It’s okay to feel ripped off by COVID

When this all began in 2020, I was 28 years old. I had a 4 year old daughter who was a handful but a happy handful. I had a partner who had been living with us for nearly 12 months and we were pretty happy. We’d booked a holiday for my daughters 5th birthday which was in March and we were really excited about it! Not only was it going to be my daughters first holiday but it was also my own first real holiday and I’d managed to scrape up the money all on my own without having to ask my family for a hand. Things were going well.

We never made it to Queensland, though. Our nationwide lockdown began on the 30th of a March, the same day as my daughters birthday and a day after we were supposed to fly out. We would have been stuck in another state for months… looking back now, that may not have been such a bad thing. That was the first of 6 hard lockdowns that Victorians faced throughout the following 18 months, with the days adding up to more than 260 as of December 2021. Restrictions in place meant that people were only allowed up to 2 hours outdoors a day and only essential services and supermarkets were open. Schools only ran remotely, meaning children have lost the best part of two years learning in a classroom and playgrounds were closed for a large portion of the lockdown period.

That was coming up to two years ago. Two years that feels like a very painful blink of an eye for most Melbournians, who are not only residents of the most locked down city in the country but the most locked down city in the world.

COVID has felt like a universally bad dream that we couldn’t wake up from. Our lives, relationships, jobs, homes… nothing was left untouched. The deaths, although extensive, were a small detail on the list of damages left behind by COVID restrictions, lockdowns and isolation periods. Hard workers lost their jobs, which meant some lost their homes, kids fell behind in school and people with once good mental health began experiencing anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. Adult children couldn’t say goodbye to loved ones in retirement homes, funerals were cut down to 10 mourners and weddings were put on hold for an uncertain amount of time. Nobody was safe from the impacts of COVID-19.

My experience centred around my home, my family and our mental health. I fell pregnant in May 2020 and gave birth the following February. And as if it wasn’t bad enough that I had lost my 6 year old daughters final year of kindergarten to COVID and lockdown but I watched my daughter slowly becoming a different person… her spark was starting to dim and she was struggling with her own mental health. I was helpless in watching it happen… It was Melbourne’s 6th lockdown that was the icing on the cake. My daughter most likely had undiagnosed ADHD before COVID but the uncertainty of the last two years really intensified her behaviour to the point where we are currently seeking medical intervention after the informal diagnosis of ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder). I am left sitting here wondering whether this was our path all along or whether COVID put us here…

It’s okay to feel ripped off by COVID. I do! I was supposed to be enjoying my children and showing them the world before they grow up. I wasn’t supposed to be a grumpy, tired, stressed, anxious mess of a mother. That’s what I have become, though… I feel like as each day goes on I am losing another day of freedom with my daughter, another day of enjoying her childhood, another day of my life. I am doubled vaxxed as is my family and when they can, my children will be too. But that doesn’t replace the time we’ve lost being stuck between these walls. It won’t give my daughter those two years of crucial early childhood development. It won’t make the world feel normal again… because like with everything, once you move forward… you very rarely go back.

An Open Letter To My First Bully

This is part of a collection of short stories depicting and detailing true events and personal experiences in my life, with a few tweaks for the privacy of all involved.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with bullying or depression or mental health in general, please seek the help of your GP or healthcare professional or a friend/family member.

I should begin by saying, for the most part, I didn’t have bullies who went out of their way to target me. That happened on a few occasions, usually very short lived though. My bullying took place in the corridors, on the school bus, out in the yard… the places where it was basically unavoidable in a school environment.

It began in primary school, and I remember feeling hurt. I remember the feeling of sadness and loneliness, I remember questioning myself with “why me” probably the first time in my life and worst of all, I remember trying to be friends with you. We couldn’t have been more than 8 and I was new to your school. The nerves were there, I didn’t know anybody and I was the chubby little girl of a young single mum. I already felt different but you cemented that for me right from the start. Our teacher assigned you and your friends to show me around, hang out with me and basically just be a friend to me. Instead, as I tried to play along with you and your friends, you said “don’t touch me” and looked at me with disgust. I remember that moment so clearly and it was 22 years ago. I remember the burning sensation as my face turned bright red, the tears welling up in my eyes as I tried not to blink and create a waterfall down my cheeks… That was the first time I felt sadness, real sadness.

In the years that followed, I have many memories of feeling left out and eating lunch alone, having nobody to partner up with for activities, cruel words being said to me on the playground… I was never mean to you, to any of you. I was quiet, I was harmless. You made me quiet, actually. Before I changed schools, I wasn’t this quiet and isolated. I wanted to be a Vet, I wanted to get married and have lots of kids. I could have been school captain one day or the lead in the school production. I had friends at my first school that I didn’t want to leave, it wasn’t my choice though. And after that nerve racking summer when I finally stepped foot into your school, you lived up to my expectations of what changing to a new school would be like. All of my 8 year old anxieties were verified when you would all stare at me and whisper, calling me fat just loud enough so I’d hear you but not so loud the teacher would notice. 8 year olds don’t treat people this way without reason, without learning the behaviour and actions from someone else…

It was after school in the courtyard when you and your friend ran up to me and stood in my way as I walked down to meet my mum at her car. “Is that your sister that picks you up?” You knew damn well who it was but politely, I reminded you that it was, in fact, my mum. You giggled and ran back your mum, to report your findings. I remember her looking at me… judging a child for the age of her mother. Catholic school parents… And that’s the first time I heard the word bastard.

You had to end up at the same high school as me, as if I hadn’t endured enough of your negativity. I never had much to do with the popular girls in high school but I’m sure you told them all about me. What you didn’t tell them is that I used to be bright, I was happy and I had potential. I wonder if you let them know about the time you bellowed at me in front of the whole grade 5 class for something I wore on free dress day… probably not.

I hate that I still think about you. I hate that you still occupy space in my head. I am sure you haven’t thought of me since the last time you saw me. I was nothing to you. I was just something you used to kick when you’d walk past, an object to flick stones at when you were bored… I didn’t take up an inch of space in your mind. And I still don’t. So why am I left with your shadow burned into my memory? It doesn’t seem fair that you earned a place in my head forever by destroying my self esteem. I was a nice girl who you teased and isolated until I basically gave up on myself.

I labelled this article “An Open Letter To My First Bully” because you were the one who started it all. You were the Regina George of primary school, if you were mean to me… so was everyone else. And then that followed me through high school, as well. I failed high school because I was too afraid to ask for help, too afraid to join in during class, too afraid to even remotely stand out. After I left school, with zero self esteem, I searched for somewhere to belong. I didn’t find a job but I found drugs. Due to drugs, I ended up in abusive relationships and now I am sitting up writing a blog about you because when I try to pin point how it all went wrong, I keep coming back to you.

I guess I just wanted you to know that…

I had potential before I met you.