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Life in unprecedented times by Craig McLoughlin-Burke


The sun, like a beacon of hope, shines through my window onto the plants I place on the windowsill. I may not get much out of this lovely day, but they can. Living on one of the main streets in Carlow town can be quite trying. The noise of the bars and nightclubs scream loudly until the crescendo at 2:00 am, the patrons flooding around the local takeaways until three, sometimes four in the morning. My alarm would sit, waiting to go off at seven for college at nine. The day sees constant traffic, both vehicles and people, constantly moving, the blood of the town pumping along. Buskers sing (There goes my lie in), friends and family chat after bumping into each other. The odd scuffle, the honking of the horns, the wave, the greeting. Life.

I can’t tell if I miss the noise at night. I may not have to get up early in the morning, but the silence is slightly daunting when there should be life. The night is as cold and dark. My comfort in it wanes. I still find it difficult to sleep. The daytime is odd. As I sit on my bed, social distancing, isolating, I watch numbers of people move about through my window. Are they shopping? Are they exercising? Are they flouting the isolation recommendations? Is their home life too difficult that they’d risk infection? These questions flood my head as I work away on another lecture. The college may be shut but there ain’t no rest for the wicked, as they say.

Three weeks or so since the closure of college and the beginning of my social isolation. At first, I was angry. Angry at people not doing their jobs in the first place, leading to this catastrophic pandemic. Then, I accepted the situation for what it is and resigned myself to do what needs to be done. That’s when the fears kicked in. I wasn’t afraid of infection or passing it on to anyone. I wasn’t afraid of not getting my college work done. I wasn’t afraid of the possible recession (Second in a lifetime. Really racking up these “Once in a Lifetime” events) My fear was myself, more importantly, my old unhealthy mental patterns.

Depression is my main affliction, with anxiety and anger playing the field too. Many years ago, I went through a dark period where I barely spoke to people outside of my family, had no friends, a real social hermit. I mentally abused myself. I neglected my physical health. My emotional, spiritual, and intellectual health was scattered to the winds. Thankfully, I’m no longer in that state of mind. But it’s still there. It always is. That’s where my fear comes in. In these times, it can be so easy to fall back on old ways, old routines, that old friend that helped you through the hard times before. Sometimes, my depression is like a comfort blanket laced with hemlock or aconite, slowly suffocating me, paralysing me, all the while holding me close, telling me everything will be alright. An angel of death.

I understand this post took a dark turn; however, the reality is many people suffer from a variety of mental health issues which are difficult to manage on a good day under normal circumstances. We are certainly not under normal circumstances now. As I look at the hole in my window, listen to the incessant squeaking of our dryer, wonder when the boiler is going to be fixed, when the pile of dirty dishes is going to be cleaned, thinking of those flouting the social isolation, my mind races. It races non-stop, and I must remind myself of everything I have learned so far to combat this. I have to do this every day. Every day.

These are unprecedented times. No one could’ve predicted this. The empty streets across the globe can be viewed as a sign of the apocalypse or of global solidarity to fight this pandemic. We must all continue to help each other, follow guidelines set out to save lives. But we must also care for each other and ourselves. To those, like myself, who must fight off the urge to regress, remember, you’ve made it this far. You’ve grown and fought back. You are strong and will make it through this. Trust me. To everyone else, don’t forget to check in on friends who might be a little more vulnerable during these times. A simple hello goes a long way. Keep safe, keep sane, and keep on rocking on, you beautiful creatures.


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