Covid-19: So, how are you doing?

3:51 pm on 1 April 2020

First person - It feels like every conversation I have right now - whether it's with my flatmate as we collide in the kitchen to have lunch, when I am texting my mum, or by video chat - starts with "so, how are you doing?"

RNZ Head of Digital, Megan Whelan.

RNZ Head of Digital, Megan Whelan. Photo: Ashley Balderrama

How am I doing? On Sunday I spent most of the day in bed, huddled under a duvet, listening to it bucket down. I cried a bunch. I was mourning my life. Why couldn't I just go and get brunch, or get a bagel delivered to my door? I miss my friends. I miss my boyfriend. I miss being able to just decide that I should wander to the pub and get a beer. I miss walking home around Wellington's waterfront.

I was catastrophising. What if this never goes away? What if I get sick? Is a sore knee a symptom? What happens if my dad, who is in his seventies and has lung disease, gets it? Is this my fault somehow?

And I was worrying. Is my team okay? Are we doing everything we need to be doing to cover this crisis? What about my friends and family who have lost their livelihoods? What can I do for them? What if they stop selling wine?

One of my friends described this situation right now as a "once in a generation clusterf**k". So, to be honest, my anxiety - overwrought as it is - isn't unreasonable. I am lucky enough that I've been able to afford therapy for years, and I am good at dealing with it. It doesn't get in the way of my job. For a lot of people, it will. And here's the thing: that's okay.

If you're struggling right now, that's okay. Everything is hard and scary and complicated and busy - or not nearly busy enough. Anxiety, depression, even just feeling like everything is a bit shit and you want to get off the bus - it's all legit.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

I keep seeing people saying, "our grandparents were asked to go to war." And that's true. My grandmother was a Wren in World War Two. My other grandmother spent most of her life as a nurse. I think they would be both shocked at my reliance on takeaways and sympathetic to the reality of life changing virtually overnight while the spectre of a virulent disease plays at the edge of your mind.

Here's the thing though, comparing yourself to anyone else doesn't really help. Your own personal circumstances are yours. There will always be someone worse off. Whether you're working, out of work, working and parenting simultaneously, on the frontlines, or struggling to keep yourself occupied, what your brain is doing right now is different to anyone else's.

So, what to do? I am not a health professional, so for a start, talk to one of those. But here's what helps me: Call a friend. Take a walk. Walk away from your phone for a bit and watch the kererū you never knew hung out in your front yard.

I wrote most of this as an email for RNZ staff. It helps to share that you're struggling, even if you're holding it together. Talk to your colleagues, your bubble, your friends. Do it by video if you can - seeing other people's faces helps.

Try to be kind to the people around you. That woman at the supermarket who frowned at you was probably just nervous. Your neighbour who watches out the window is going through it too. That colleague who can't stop snapping - what's her home life like?

Even if it feels like the hardest thing in the world, shower and wash your hair. I did the latter this morning and I feel like a new woman.

There are heaps of resources around. Look after yourselves and your whānau. If you're wondering how to support the people around you, ask. Give people an opportunity to say "actually, I am not so great". Asking for help is hard, but accepting a helping hand is easier.

Lastly, focus on the good things. If you're one of the many people who have started a sourdough starter, take it out and give it hug. If all else fails, with just some flour and water, you made food. (Also, congratulations on finding flour!)

I'm keeping a journal of the things I miss from Before, like a gratitude diary in reverse. I am trying to remind myself that when we get back to whatever life is after all this, I can be more thankful for those simple things.

Share the memes that made you laugh out loud in your deserted office. Watch those old favourites on TV. Pick up that book that has always felt like a comfort. There's always the Backstreet Boys.

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