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It’s OK not to be OK

Published: 18th June, 2020

I’m not sure how many weeks into lockdown we are – I’ve lost count. It’s all a bit of a blur anyway – I was self-isolating with COVID-19 symptoms well before lockdown. I was in bed at the time that the University decided to close the campus. Back then, I couldn’t make it to the kitchen for a glass of water without feeling breathless. And it was scary. I was lucky, though, I didn’t need treatment, and I got better within a couple of weeks. But life had got weird. Everything had changed. The world was, and remains, strange and unsettling.

Throughout the crisis, I have heard stories about how inspirational some people are, how creative they are being and how colleagues are going over and above to keep our University running. I want to be clear that I am grateful to colleagues here at Leicester for all that they do. I’m also, of course, grateful to the doctors and nurses, the refuse collectors, the delivery drivers, the supermarket workers (especially the one that recommended M&S Clementine-flavoured dark chocolate to me) and everyone else that is looking after us. They are, undoubtedly, inspirational.

But I want to be clear about something else too. I have not been particularly inspirational. I have not felt at all creative. Far from going over and above (and we can have a conversation another time about the appropriateness/ethics of doing that, anyway…), I have, at best, prevented myself from going under. I have been a Survivor of Change, not a Citizen of Change.

Life is bloody tough at the moment. For all of us. Whether you’re home alone trying to muddle through, or juggling work and home-schooling, or caring for relatives, or dealing with bereavements, as many of us sadly are, life is stressful and disorienting.

I am, I think, just about keeping things ticking over (at work and at home), but it often doesn’t feel like it. Small problems and glitches often feel like insurmountable challenges. Tears are often not far away. I’m out of energy by mid-afternoon, and I desperately need more sleep – but when I lie in bed, sleep, more often than not, does not come. I am only working four days each week, because, frankly, I don’t think I could manage a fifth.

I need that extra day to walk in the countryside, cook a nice meal, see friends and family online (Zoom chats with friends have carried me through the last few weeks), or, sometimes, frankly, just to stay in bed and recharge. I need time to find these small joys. That’s how I find enough energy to just about get by.

So, if you feel tired, if you feel like you’re not coping as well as others around you, if you feel isolated, if you don’t feel particularly creative or inspirational…well, that’ ok – life is hard right now. And it really is ok to not be ok. And it’s ok to reach out for help too.

The point of this blog post is not to have a dig at those friends and colleagues who are doing remarkable and important work in these difficult circumstances – of course not. The point is to tell you that, at the moment, I have days where I can barely ‘ignite’ the hob, let alone a new approach to learning.

And the most inspirational thing that I can think of doing at the moment is to share that with you, so that, if you feel that way too, you know that you are not alone.

UCU guidance: Supporting your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

University of Leicester: Emotional Wellbeing resources

Samaritans: tel: 116123, email: