clichéd words are exactly what I needed in that moment. I issue an involuntary sigh of relief and click “share” as a thank you and hope it helps someone else.
By 5pm I’m emotionally drained. I’ve always “felt” a lot; I used to see it as such a weakness. Yet, I’ve never felt so many different sensations in such a short time. I stand in a metaphorical middle constantly juggling the scales, going from one extreme to another, fighting to keep my own emotional balance. I know I’m not alone in this turmoil. The whole world is suffering.
By 8pm I crave the strong wave of connection that greets me when I open my upstairs window and join the rest of the building clapping for the NHS. I spot a man smiling in my direction as we celebrate. An intense reaction flips my stomach and sparks through my veins causing my eyes to fill. A tear slips from my eye, trails my upper lip, coming to rest on my smile.
I want others to know that “feeling” is okay. Feel it all, but then remind yourself of the good, too. Days are long, emotions are deep, and time is ample; do the best you can and stay at home.
Abbie Johnson is a 22-year-old full-time SEO Content Writer and full-time MA English student at Teesside University. She gained confidence in sharing her writing through starting her blog https://likeanopenbook.home.blog/ at the end of last year and she shares in the hope her words mean something to someone. Abbie would like to thank @SemperFiddle for her help with this piece.