Illustration by Soofiya
“I haven’t wanted to say it out loud because it feels a bit insensitive, but I’m enjoying lockdown, does that make me a psychopath? Is it okay to admit that, and why do you reckon some of us are our best selves right now?”
Okay, so I feel like the answer to this really depends on which elements of lockdown you’re enjoying. I’m going to go ahead and empower myself to assume that you’re not enjoying the death, collective grief, global poverty, deadly exploitation of working-class people of colour, financial ruin and ever-callous leadership that sets the scene for this time. If I’m wrong about that then I’d hesitate to slap any labels on it but I think it would be worth finding a therapist to talk through some of those feelings. Maybe you’ve taken a break from the news cycle (extremely valid choice) or maybe you haven’t and your antidepressants are just doing a really great job (love that). I don’t know, but if it helps, I’m enjoying lockdown too, and I don’t think I’m a psychopath, though it depends on who you ask.
There are so many things to enjoy about this period, provided we are able to get our basic needs (food, shelter, money, safety, medication, care, internet) met. Some of us were suddenly gifted time. Free time, in a way that we have never experienced, or expected to, in our adult lives. Time to reconsider time, capitalism, melancholy, contentment and the roles they play in our lives. Time for nostalgia and introspection and time to play. Time to do what we love or find out what that is. We are disciplined through the construct of time from the moment we’re born and there is so much pleasure to be had in inaction and the refusal of it.
“We are disciplined through the construct of time from the moment we’re born and there is so much pleasure to be had in inaction and the refusal of it”
Our choices and our movement have been drastically limited, and while there’s an element of that which is harrowing, isn’t it also a sweet relief? Having less options can result in mental decluttering, like a kind of fasting from what we had come to reluctantly accept as the way things were. Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of a generous act of kindness centred in the exchange of care instead of money or maybe you’ve joined a mutual aid group and that has felt fulfilling or maybe you’re enjoying the niqab banter on your family group chat or the calm of being present with no guaranteed tomorrow to distract you, or maybe a white person has moved out of your way on the pavement for once. These moments are important and rare and if we squint our way through it, can feel like we’re living on the edge of some kind of communist dream.
When I was talking with a friend about this, they pointed out that it could be said that the people who want everything to go back to “““normal””” are indeed the psychopaths. That next to absolutely nothing about the way things were was good or ok. That resonates with me and maybe with you and others who have felt solace at this time. You don’t have to love everything about the landscape right now to appreciate and marvel at this weird jolt to the system, messy though it is. To grapple with and dream about what we might build out of it. We are complex beings. Queer, transgender and intersex black people and people of colour are no strangers to dissociation and double consciousness and conjuring utopias out of loud bass, shared meals and a pair of fishnets. We can hold grief and carve out moments of happiness for ourselves at the same time, we have always had to.
You’re not alone in the way that you feel. More people are talking about the positive effects lockdown is having on their mental health – largely, not having to make excuses about why you can’t leave the house anymore. This has been echoed in conversations I’ve had with my depressed and otherwise sensitive friends who despite their plans and livelihoods being trashed by lockdown for the foreseeable future, are strangely happy. For some people, the pain, stress and anxiety they are used to carrying day-to-day is finally being mirrored in general society and there’s something really validating about that. For some, lockdown is very reminiscent of the daily lives they’re used to – depression, benefits, shame, inaccessibility to things others take for granted, inability to plan, inability to go outside due to a whole number of mental, physical and structural barriers. There is something pleasing about seeing these issues front and centre, rather than the sad misfortunes of “marginalised people”. Not being okay in and with the world as we had come to know it is not a sign of sickness, and neither is enjoying the change-up.
“The pain, stress and anxiety they are used to carrying day-to-day is finally being mirrored in general society and there’s something really validating about that”
QTIBPOC, especially those of us with acute mental health challenges, can find it really hard to give ourselves permission to feel joy. There are loads of reasons for this. Sometimes we don’t feel like we deserve it, haven’t worked hard enough for it, need to punish ourselves if we achieve it, can’t relax enough to feel it, are understandably preoccupied with the struggle of our global community, are distracted by work and productivity, or are hyper-vigilant – always waiting for the other fashionably ugly shoe to drop. We can also be consumed with guilt around productivity or not being totally sad or grieving or being hit directly by death or poverty. While it’s true that there is, of course, a huge level of privilege involved in being able to enjoy this time, if that’s your truth you’re allowed to live it and you should!! You are allowed to feel good when you feel good without gaslighting yourself into feeling like you must be bad in some way. OK queers??
Be sure to take some time to reflect on and document what you’ve enjoyed about this time. Is it the change of pace, a new way of working, food, connections with others, the quiet, a particular sex toy, a break from being judged on your appearance, hope? How can you apply these lessons to your life going forward and how will you look after yourself as things continue to shift? This time is precious and this time is yours. Enjoy it babe.
With special thanks to Raihan for lending your beautiful brain to this one.
If there are any queeries you would like answered in a future column, email them to [email protected] with the subject line “Queeries”. They will be anonymised.