There was a thing going round Instagram last week, asking people what they were doing on 20th May 2020. For those readers not in the UK, that's because it turns out members of the government, including our badly-made-puppet-sack prime minister (no, I will not write his name) were holding parties behind the closed gates of Downing Street, having a fine old time, letting off some steam and making the odd comment about work so it could be passed off, if questioned later, as a "work meeting".
With wine. And nibbles.
And there I find myself briefly in step with the party goers (bet you never thought I'd say that!) as I too was having wine at work meetings. The difference being that my work meetings were being held weekly, via ZOOM, so I was alone in a makeshift office, after putting in a full day's work, sinking a bottle of wine whilst inwardly banging my head against the desk as various people asked if I could "put more content online".
Me. With my limited skills, no tech support and isolation as the rest of the team are furloughed? Yeah, sure.
I don't have an Instagram picture for 20th May, but I do have one for 3 days later where my insomnia has reappeared (always a bellweather for my state of mind) and I'm reading for research purposes, trying to work at FOUR FUCKING A.M. IN THE MORNING.
I can remember, clearly, cycling into the office so I could oversee a project that would have collapsed and an intern that would have been penniless if I hadn't let him in to work because the furlough scheme was too restrictive for him to receive it. The deserted streets that were eerie and freeing at the same time.
It felt like the weight of the building rested on my shoulders. It's future depended on my ability to pull everything out of the bag. The ceaseless grant applications, the project management, the reporting, the now-weekly board meetings, the panic over no income, the relentless-endless emails, an hysterically-unreasonable artist. Needing to keep the volunteers updated and happy and not feeling isolated or worried about the museum. Needing to keep my colleagues at home in their gardens happy and not worried or isolated or feeling like their jobs were in jeopardy.
Not seeing my parents. Not seeing my son. Not leaving the house. Not going to gigs or galleries or just the pub for a game of pool and a pint.
I can remember, clearly, cycling into work and wishing there was oncoming traffic for me to steer in front of because then I would never have to deal with this shit again. By 20th May these thoughts were so persistent as to frighten me. I stayed away from train tracks. By the end of May, I'd confessed them to 2 people - N and an exceptionally good friend - and started the process of getting help.
Do you know what my "help" consisted of? 6 weeks of being talked at by a chatty Irish therapist who, at the end of it, pronounced me cured because I could crack a joke. 6 weeks prescription of a mild antidepressant that was stopped after that with no warning or message from the doctor. 2 weeks signed off from work with my boss and the artist both contacting me on the 11th day to arrange a meeting.
So no, I don't remember what I was doing on the 20th May 2020. I just remember losing my mind so hard, I wasn't sure I'd ever find it again. It is still a work in process.
I have sat and looked at this post for a long time. Truth be told, I don't know how to finish it or whether to post it. I am not the only one who will have felt their own minds unravel during 2020, so many people did and so many unravelled to a place where they couldn't put themselves back together again. So that is why I'm angry. I am angry on behalf of everyone who did what they were told, only to find that the people telling them what to do felt so completely above the rules themselves.
The people trying to get some air and space and freedom from their tiny homes who were moved on and made to feel like criminals. The people robbed of time they can never have again. The people weeping behind a bathroom door because they were homeschooling and trying to work and cooking endless fucking meals with no relief in sight. The people who lost jobs and the people who kept jobs that were suddenly 100 times harder.
I am angry that my Dad lost his last year under lockdowns, without freedom and time with the grandkids. I'm angry that my son worked through all this in a sector and with people that those members of the government at those parties thought were expendable. I'm angry so many of us broke and are still breaking under the weight of it all.
Anger is, of course, an entirely self-defeating emotion. You don't win battles with anger, and you never change anyone's mind with that white-hot energy blinding you. I needed to put it down somewhere. Here is somewhere. Here will do.