My hope in writing this is there will be some shared experiences that other architects will empathise and connect with, but also some lessons I’ve learned personally (often more by luck than judgment!) that might be helpful to people who have found things more difficult.
For me, this third lockdown has felt very different to the previous ones. For a start, the weather has largely been awful, which I find has a big impact on how I feel. Living in a tiny flat with no balcony or garden has not made this easier, and some weeks I have spent almost all of my waking hours in one room, which at times in the last year has been my office, kitchen, living room, dining room, gym, meditation space, yoga studio, laundry room, painting studio and even a bedroom too when my fiancée wasn’t well.
I have also experienced a sense of frustration and fatigue in this lockdown that wasn’t there in the earlier ones. Frustration because we have a vaccine to protect people from this virus, but the logistical challenges have meant it will take the best part of a year to protect everybody, and fatigue at just how long this has gone on for now. What initially looked like a three week lockdown has derailed our lives for a year. We have been collectively grieving for the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives for the best part of a year, and experts are now saying most of us are suffering with ‘compassion fatigue’ – which is why so many people describe feeling numb right now.
In spite of all of these challenges, I have personally found myself feeling more resilient this time around, and more able to withstand the storm of events the world has thrown at us (and this isn’t just down to the fact that Donald Trump is no longer in the White House!). For the most part, this is down to the fact that I have gone into this lockdown with a very different mindset to the previous ones.
I struggled particularly badly during the second lockdown, but thankfully due to the ABS I was able to have a few sessions with a counsellor to discuss some of the things I was finding difficult to process. I had just had to postpone our wedding for a second time and there was still no vaccine in sight, yet to me it felt like nobody was trying to follow the rules to get us out of this mess. This meant that every trip to the supermarket became a stressful, even angering experience as I saw people not wearing masks properly, or barging into my 2 metre circle – and this anger quickly meant that, not for the first time in my life, I noticed my mental health starting to dip.
However, I came around to the realisation that this was more about my own state of mind than the way others were behaving. I had let myself slip into a very negative headspace where I could only focus on the bad things I saw – meaning of course that I saw them everywhere I looked in some strange form of confirmation bias. Some angry part of me wanted to believe that people didn’t care, so that is how I experienced the world. Speaking to friends and family I have discovered that this has been quite a common experience, and it may even be something you have experienced yourself.