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.