March 11th 2021
The Shamechanger: our advice columnist on how to deal with post-lockdown anxiety
April 22nd 2021 / 0 comment
One reader feels like she's the only one still feeling cautious about socialising now it's 'allowed' again and fearful she'll lose friends through declining invitations. Hattie Sloggett gives her point of view
"I feel like it’s only me who’s is still worried about Covid. Last week was full of invitations from friends for outdoor drinks in celebration of being ‘free’ again, but I said no as I'm actually terrified of catching it or worse passing it on to my elderly parent, even though they’ve been vaccinated. Next week is my best friend’s 40th birthday. I don’t want to let her down but I'm terrified. It's almost like I’ve become afraid of crowds and other people, after a year of being told socialising was potentially lethal. I'm due to be vaccinated this month which I’m hoping will put my worries at ease. I can't live like this forever but I really don't feel I can see my friends right now. I'm worried after a year apart about losing the friendship if I say no.
Oh honey, I hear you! First off, there is nothing and I repeat nothing, wrong with feeling scared about the virus. In fact, it's a good thing to keep it in the back of your mind, because it isn’t going anywhere and we will have to live with it forever. Now, that’s not to say you should live in fear, but to live in awareness. Just like when we travel to countries that have malaria, we don’t stop going but we do take precautions. Hiding away forever is no way to live. It's about finding the balance between what is safe, what you feel comfortable doing and still being able to experience all that life has to offer.
Secondly, is it a true friendship if you are at risk of losing it if you voice your feelings? Friends are one of the greatest support systems we have – they provide a service, they are there to comfort, to love, to offer help and guidance, to give feedback and share memories. They are not there to make us feel crappy. As we get older it's about finding people to surround ourselves with that uplift and encourage us and leave behind the sh*t of the playground.
If this last year has taught us anything, it’s what is most important to us and what we will do to protect that. My father is high-risk due to his type I diabetes and he is one of the most important people in this world to me so from the moment I realised that I might lose him – not for my lack of abiding by the rules, but because I couldn’t depend on others to have been as vigilant – we did everything in power to protect him. My mother and I were the ones who did the grocery shopping or anything that involved leaving the house and both got vaccinated early. So, I fully understand the fear of passing what is technically a silent killer, on to the people that we love the most. It is non-negotiable.
You have a couple of options available to you, but please hear me when I say that you must do what feels right to you. Hold no guilt over protecting the ones you love and if you are still feeling completely terrified about re-entering the world after your vaccination then I would suggest we have another conversation around social anxiety and ‘re-entry’ fear, but for now:
Baby Steps – Take your time
Call your friend and explain, just like you did to me, that you don’t feel comfortable with going out right now. Be clear and stand your ground, you don’t have to cause confrontation but be very precise that this is your decision based on what your family needs and at the moment, it is protection. Apologise, but only for not being able to attend, not for feeling the way you do, and offer an alternative, perhaps in the future, just the two of you could go for a picnic or even a girls’ weekend when you feel comfortable.
Head On – Get out there
Put your feelings aside and do this for your friend. Suck it up and head into the night for an evening of fun. And in the worst-case scenario, you can self-isolate before seeing your family again. The government and a plethora of scientists have lifted the restrictions because we do need to start rebuilding our society and they feel that with the vaccination levels we are well on the way to freedom with far less risk of spreading the virus, you just need to decide when you want to jump on the bandwagon.
Full Nuclear – Hide away
Put yourself on lockdown, stay home for as long as you need to, hide away from the world and everyone it, but be warned, if you choose this avenue you are likely to be hindering your physical and mental health rather than helping it. Are you really protecting yourself and your family if you put yourself at risk of a breakdown?
Don’t ever feel ashamed for wanting to protect yourself and others. I can’t tell you what is right or wrong in the instance of going out with your pals, but I can tell you that you should be damn proud of yourself for putting your family first and being vigilant with the precautions you take. Do not wear your fear with shame, wear it with pride. For it is you that is being truly selfless.
Got some shame you want to change? Message Hattie at [email protected] Hattie is a confidence and emotional intelligence coach, Master NLP Practitioner and True-Self Advocate. She is so grateful for your emails and reads all of them but cannot reply individually. Names will be withheld if requested and letters may be edited for the wider audience. For a private chat or in-depth consultation find her at www.hattiesloggett.com
Names have been changed.