Localghost

A typical day: pandemic edition

This is a series started by Colin Devroe. Some other lovely folks have written their own, including Sara Soueidan and Cassie Evans.

This post would have looked very different prior to March 2020. Before then, I’d be out at events, meetups or social meetings several nights a week, in the office every day seeing people, and commuting to and from work. Needless to say, as someone who gets energy from being around others, the change to working from home full-time and not going out has had a massive impact on my mental health and my depression has got much worse. I don’t think I would have been nearly as burnt out as I was in December if all of this hadn’t been going on. So this is my “current normal”.

My typical day

08:00 - 09:00: wake up, about an hour later than I used to. I’ll usually sit in bed for a bit drinking coffee, talking to my husband, and checking the news/Twitter/notifications (it’s a habit I’m trying to break, but not doing very well).

At some point during this hour I’ll scrape myself out of bed and shower, get dressed (I can’t work in PJs!) and find some breakfast. If I’m honest, this is usually about 15 mins before I start work, because my bed is extremely comfortable and it’s cold in the house.

09:00: catch up on Slack messages, see if there’s anything that needs my attention, say hi to the team.

We usually have a quick standup at 10ish, then I get stuck into whatever I’m working on. My days are often peppered with 1:1s, planning meetings and various other things - PR reviews, answering questions on Slack, triaging bugs. At the moment I find it hard to focus for long periods of time so whatever I’m doing I’ll inevitably be distracted by notifications (I need to get into the habit of turning off Slack while I work).

Depending on what I’m working on, I might be doing web work in React or backend work in Go, or I might be writing a proposal for a feature or technical change.

12:00 - 13:00: lunchtime. Quite an early lunch, a relic from when I used to be up at 7, eating breakfast at 7:30 and hungry by 12. I’ll often go for a walk in the park and listen to a podcast (Darknet Diaries, Switched On Pop and Strong Songs are my favourites) or chat to my husband. On especially good days, we might go down to our garage where we have a little gym set up - I’ve been doing some free weights.

I miss buying lunch, which is undisputably the most annoying meal to have to make.

13:00 - 18:00: the rest of my working day - more coding and 1:1s. I block out parts of the day in my calendar so that I have uninterrupted time with no meetings.

At points I’ll go downstairs to refill my drink and pester my husband.

18:00: I log off from work. I’m very strict about what time I finish work - never after 6pm.

Once every couple of weeks I have a therapy session via video call, which has been massively helpful this year.

I’m a creative person and I originally imagined I’d spend a lot of the free time I gained from not commuting doing things like making music or building cool things, but in reality I just browse the internet or play a video game.

I’ve been thinking a lot about spoon theory recently. Originally conceived as an analogy to living with chronic illness, I think it fits perfectly with the way my depression has been manifesting itself this year: I just haven’t got enough spoons right now to do all the things I want to do. So often when I feel I should be being productive or doing something creative, all I’ll have the energy to do is just sit down and play video games. Over Xmas it was Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, then a lot of Stardew Valley, and I’ve racked up an embarrassing number of hours on Two Point Hospital over the last few weeks.

19:00: time to make dinner, or continue to veg out while my husband makes dinner. Or we give up and order a takeaway.

We’ve been making an extra effort to eat at the table over the last few months, which is nice because we actually talk to each other and pay attention to what we’re eating instead of just zoning out in front of the TV 🙈

Generally after dinner we’ll watch TV, or continue playing video games next to each other because we’re adults and make sensible choices. Sometimes I’ll pick up whatever embroidery I have in progress and do it while we watch TV - I’m currently embroidering my wedding flowers.

I’ve started keeping a little journal of good things that happen every day. They can be as minor as “made a really nice pie” or something like “got really positive feedback on the proposal I wrote”. I tend to fixate on negative things, so having written evidence that good stuff is still happening should hopefully anchor me a bit and remind me of the positive side. I recommend it! Plus it’s an excuse to buy a notebook and some nice pens.

23:00: time for bed. Over the last six years I’ve been going to bed at 11pm so religiously that I actually get sleepy at 11pm automatically. I try and read a bit before bed (currently making my way through Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels) but usually I only manage a few pages before I conk out.

I feel like this wasn’t a particularly exciting or enlightening typical day, but really, how can it be? Like Cassie says: “If you’re reading these posts - whatever your day looks like - whether you smashed through a huge to-do list or not. You’re doing good, remember to be kind to yourself.”.

All we can really do is make it through the day, focus on the tiny things that make us happy, and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. At the time of writing, 5.8% of the UK population have received their first dose of the vaccine (including my dad, hey dad!). Good news is out there, it’s just not as clickbaity as the bad news, so we see less of it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a fake hospital to run.