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Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

The Corona Diaries: Chapter 10 – Defeating Depression During Lockdown

Dear reader, I haven’t written for a while. I’ve been finding it difficult to get motivated – indeed to get out of bed in the mornings. Gravity has seemed more powerful somehow; I have felt heavier. I’ve been struggling to get words out and form sentences. I’ve been whimpering. I stopped going for my daily walks and buried myself deeper and deeper into Netflix. One morning I woke up crying and couldn’t stop. It was only then I realised I’ve been depressed. But now I recognise it I can start taking steps to pulling myself up by the bootstraps.

Step 1: Exercise.

The daily walk is back! Now we are allowed to drive to take our daily exercise, there are so many delightful places we can go. Of course there is the beach, which is the best place for clearing my head. The sea has always held magic powers for me. Once I had an essay to write for school and just couldn’t get started. I took a walk down to the sea and, as soon as I got there, I knew exactly what to write. When I got back home, the essay wrote itself. Then, when I was 17, I was dumped by a boyfriend who lived up by Central Pier. On the five-mile walk home down the prom, my tears dried up, my head cleared and I was pretty much right as rain by the time I got home. So the sea is a good place for me mentally. This is one of the reasons I moved home to Blackpool. Living inland isn’t really for me.

Yet in recent years I have discovered other magical places in nature. For years I holidayed overseas in late January/February to give me something to look forward to after Christmas, when the fairy lights were taken down and everywhere was just DARK. You can get some great deals at that time of year. One year I flew to Slovenia, which was something ridiculous like £25 for a return flight. And oh the mountains, the forests – and Lake Bled.

Photo by fnfoto on Pexels.com

Not that I ever could tire of the sea, but perhaps there was something else magical around the Fylde Coast that we could enjoy on our walks? I took to the internet and searched for local woods. Google came up with Witch Wood. Well, how could I not go there? I dreamed of being a witch as a child (the first books I read were the Meg and Mog books) and I have been convicted of witchcraft twice as an adult (at Blackpool Tower Dungeon and Warwick Castle Dungeon). I surely belonged there?

Dear reader, it was ace! The wood is really well looked after and stretches for over a mile. Some of the trees are stunning and seem to defy gravity. Others I could imagine coming alive with mystical creatures living beneath their roots.

But what of The Witch? Well the wood is home to The Witch’s grave – although we did not unearth it on our visit. But of course we will keep going back until we find it! Here’s the story of The Witch:

In addition to the daily walk, I have been making time to exercise at home during the day. I attended a seminar (online, obvs) last week about resilience. One of the first things we were asked to do was to stand up and MOVE to a song (‘I Want To Break Free’ by Queen). As I bopped to the music (and laughed as others whipped out feather dusters and began cleaning their home office), I realised how easy it was to use my new office space (bedroom) as a place for exercise. I now find myself doing stretches, press-ups, crunches and planks whilst watching video messages and attending teleconferences.

I have been steadily losing weight these past few weeks as our lockdown diet has transformed from EAT EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME to eating a healthy meal three times a day and snacking only occasionally (because I’m too busy to THINK about food most of the time). I don’t really need to lose any more weight but I would like to tone up, so that’s what I’m working on now.

Step 2: Writing.

Dear reader, you know when I stop writing there is something wrong: I am just not me any more. If you haven’t heard from me on here for a while please feel free to check in and remind me to write something! So now I’m back blogging, of course, charting lockdown life. But I’ve stepped up my writing game in other areas too.

I’ve resurrected my journal. I use this as a dumping ground for my thoughts, writing down things I want to work on and improve on; to chip away at – nay smash down – barriers that are getting in the way of my goals and dreams – and transform into the best version of myself that I can be. I used journalling to great effect a couple of years ago and it helped me change the way I look (wearing bright coloured dresses, learning how to apply make up and losing two stone), to work at soft skills that I knew were my Achilles heel (assertiveness), improving hard skills (enrolling with the Open University) to get away from the self-destructive life I was living, sitting at home drinking every night. Well, you can read below how I achieved that:

The Day The Writing Died

But it went further than that. I transferred my job to Manchester and finally (20 years later) got the move back to Blackpool that I had dreamed of for so long. There is further still to go with my dreams, but I have achieved so much already. And that is through journalling – working things through on paper and making things happen. I write down problems and figure out how to solve them. I write to-do lists and get shit done.

But simply through the act of THINKING about things sets dreams in motion. Within two days of starting my journal I have been inspired with the idea for an exciting new book. So now I have that to work on. Unlike the novel that I have been stuck on for over a year now with little progress, this new book will practically write itself – and I can’t wait to get started! I felt it important to check in with you first, dear reader – but I will crack on with the book immediately after hitting PUBLISH on this blog (you aren’t a procrastination tool, honest – you have inspired me to start writing again and here I am!).

I have also begun working through the study book for the Level 3 Creative Writing course with the Open University. I am undecided at this stage as to whether I will take the formal course (being a very busy person these days) but this is a good step towards improving my writing technique and I hope this will be apparent in future blogs. It also helps maintain my writing practice, which is so important for me mentally as well as professionally.

Step 3: Taking Care of My Appearance.

Haven’t we all been letting ourselves go a bit during lockdown? Well, it’s not as if anyone’s going to SEE us, is it? At the beginning of lockdown I stopped painting my nails, washed my hair only every OTHER day (and when I washed it, never bothered to dry or style it), stopped wearing make-up (apart from the omnipresent eyeliner) and lounged about the house in scruffs.

That has changed now. I wash, dry and style my hair every day. I have even begun styling it differently to give it more body. I’ve watched YouTube videos on how to apply lipstick (something I had never mastered) and now apply a full face every day. I’ve started wearing my dresses around the house. Now when I look in the mirror, make a Zoom or Webex call or am called upon to record a video or livestream for Lee Charles TV, I know I’m looking the best I can. The eyebrows are a challenge, of course, but I might even try and master them myself with a little YouTube tutorial. Wish me luck with THAT one, as it could go VERY wrong…

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

So those are just three of the steps I’ve been taking to Make Things Better. There is always a way out. Have you been struggling during lockdown too? What ways have you found to help yourself?

Now excuse me, dear reader: I’ve got a book to write…

Photo by Olenka Sergienko on Pexels.com
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