What a bizarre turn of events.
The world is at a standstill, 2020 has been canceled, the outside is out of bounds and worst of all an invisible killer hovers between us and our neighbors. We are living in, as they repeatedly tell us, unprecedented times. But how are we all coping? Trev tries to evaluate his own thoughts during this outbreak, whilst sharing outdoors images in between the text to lighten the mood.
I am usually an upbeat and positive person, but something happened to me shortly after the New Year. I stopped. I’d edited my last video, my hammock camp with Andy, and I just sort of mentally collapsed. The weather was abysmal, and I couldn’t bring myself to make any more videos, to set foot out of the house. I was in the grip of an inexplicable depression.
I have had bouts of depression in the past, some have lasted longer than others, some have been for some recognisable reason or another, but sometimes they just happen. And in late January of 2020, I found myself grappling with an episode which I hadn’t felt coming until it hit me.
You may think, as many do, what have I got to be depressed about? I had my health, a beautiful family, and just look at the year I had just had, the places I had been to and the sights that I had seen. And the year that was on the horizon, well that was something to look forward to, right? Among other things, I was going to the Himalaya’s, after all.
I put it down to the constant work I had put in last year behind the scenes of Summit or Nothing, which usually consisted of keeping the ball rolling in between work and family commitments from early morning until late into the night. My head was always in the ‘Summit or Nothing headspace’, and so I felt this had come about by a culmination of burning myself out, and watching diminishing statistics on YouTube’s analytics (which basically come down to them moving the goalposts in their favour time and time again) which made me feel that all my efforts were futile.
I worked harder than ever at the channel, the subscribers and views were continually increasing but what I got back in return had reduced considerably from where I had been a year ago. Not that that’s the be-all and end-all, but it can get in your head if you let it, which, unfortunately, I had. I felt a step back was what I needed.
I guess it was sometime in Early to mid-February that the scale of Coronavirus was beginning to dominate the news, a dreadful impending terror heading towards us like an unfathomable black cloud on the horizon. I knew then that I should get out and get some walks in, for my well-being if not for my sanity, but alas by the time each weekend arrived, wetter and more miserable than the previous, the urge to stay put held more sway than the urge to get out – which in turn then became a regret that fed my depression into the following week.
But life continued. We were still working, with each week getting more worrisome and surreal than the last. As we reached March, we were still making jokes about the virus, (that’s the British coping mechanism after all), especially on the building sites, although each time we laughed we seemed to contemplate something murky and haunting behind it.
We were still going into supermarkets and shops in a futile attempt to buy the bits we needed from empty shelves, but there was a new alien strangeness around our fellow shoppers, looking on at each other as if we were toxic, and each time we left we felt polluted, contaminated, and so we washed our hands… a lot!
Even before Boris had called for self-isolation, I rang around the family and made sure to tell them to stay away from our parents, a horrible thing to have to put in place, but they are both getting on, and my dad suffers from COPD so falls clearly into the AT RISK category (I have had pneumonia myself, and I wonder if I am in that category too). We phone the parents regularly, and send pics over the phone of the children playing, and we wished we could do video calls with them, but they never did get that newfangled internet.
I considered the elderly neighbors either side of us and put a card through the door with our phone numbers on it so that they know they can call upon us if they needed anything at all. I just hope that I haven’t contaminated their ‘safe space’.
On the plus side, this new looming worry seemed to put my depression in perspective somewhat, and now at least I know that I am no longer alone in the way I feel. Unfortunately, by the time I finally seemed to pull myself out of the hole I was in, the Coronavirus was right on top of us.
Before the inevitable announcement was made I managed to get out for one last walk, around Dartmoor’s Meldon reservoir which I filmed in real-time for others to use as a virtual walk during lock-down (an experience I envisioned as a tranquil lakeside stroll with birdsong and running water as opposed to the reality which was one of the windiest days I had ever set foot outside with hideous audio and nauseating shaky-cam).
And so now, here we are, confined at home for the unforeseeable future, and of course, the sun turns up in all his splendour, and the clocks have changed, kindly giving us an extra hour of evening to spend indoors.
It feels weird, a little scary, a little exciting, but very daunting. The Shining springs to mind when I think of a family stuck in isolation for a lengthy duration!
There’s a whole range of brand new anxieties that we all have to cope with on a day to day basis. We have this mental clock that counts back to the last time we made contact with outside world, two weeks and we are (hopefully) safe from the possibility of this virus germinating inside us. And then the shopping arrives and that clock starts ticking all over again.
We look at graphs of exponential growth, wondering where we really sit on the curve and how long it will be until we start to see a fall. We see the news from Italy and Spain, a terrifying look into a bleak future. We see the efforts they make to protect themselves from the virus, the strict curfews, the constant daily disinfecting in homes and on streets, we see the doctors and nurses clad like the scientists from ET, and we look at the gloves we wear when the shopping arrives and the antibacterial wipes we give everything a once over with and wonder if that’s enough to do the job.
The postman is still doing his rounds, and drops letters through our door which we ignore for a few days just to ensure that the possible contaminant has faded before we nervously pick them up, open, and then wash our hands thoroughly once again.
We dread that pointless letter that ‘Boris the Contaminated’ intends to send to every household in the country, a pointless and costly exercise, especially when the government already have a daily press conference in place, and the extra work for the postal staff a sure-fire way to increase chances of spreading the virus. You can almost read the headlines now!
The anxiety seems to grow at night, just before bed. A tickly dry throat appears, probably due to the stale household air we are breathing, although and I am sure that I can feel it working down into my lungs. Weird dreams keep me on the edge of sleep, and by 5am I am wide awake. In the morning, however, I am fine. I feel OK, and only then can I see the bigger picture once again.
I think of the key workers out there; the delivery drivers, shop assistants and the NHS Staff, working hard to keep the country moving, to tend to the sick, possibly exposing themselves to the virus day in day out, and I can only imagine that my anxieties are a drop in the ocean to theirs.
We can only hope that once this is all over that our National Health Service finally gets the recognition and support that it deserves, more than just the futile gesture of applauding them from our doorsteps. They are doing a sterling job in some increasingly shitty conditions, but sadly they have been doing this for years and constantly without the recognition from those that hold the purse strings.
My wife is fortunate enough to keep working from home, so we are in a better position than many, who even with the promise from help from the Government are grappling to understand the small print and wondering when they will get to see some income, and will it be enough.
With my wife busy from 9-5, the role of home schooling falls on to me. That’s a daunting prospect; I question my abilities as a parent at the best of times, let alone as a teacher. I’m the dad, and that’s a different concept than it was in my childhood days. The little buggers seem to have no connection between me and authority.
We had planned lessons, put some kind of structure in place, did the Joe Wicks workout first thing, which they all lost interest in rapidly as week one went on. Maybe I’ll just try it two or three times a week from here.
Schooling has relaxed a little this week to be honest, but then it is supposed to be their Easter holiday. We try playing boardgames, but their attention spans seems to dwindle and soon becomes an eruption of misbehaviour. I am just letting them do as they please a little more than usual this week, hoping that it won’t come back to bite me when their home schooling starts again in earnest.
They seem happy in themselves, and my two youngest have taken to sharing a room, which we threaten to put a stop to every night when we are battling to get them to sleep at 11o’colock at night. I wonder how much it worries them. They are bright kids, they seem to grasp the situation to some degree, but how much, we never really know. I am happy to let them be for a minute.
I always protested against the idea of getting one of those monstrous trampolines in the garden. They look unsightly, they take up too much room, they kill the lawn. Now I wished that I had just gone ahead and got one, would have been a great way for them to expell a lot of energy.
I scoffed in January when my wife bought an exercise bike from Facebook marketplace, I joked with the girl when she dropped it round that “it was just what we needed, another clothes horse!”, but for myself and my wife it has been a godsend, a good way of keeping in some kind of shape, although I find any kind of gym exercise mind numbingly dull and boring, and so usually play games on my phone whilst on it to take my mind off being on it. Oh, how I long for a return to the coast path.
But, right now, all I can do is reflect.
I can keep myself busy at home. I did start to do those jobs that need doing, but I dn’t want to do them all at once, do I? And so I have started to bundle together old videos from Summit or Nothing’s past, classic episodes that I hope will bring an hour or so entertainment to a few of you out there in self-containment.
I’ve thrown them in an Isolation playlist, with the Choose Your Own Adventure Game that I invented, where you can navigate Dartmoor from North to South from the comfort of your own home (you should try it, it’s really quite clever… and fun… if I do say so myself).
I have been editing together an old family holiday from 2018 when we took the kids to the German Alps (to see the snow for the first time). I have knocked together a video from the time I walked Exeter City Wall Walk at the back end of last year, a video that I never got around to editing before. It gives me something to do, to keep my creative blood pumping as well being a bit of a distraction from everything, for me and hopefully my viewers, too.
And now, as we are almost through week two, we look towards a couple of weeks (at least) where the facts and figures are going to become increasingly frightening, and we can only hope that those facts and figures remain a distant connection and don’t spill into our personal lives.
We are facing the prospect of being held in this captivity for a number of months, and we should be grateful that we are the privileged ones. We have somewhere to stay, we have those creature comforts that many the world over are not so fortunate to have. We have Computers, TV’s and tablets and Netflix and Facebook, Xbox’s and Playstations. Some of us have gardens, some of us are even lucky enough to live right next to the coast, or the moors. Many do not have these things. Many do not even have clean water, or shelter. Let’s spare a thought for those when we are complaining about our worries.
So, our plans have all been scrapped one by one, my Himalayan trip is still on at this point, an extension has been given to the deadline, but to be honest, I am not holding out too much hope. All we can do is take one day at a time… disappointing, yes, but I’ve accepted it. What else can we do?
What made me want to write this this morning? I don’t know. I just kind of started tapping away and it began to feel like a great release. It has helped me to find the perspective, and I hope that it helps you too, to realise that we are all in this, we are all feeling these anxieties, these worries, but still, it could be worst.
All I can say from here is stay safe, be kind, and when this is finally over, hopefully we will set foot into a new world, where we appreciate all that we have taken for granted, and we can pull together. A little faith and a lot of hope can go a long way.