In our weekly spot where we chat about mental health and wellbeing, a few words about trying to keep a lid on difficult emotions and feelings.

Hello and welcome to our weekly Wellbeing Matters spot, where we hope you’ve all been fine and dandy over the past seven days.

As a rule of thumb, when writing these articles, I look to the positive. The silver glimmers in the grey sky, the smiles from a loved one on the down days. And in future I will continue to do so. But there are days and weeks, even months, when it should be admitted that I’m not okay. That the Spites from Pandora’s Box have swarmed the lid and toppled it off, swarming out to engulf me like so many malevolent spirits.

And my Spites are many. Pushing them into the jar, keeping them under lock and key – not so hard when the world is trundling on at a normal pace. During a pandemic? Let’s just say that the festering critters are burrowing under my skin, into my mind and causing me to be utterly disagreeable, both to myself and other people.

What Spites are these? Topping the list is envy. The big, green eyed monster itself. Normally not something I’m prone to. But when you’ve been confined indoors in a box marked ‘lockdown’ for five months, even the most genially minded soul might reach a tipping point. And while I’m nice, I’m not patient.

Envy is a funny one. I’m not envious of material goods or wealth. Fancy cars do not rock my world. Bling is boring. What I’m envious of is good health and freedom. Other people’s freedom. Those casual walks outdoors, stopping off for the Insta moment with pints and huge grins for the camera. The group hugs, the get togethers, the barbecues. The 2am partuing neighbours singing ‘Young Hearts, Run Free’ for the fifth time.

I want that sense of space. I want to run free. I want to get merry with mates, or gaze out to sea with my boys and a pint.

And I can’t. From envy comes resentment. The defensive walls go up, the pithy comment count increases. Heads butt over how each individual defines their own personal safety, and then applies it to everyone else regardless of circumstance. And we get caught in a circular pattern, each of us digging a deeper furrow with our stubborn heels as we go merrily round the maypole.

The lockdown box amplifies all my negative feelings. Creates sparks and tension, flashpoints when I just want – to quote Candi Staton again – ‘…just one crack at life. Who wants to live in, live  in trouble and strife…?

Let’s add stagnation, frustration, irritation and a huge dollop of sadness to the jar. Social media is not my friend. My own memories can ruin a day from the moment I log on. There’s me a year ago, raising a glass to the sea with a huge smile. Here I am now, becoming a human doughball as I pace inside my box, fretting about the future.

How do I keep a lid on it all? The honest answer – sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I am just a grotty human being. I’ve taken myself off certain social media for a while. I’m burning myself up in an endless scroll of happy faces, doing everything I yearn to do. Being free.

I try to stop myself envying the apparent freedom of others. Because I don’t know what chains bind them, just as my own underlying illnesses bind me indoors. I don’t know what that captured moment of freedom felt like to them, dealing with their own concerns, or how it made their dark skies recede.

I try to mitigate my bleaker feelings. I let the dog fall asleep on my arm, feeling blessed by his unconditional love. Say thank you to my husband for his tactical withdrawal from hostile fire when my lockdown lid blows off. I thank you guys for reading and engaging with this page, week after week, and letting your guard down and your vulnerabilities out below the line. Under the skin, we’re all alike. And sometimes we all yearn to run free.

Take very good care of yourselves. And thanks as always for reading.

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