Leaving lockdown: anxiety and the new stay-home syndrome


By Samantha Kilford, First Year, English

The Croft Magazine // With lockdown measures easing, people are experiencing a wide range of emotions. Some are feeling relieved and cannot wait to get back to their old lives, while others have feelings of anxiety around heading back into the outside world.

If you’d told me at the start of the year that I’d be stuck indoors for so long that the prospect of ever venturing into the world outside my garden fence again would fill me with terror and a very real fear of dying, I’d never have believed you.

Yet, as various lockdown measures start to lift across the world and cases begin to rise in tourist destinations due to people refusing to give up on their hopes for a summer in the sun, I’ve found myself quickly turning into a recluse.

Don’t get me wrong, like most people I’ve spent the best part of lockdown trying to beat the Covid-19 blues by dreaming of all the things I’d do once I had my sweet, sweet freedom. From consuming endless cocktails while sitting on a sandy beach to simply being able to take a walk without having a heart attack every time someone within a mile radius coughs, I initially couldn’t wait until summer rolled around and everything settled back to normal. Sadly, that hasn’t happened and I don’t think I want it to just yet.

Lockdown plunged many people into an unfamiliar state of anxiety and panic, but I was all too accustomed to this intense feeling of unease as it’s been part of my daily life since I was a teen. Dealing with an anxiety disorder and depression during a global pandemic has been a rollercoaster to say the least, but as terrible as it feels to admit, knowing that I wasn’t alone in being consistently worried about everything from minor interactions with others to panicking about the future was strangely comforting.

I no longer needed to wrestle with the sweat-inducing worry of being put on the spot in a seminar

For someone who’s always nervous about anything and everything, I relished the way in which life became slower, quieter and smaller. Gone was the anxiety about whether or not I’d be able to make the cramped morning commute and the inevitable panic attack that would occur if I didn’t make it or it was too overcrowded. I no longer needed to wrestle with the sweat-inducing worry of being put on the spot in a seminar.

I also stopped feeling bad about saying no to things because of my anxiety: nobody would be going on a big night out for a long time and so I wouldn’t need to fear that I was missing out on anything.

It is easy to underestimate how overwhelming and exhausting it can be existing with anxiety. I can work myself up into a nervous frenzy about various outcomes of scenarios or situations that haven’t even happened yet or may not happen at all and I repeat this process about a billion times a day.

Lockdown was the welcome break I needed to retreat inwards and forget about how big and scary the adult world is

As ridiculous as it sounds, I get so anxious about messing up and looking like an idiot in social settings that I have to hype myself up when ordering food at a restaurant. Lockdown was the welcome break I needed to retreat inwards and forget about how big and scary the adult world is – maybe I should accept my new-found status as a hermit.

To add even further to the never-ending anxiety, I am also among the unfortunate people who have a vulnerable family member. Due to the pandemic, I moved back home with my mother who not only suffers from lupus, an incurable autoimmune disease that has affected her kidneys, but she also is currently still working as a carer for the elderly at a local home. Every time she leaves the safe bubble of our house to go to work, I am terrified. While the care home has routine testing and PPE for staff, restrictions on outside visitors are slowly being lifted which means she could very easily be exposed to the virus if visitors don’t take precautions.

Lockdown meant that we had to celebrate birthdays in quieter ways | Epigram / Samantha Kilford

The image of drunken revellers in Soho on 4th July, clearly abandoning all social distancing with very few masks in sight, made me nauseous with worry. The rise in new cases in Spain after travel opened up again resurfaced my fear of a second wave. I can’t help having feelings of anger about this after we all clapped for the NHS.

Seeing how members of the public have responded to the pandemic makes me all the more scared and, truth be told, being at home makes me feel safer. It has allowed me to check out of reality for a little bit and check back in with myself and my mental health. I’ve been able to indulge in the simple pleasures of reading for fun (which you don’t get a lot of time for as an English Lit student) and to attempt to work out so I don’t look like an ogre when we are set back out into the wild.

Lockdown has also freed up time for weekly therapy sessions, albeit over a dodgy Skype connection, without the hassle of having to slot it in around social and work commitments.

I’m still constantly anxious and battling bouts of loneliness, but the luxury of having time to consider my feelings and work on my depressive episodes with professional support means that I’m a much more positive person today than I was at the start of the year, let alone at the start of lockdown.

Unease and uncertainty aside, I’m looking forward to taking the good things I’ve discovered about myself during lockdown with me into the future… however dystopian that may be.

While some people may be comfortable risking Rona for a few minutes of social interaction or a beverage on the beach, I’ve come to terms with the fact it’ll be a long time before you’ll be seeing me back in my comfort zone – aka downing espresso martinis at Be At One. For now, I’m more than happy to stay indoors and forsake social gatherings for a little while longer if means keeping my loved ones and myself safe as the threat of a resurgence of the virus is still heavy on my mind.

Find Mind's mental health resources relating to young people and coronavirus here.

Featured image: Epigram / Samantha Kilford

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