Forty days and forty nights

Today marks my fortieth day in isolation. Last night, my fortieth night, a night which saw me visited by disturbing and unusually violent dreams. It is some time since dreams of conflict and air raids have come to me, but last night I lived through serial dreaming of life-threatening attacks, fleeing and sheer terror. I was transported back to my humanitarian work in conflicts in South Asia and the deep basic fear living in such violent times. My recent anxiety dreams were humorous little vignettes in comparison.

I find myself divided. I can rationalise this experience and how my mind is dealing with the scale and uncertainty of such an unprecedented situation. I know and understand that our mental wellbeing is being tested to the very ends of its capacity. I know I have techniques at my fingertips such as meditation, taking control of what I can, escapist reading and when all else fails, the most tasteless of TV viewing. But where the conscious mind strives to stay dominant, the sub conscious and emotional side rise up when least expected and before I know it, I find myself tearful and fearful. I know it is a natural response, I know it is valid. And I know it will pass. Sooner or not so sooner.

What I am struggling with, is how to balance the ability to understand and rationalise the psychological process that I am going through, in the company of very many, with this desertion of my resilience and how that actually makes me feel. I know how I should feel. Thankful, resilient, safe and reasonably well. And know how I do feel. Frightened, alone, distraught and tearful. I am not looking for advice or sympathy. I am purely looking for this to pass, and for this emotional fragility to be validated. It’s ok to not be ok.

I do want to emphasise that it is not so much the isolation, and being on my own that is troubling me at the moment. Though I do not deny that it is odd and disconcerting not being able to go out at all and interact with people in so many walks of daily life. No, it is more that I have no idea when this will end, and what the broader future looks like. So much is impossible to predict while the pandemic is in these early days. Big questions trouble me. The economic shakeout, especially for someone of my age; the health scenario and the prospect of being unable to go about daily life again for some considerable time, especially for those with age and underlying health conditions, again, again like myself; the shock that this will place on society in broader terms as the fingers of this virus dig into already existing divides in our communities; the fact that this is the first truly global emergency I have ever seen, there is no ‘outside help’ to rescue us. We will not see a return to the way things were, but gradually life will settle into its new normality. I just cannot envisage what on earth that might look like and the changes that we will need to adapt to.

I strive to see past this, despite its enormity, and keep a focus on nature and growth around me. Some days it works better than others.


Forty days and forty nights, this is not a long time but nor is it insignificant. I cannot think of another time of life when I have been totally isolated for more than a few days or a couple of weeks. And quite why this emotional heaviness has come at this time, is a mystery. All I do know, is that this is real and I find myself struggling. But I also have a conviction that this too shall pass, and for now it is ok not to be ok.

None of us is truly alone.

6 thoughts on “Forty days and forty nights

  1. It’s OK to not be OK. I love that idea and I believe it. On top of having MBC, I am at the age where people are most vulnerable, too. And I’m an extravert! I miss being able to get out and see people. I have tempted fate a few times – I refuse to order groceries online – and that’s when I have nightmares. I also started quarantining way before they asked us to and so now I can say that I am into my sixth week. Enough already! I allow myself to give into the days when I feel like it’s not okay.

  2. Really great post. For us with my hubs depression and my metastatic breast cancer, things here are tenuous at best. I started self quarantine in February so it’s been just around 80 days now. I’m not in a great mood and I’m finding more anger than empathy when I see him doing nothing but lay on the sofa or not getting out of bed until 6 pm. I really can’t stand it. I’m trying so hard to not be angry at the government, at people who don’t wear protective gloves and masks, at people who refuse to stay home, at the people who sold us our house and didn’t fully disclose the bad things going on in the house and causing health issues and so much more. Meditation helps. Writing helps. Not reading all the obnoxious news helps. But nothing helps close the gap between what is and what will be.

    • Oh my goodness, you are dealing with such a great deal. I am glad that writing and meditation help, they are things which are in our hands. I wish you continued strength and and thank you for your kind words. Take care, and I hope you stay well and safe.

  3. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

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