I've loved my life in lockdown – I'm dreading going back to 'normal'

AS I watched Boris Johnson revealing the “roadmap” out of lockdown, I felt my heart sink. Unlike the rest of the country, I’m dreading going back to “normal”.

I’ve actually loved my life in lockdown this past year. 

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The pre-pandemic version of me was shambolic: always late, losing things and panicking.

Getting my four daughters, Diana, 10, Liv, eight, Stella, five, and Ada, three, anywhere without arguments or hysterics was a challenge, and I always thought my family must have looked like a pretty good advert for contraception.

Pandemic Jen, looking after the kids from the comfort of home, is a much-improved version.

While homeschooling was a challenge, I was fairly relaxed about it, and I’ve been lucky enough to have part-time childcare from our incredible nanny. Even the most stressful days have felt less relentless than “real life”.

Pre-Covid, I felt I was failing in every which way and was overwhelmed by a packed schedule of activities, appointments, kids’ clubs and school projects. 

It’s taken me until my late 30s to realise I’m not a people person, and the thought of going back to my pre-pandemic life makes me feel a bit ill. As an introvert, I struggle with social anxiety.

I often find basic expectations of life, like interacting with strangers, making small talk, even going to the Post Office, intensely stressful. 

“Pandemic life has been easier for people of a more introverted nature. But everyone, introverts and extroverts alike, is out of practice with face-to-face communication, so it’s quite natural to feel anxiety as we come out of lockdown,” says Dr Becky Spelman, psychologist and clinical director of Private Therapy Clinic.

“It’s understandable that some people prefer the simplicity of a more limited life.” 

I’ve found upsides to lockdown. I’ve had time to make healthy meals and exercise daily. I’ve also seen much more of my husband Will, 36, who pre-pandemic was at his desk by 7am, only arriving home 12 hours later.

Now that we’re working elbow to elbow in our small home office, we’re remembering how much fun we have together. I feel closer to him than ever before, and we bicker less.

While everyone else seems to be sick of Zoom, I actually prefer it for drinks with friends – there’s no trek home from the pub and I can be a quiet spectator.

Also, I’ve used lockdown to dress up in ’50s-style dresses. When I lost my mum Diana to suicide when she was 58 and I was 23, she left me an array of vintage designer outfits.

In the last year, I’ve finally gone through them, which helped me process the emotions I’ve tried to brush aside for a decade and a half. 

While our house is busy, I’ve loved the precious time spent with the kids. One of my hobbies has been rollerskating around the living room pretending I’m a diner waitress, serving the kids lunch.

I’ll be gutted if these moments get lost once we are all distracted with real life again.

Until the pandemic, I was a people pleaser, but if I want to keep my new state of equilibrium, I’ll have to say “no” more often. I need fewer social engagements and more time to myself, though I’ll return to the socialising I do enjoy, in small groups. 

Dr Spelman recommends getting back out there when we can. “It’s like exposure therapy,” she says. “Once we put ourselves in these situations on a number of occasions, it will start to become second nature again.”

I’m excited for restaurants, theatres and galleries opening up, but I won’t feel guilty about having a more locked-down life in future. And when I do go out, I’ll be rocking my mum’s vintage clothes – and my rollerskates – with pride.

  • Visit Theprivatetherapyclinic.co.uk/anxiety/

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