2020: A Year in Review

This is coming out a little later than expected, but it’s better late than never. Initially I had planned a follow up to my music post, with this one documenting the Top 10 Songs I discovered in 2020, however after mental health issues plaguing my ability to get anything done, I decided to just scrap it altogether. A fresh start if you will.

Instead, what you’re getting is my 2020 review. A look at what my year was like from start, until finish. Of course things were a little awkward, due to the ongoing global pandemic, but there was still some good. So with that in mind, here we go with 2020: A Year in Review.

Before Global Disaster Struck

Originally I’d come up with the idea of going month by month, but the year was so jumbled and so fast, that it’s better just to reflect on various notable points, as close to the actual order as I can. An obvious starting point would be life pre-COVID, something that feels like a lifetime ago. January, February, bits of March. If I knew how little time I had to enjoy “normal” life, I’d have taken more time to appreciate those moments.

I’d obviously spent time at work, visiting friends, living life as I always had. Notable points from this era were probably the beginning of playing DCUO on Nintendo Switch, I think I’d visited my Mum for her birthday and probably countless nights hanging about with the guys from Bad Wolf Gaming.

That’s about it really, nothing major happened.

Lockdown Begins

As is bloody typical in my life, lockdown struck just before my birthday. As such, I saw no friends, my girlfriend was at work as an essential worker (in retail) and I was stuck at home, doing a whole lot of nothing. A possible saving grace was talking to an old friend from school all day and later having a video call with my nephews, even if brief. At this time, I was working from home, something which didn’t work out well for me. I was sat at a short distance, on my slightly uncomfortable couch, using a wireless keyboard and mouse on my knee and a cushion respectively, in order to do 8 hour shifts on my 32 inch TV.

On paper, that sounds like heaven right? In your own environment? Wrong. I was surrounded by distractions, I was tired from lack of sunlight (I spent a long time refusing to go out at all), I was uncomfortable and had a bad back from spending 8 hours sat in my seat. It was not a good place for me to be in.

There’s also the fact that my home is my safe space. I like to keep my home and my personal life separate to my work life. Not that I have a problem with work, it’s just better for my mental health to keep it in it’s own world. Suddenly, the place I would go home to relax in, was no longer a place I could relax. My mental health dipped, I was working less, and then I got caught posting to Instagram, 10 minutes after my shift had started. A week later, I was furloughed.

Life on Furlough

It doesn’t seem so bad, being able to do whatever I wanted for a couple of months and still getting paid. Everyone’s dream right? Not so much. Yes there were positives to it. Eventually I started going out running, I became more active on DC Universe Online (jumping from around 76 CR to 300+ CR in a handful of months), I wrote a few more blogs and started to eat healthier. I was also resting more and able to free up some headspace, which helped. The DC stuff was nice because I had a chance to socialise and make new friends Though it didn’t last forever, I had lots of fun there. You can read more about it here.

On the flip side, more negatives came. Lingering back ache with no yoga, inability to see family and friends, too much screen time and a lack of a proper routine. My mental health started to differ, going through great days and terrible days. What started out fun became a slump that reminded me of when I was on Jobseekers Allowance years prior. I wanted to work again, I wanted consistency. It wasn’t until August 3rd that I was finally given that opportunity.

Back To Work and Another Lockdown

And so the time came, to begin anew at my job as a Digital Marketer. The first week was awkward, not what I’d call my best week. I’d genuinely forgotten so much of what I did, I felt like I was learning all over again. By the next week, I had gotten back into the swing of things. I was on fire, at one point writing 10,000 words within a week. As you would expect, I very quickly burnt out.

Mentally exhausted and struggling to get through the day, life became hard. Yoga briefly came back and then went away, leaving me with no form of self-expression, relaxation, meditation and stretching. My living room isn’t exactly the right size for doing yoga at home, so I’ve gone so long without it. We moved to another office at one point, which was nice. We had our own space and a new lease of life almost as a team. Then came the second lockdown.

Suddenly it was a team of two, spread across a room. Video calling was back in fashion and social interaction went down. It was like that for quite some time, and morale went down across the nation. It was a major blow that we didn’t want but ultimately was for the betterment of the country. If I’m being perfectly honest, I think that was the beginning of a mental decline. I’d spent the better part of the year battling my own brain and trying to push through, only to be beaten down once again. The only thing that could’ve made it worse, was losing someone I loved to coronavirus… Oh wait, that happened too.

Loss, Depression & Christmas

Alas, coronavirus had to hit me where it hurt. My Grandad, of whom was already battling dementia, contracted the virus. The stress of wondering whether or not he was okay was heart-breaking. We all tried to remain optimistic and I went into denial. The harsh reality was, that things weren’t good and soon after, he had died.

Now I don’t want to sit and say I was super close to my Grandad, because I wasn’t. We hardly spoke, we only interacted when I was younger mostly, and then by the time I was old enough to understand and feel like we could bond, he had dementia and wasn’t the same person. That’s the real kicker here. I feel like now, at the age I am, the things I know and the ways I’ve matured, I think we’d get along really well. I’ll never get that chance though, and it hurts. It hurt anyway, he’s my Grandad and I loved him.

What followed was half a week off work, which I’m very grateful for, coupled with support from some of my favourite people in the guys from Bad Wolf. My “Support Bauble”. Getting back into work afterwards wasn’t easy and things just got harder from there. Grandma went into hospital too and everything was a mess.

I will say that if it wasn’t for the Bad Wolf guys, of whom I regularly now play Final Fantasy XIV with, and of course my best friend in the whole world Vicky (who has been there through every high and low), December, and most of the year upon reflection, would’ve been completely unbearable. It still wasn’t the best, but they made it better, of course from a distance. Christmas, to my surprise, was enjoyable. I got lots more gifts than I’d expected, many from people I never thought the sort to give out gifts. I felt loved, cherished, like I mattered. In the hardest moments of recent memory, a year of Covid and personal loss, the people around me made it okay.

Onto The New Year

So where did I go from there? Well of course we’re nearly in March already, so the start of the new year is already behind us. Reaching the point that I did in December, after months of internal war waged, I came to a conclusion I should’ve come to a long time before. I need help.

Lots of us like to pretend we’re superheroes, especially fellow men. We’re big, we’re tough, “we’ll be reet”, but that’s not quite the truth now is it? We all need help with something and there is no shame in admitting that. I self-referred myself to Let’s Talk, a mental health service and charity, and have since begun counselling. Focusing on my health anxiety primarily, the hope is to work through my 16 sessions over the course of the year and learn how to cope with who I am inside.

By no means is that an easy feat, I’ve been this way so long that I don’t remember what it was like to not be anxious. I will not give up though. This year will be a good year. I will achieve and succeed with everything I put my mind to. The only thing that can ever stop me, is me and I’m ready to take on this year with motivation and a newfound positive attitude.

Post by Michael Sallabank