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Lockdown Is Lifted…But Will We Ever Be The Same?

Toronto Opens Up Again After Having One Of The Longest Lockdowns In The World.

You may have seen the interviews, podcast, or news articles…Joe Rogan recently said it best “ Canada’s f—-d right,” said Rogan. “They’re so locked-down and I don’t understand why they think that’s good.” On June 11th Toronto will finally be opening non-essential stores, patios (until 2 am last call..which is a vast improvement from November when the last call was 9 pm).  I am more than thrilled that the end may finally seem near, but that doesn’t take away the pain we went through to get here.

It has been approximately 15 months since Ontario has announced the “first lockdown”. I remember when I thought 14 days was a sacrifice…I recently read an article I wrote on April 21st, 2020, only a month into the first lockdown. 

I stated “Normally I would be running around making sales, going to events, the gym, social obligations, and I would be too busy to let “anxiety” slow me down. With the world on lockdown everything that makes me “me” has been taken away. I no longer feel powerful, pretty, successful, loved, most importantly I am no longer happy.”

I am sad and disappointed to report back over 15 months later in a similar miserable state. Toronto is finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but for some reason, I feel I will forever be blinded by the darkness.

 While lockdown has been lifted, I don’t feel like the same person I was will magically come back. Although I shifted and adjusted at work, arguably accomplished many career opportunities that I am not sure would have happened without lockdown. Even with work excelling, I am still in a constant state of struggle. I have had a lifestyle that was go, go, go, for practically my whole life. Over a year later I still fight the battle to wake up and stay motivated working from home. I am constantly feeling burnt out, and asking myself “where did I get the energy to do it all before?” 

I have always struggled with ADHD and staying still in one place at a time. The only way I know how to accomplish anything is to physically get out there and do it…but with my bed less than 2 feet away from my desk, the temptation to “take a little break” is far too close for comfort. In the grand scheme of things complaining about just “working from home” seems for lack of a better word selfish, when small businesses have lost almost everything, front-line workers risk their lives every day, but this is more than just a shift in the work environment. 

Working from home, isolation, lockdown, has cost me my energy and I do not know how to get it back. Whether you are “working from home” or unfortunately in and out of work, living off Cerb- this is a conversation I am constantly having with people. Everyone always replies “we don’t talk about it enough…the little things we have lost and how they make the biggest difference.” Many people I have spoken to repeatedly comment about how they now feel “drained socializing”, which has become unnatural to them. Things that used to be second nature now feel like effort. We have lost the ease of human connection, and slowly every day we lose a little a bit more of who we used to be. 

We have been forced to stay at home for over a year, as long as we have wifi, most of us can work on zoom, we can talk to each other on facetime, we can find love on a dating app and wait weeks to meet outside for a walk. Who needs human connection in person…when you can stay at home and use wifi? This is what was dictated as the “new normal” for us and…I am sorry but this just wasn’t fair.

The lockdown became just inhumane and cruel. This was no longer a temporary sacrifice… or state of emergency. An emergency does not last this long. For the most part, living in Canada my whole life I never really felt a huge political divide as they do in the states or other countries. I have never felt this kind of division of black and white until lockdown. 

While we always talk about cases going up, ICU, small businesses dying, and we should always be talking about this I am not trying to take any weight away from these critical situations. However we do not talk enough about mental health, loneliness, love being distanced, families forced to separate, and the most painful, relationships that have ended because of Covid.

I am sad to say, I lost many relationships due to differences of opinion during the lockdown. Instead of people supporting each other during lockdown, people were pointing fingers and judging each other. We should have been fighting for our basic human rights together not playing the blame game. The constant stress of questioning “who was safe?” “what was allowed?” “what were the NEW restrictions this week?”, left us at war with each other.  We talk about lives we have lost, small businesses we have lost, but do we talk about relationships we have lost?

Why are we in constant mute about our feelings, but we can talk about positive cases and the economy all day long? Lockdown was much more than “a year of our life wasted”, it is much more than small business dying, it is about a part of our personality that has been put on pause and we are not sure if we can ever turn it back on again.

It is strange to realize, but so much about me was about other people. Our social lives, networking, our hobbies, our relationships, human connections, are not things that we can simply live without it. We need real-life connections like we need food and water. 

I grew up in a time when the internet didn’t dictate who you were, not everything was documented or edited, while lockdown had nothing to do with social media killing our souls. It didn’t help that we no longer could be together in real life anymore and know the difference between what’s real and what is posted on the internet.

 Our mental health was in constant danger from the internet long before the pandemic, but because we were forced to “stay at home”, we were  forced to scroll and watch their version of reality and become envious of what they decided “to share”. By now most of us know social media is “just for show”, but when we were sitting here alone at home fighting loneliness, Covid fatigue, loss of relationships, fights between family members, loss of business, our only escape from social media was to get out to the real outside world…which was against the law during this time.

Staying at home seemed simple yet in reality, most of us couldn’t help but feel trapped. It was like we were in jail for a crime we didn’t commit, we were all under house arrest in our overpriced Toronto jail cell forced to look at this once lively metropolitan city and we watched it become more of a ghost town each day.

To quote my April 21st, 2020 article “This may just be a grim day but it does not feel like this moment will pass, this feels like what life is now and it’s awful. Our businesses are dying, our health (physical and mental) are in constant danger, our love is being distanced, and our freedom has been completely taken.”

“ With all that is deprived of me, COVID-19 has given me the gift of time to overanalyze, panic, cry, to mourn for my former life.”

Reading this article 15 months later, I remember the first month of lockdown thinking it was the worst month of my life. Now I can’t remember what my life was before lockdown. The first 4 weeks felt like the end of the world…if we knew then that we would have been in this constant state of prison for this long…. I wonder how many of us would have just given up on life right then and there?

The saddest part is I am choosing to not remember what my old life used to be. I am choosing to repress because I do not know if the person “I was before lockdown” will ever come back.

Jennifer Meade