Anna Spargo-Ryan spelt it out clearly in her article for The Guardian last week.
Women are tired.
And while there’s nothing particularly unusual about feeling tired in middle age, I sense there’s more to my dwindling energy levels than the depletion of oestrogen in my body.
The emotional exhaustion caused by COVID and the back and forth swing between daring to believe that our lives will return to some kind of (new) normal, to having our hopes dashed again, has been superseded recently by the continued ignorance of men in regard to consent and sexual abuse.
When a new cluster of COVID appeared in Melbourne a few weeks back – bringing with it the inevitable disruption of border shutdowns, flight cancellations, and wedding postponements – we stopped breathing again.
And while I, for one, have nothing but praise for our nation’s response to the virus – because I still believe that health should be our priority – this stop/start way of living is taking its toll. Every time, we have to put our lives and businesses on hold, with little to no warning, our confidence and mental health are knocked.
According to Tara Healle, who wrote this post on Medium about why so many of us feel so bloody tired at the moment, we are suffering from a lack of the benefits provided by the initial shock of the pandemic.
She says that ‘In those early months, I, along with most of the rest of the country, was using “surge capacity” to operate, as Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, calls it. Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But, natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.’
Which is the stage we find ourselves in right now – a stage of permanent flux.
And that flux feels particularly relevant to our government’s lethargic reaction to the latest accusations of rape and sexual harassment levelled at two of its ministers. Their attempts to downplay the trauma of the two women involved feels like a kick in the teeth to women, particularly to survivors. For, it seems that in spite of the education that came from the #metoo movement, little has been learned, women’s voices are still being muted, and our right for equality is still moving too slowly.
I am surprised by my fatigue. Prior to COVID, I used to think I cope well in a crisis. Not when blood is involved, admittedly – as proven by my embarrassing reaction to a fall my husband had a few years ago, when the sight of abrasions to his face had me running to the bathroom. But in grave situations, (that don’t involve bloody, broken body parts), I perform at my best. I am more logical in a crisis than in normal times, and I am not afraid to make a call under stress.
Hence, I felt relatively calm when the virus first hit our shores. I don’t doubt that my reaction had something to do with my anxiety – which meant I was more prepared for it than most – but I found there was something almost reassuring about its sudden appearance.
It provided a kind of validation for all the years I’ve wasted stressing about potential catastrophes.
And so, I didn’t rush to the supermarket to panic-buy – although, the same can’t be said for the bottle shop. And when our son returned to the family home to live with us, and the nature of my job changed, and then I had to cancel Christmas – I accepted our new normal with stoicism.
I know that Australia has been fortunate. We haven’t experienced the impact of the virus in the same way as some other countries, hence I haven’t had to homeschool children or try to maintain some level of professionalism as I work from home. But no one has truly escaped the wide reach of the virus.
I wasn’t surprised by my lack of focus in January – because everyone struggles to focus in January – or when February disappeared in a blink of an eye, and now we’re in March in the midst of the next crisis to hit women.
Because trust me when I say, that although the virus killed more men, it hit women harder.
And as I struggle to find my direction, all I can assume is that the shock or surge capacity that helped me cope with the outbreak of the virus has disappeared and I am transitioning into the next stage of what I can only describe as a type of grief. Grief for normality, and grief for the millions of women who have been abused by men for so long – whose sharing of their terrible personal stories appears to have been for nothing.
I feel like I am climbing up a steep hill towards some kind of acceptance of 2021, that I’m not fully committed to.
I’m still trying to accept the reality that I don’t know when I’ll see my UK family again. It’s unlikely to happen, but there is a chance my my father will die before I get back there, that my nieces and nephews won’t recognise me, and my old friends will forgot me.
I’m scared that my kids may move to another state in Australia and get stuck there in the event of another outbreak.
I’m terrified that my daughter is growing up in era when women’s rights are moving backwards. At twenty-six, she is already tired of defending her rights and demanding her voice, and that’s not right.
I know we’re not living through a world war, and that not seeing my children for a few months at a time is a first-world problem (when the children of others are actually vulnerable to this virus), but the uncertainty caused by this pandemic and the ongoing discrimination towards women is exhausting.
Anyone else feel tired like me?