Life in lockdown: A personal account and confessions from one of the Dorset Echo team

·8-min read
Life in lockdown: A personal account from Dorset Echo reporter Sam McKeown
Life in lockdown: A personal account from Dorset Echo reporter Sam McKeown

AS THE country enters a period of no measures or restrictions for the first time in almost two years, I thought I would share some of my experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Buckle up.

I was a very naïve person when lockdown measures legally came into force on March 26, 2020. I thought: ‘surely, this will only last a month or two’. Famous last words.

Like many of you reading this, I’ve had many highs and lows during the past 22 months, but my issues (and there were admittedly many) were self-inflicted right before coronavirus came crashing into our lives.

See, I think of the pandemic as a blessing. Why? Because it’s truly taught me what’s important and provided some much-needed time for self-reflection.

But in order to give a true depiction of my personal experience of the pandemic, I must start six months before it all began.

On September 20, 2019, I just had the time of my life in Amsterdam with my then-girlfriend, who I had been with for six years. I was packing up my things in Barrow, south Cumbria, where I'd been working for seven months – and I was about to move to west Yorkshire.

Dorset Echo: Going for an Indian curry meal in Amsterdam on September 18 2019
Dorset Echo: Going for an Indian curry meal in Amsterdam on September 18 2019

Going for an Indian curry meal in Amsterdam on September 18 2019

However, during my time in the Lakes, I met a girl at work.

Arriving back in Barrow from Holland, I went on my leaving-do night out – and my judgement became clouded with this 'other' girl - and I fell for her.

When I moved to west Yorkshire, I was a shell of my former self. Very lost and no longer a care-free, motivated person.

Two months down the line, my relationship with my girlfriend of six years was it tatters, and we broke up – she took the guinea pigs and kept the degu. And I ended up with the ‘other’ girl.

Dorset Echo: (LtR) Badger, Toni the degu, Fudge, and Maisey
Dorset Echo: (LtR) Badger, Toni the degu, Fudge, and Maisey

(LtR) Badger, Toni the degu, Fudge, and Maisey

Hindsight is a wonderful thing: the new relationship started well, but, unknowingly at the time, I had passed the emotional baggage from my previous relationship onto this new one. Big error. It wasn't long before the ‘couples arguments’ started – then we entered the first lockdown.

Now I’ll tell you, being alone in Halifax during the winter was hard, and I worked throughout. It’s a grim, northern former mill town and it never felt like home. I've nothing against the place, it just wasn’t for me.

From March 2020 to the end of that incredibly difficult year, I spent a copious number of days alone, anxious, depressed, and [ironically] jealous of the new girlfriend’s friendship with her male colleague. I can admit that now – it’s called growth.

There were highlights during the middle and end of 2020 though.

During lockdown's first stretch I spent more time with my family – and my relationship with them has never been stronger, especially with my two sisters Siân and Mieke (love ya gals).

Dorset Echo: Me and my younger sister Mieke at a family home in Glossop, Derbyshire, May 2020. Note: Please excuse the annoying thumb sneaking over the camera lens
Dorset Echo: Me and my younger sister Mieke at a family home in Glossop, Derbyshire, May 2020. Note: Please excuse the annoying thumb sneaking over the camera lens

Me and my younger sister Mieke at a family home in Glossop, Derbyshire, May 2020. Note: Please excuse the annoying thumb sneaking over the camera lens

Eventually, I moved down to Weymouth at the beginning of last year and the 'other' girl called it quits a month after the move. I don't blame her; I was a mess and she had better options. I would've done the same thing.

Looking back on my time - not just during the pandemic but before it - I have always been a very insecure and selfish person. I overthought and probably still do, which I’m working on. And all this was magnified by Covid.

There’s no self-help book or TED Talk on YouTube that fixed me. The only person who could do that was myself, and it started with my mindset... and an improved diet.

I don’t want to know where I'd be if the pandemic didn’t hit – because it did. All those lonely days and absolutely rubbish times? They happened. And I’m going to own that. It’s part of me now.

I don’t want to forget it; I want to learn from it.

Most things in life you'll never be able to control, and that's okay. Let the chips fall where they may.

As a reader you might be thinking: "It's your fault, you're a ****."

But, I'm finally comfortable and confident to talk about this - and I don't want others to fall into the spiral which took hold of me. You should care for your significant other, unconditionally. If you do that, you're already on the right path.

However, if you're having doubts you need to respect your partner and voice those concerns. Try and work through them and don't bail at the first hurdle.

If it's not working, have the decency to bow out and not hurt that person. You can't force feelings, but you shouldn't prolong agony. If the past 22 months has taught us anything, time is precious.

I’m now living in sunny Weymouth enjoying every day. And I'd be lying if I said I was 100 per cent happy all the time - who is?

And there's nothing wrong with imperfection. It's all about seeing the positives and not focusing on negatives.

Dorset Echo: My older sister Siân, Jamie (nephew), Sofia (niece) and myself on The Esplanade, Weymouth on May 30 2021
Dorset Echo: My older sister Siân, Jamie (nephew), Sofia (niece) and myself on The Esplanade, Weymouth on May 30 2021

My older sister Siân, Jamie (nephew), Sofia (niece) and myself on The Esplanade, Weymouth on May 30 2021

I'm taking it day by day and above all - which I think is most important - I've learnt to love my own company and be content on my own. During the nighttime I'm as calm as a Hindu cow. You'll be surprised who can honestly say that.

I love where I am now. I won’t bore you too much with my first year in south Dorset. I’ve met some incredible people and I play regular football with a group of lads who have an unrivalled love for the beautiful game.

And the area and other parts of the Jurassic Coast are stunning! **chef's kiss**

I have a great job and work with one of the most professional and passionate newsdesks in the country. I'm aware you may disagree if you've recently found your name 'In the Dock'.

Dorset Echo: Demons FC squad photo on January 2. Picture: Theresa Briers
Dorset Echo: Demons FC squad photo on January 2. Picture: Theresa Briers

Demons FC squad photo on January 2. Picture: Theresa Briers

As for the degu, she’s sprite as ever and I have a very positive friendship with my ex-girlfriend, who has a new partner, and she’s doing well – she's such a good soul and deserves the world. She definitely deserved a hell of a lot more than I gave her.

As for the ‘other’ girl, I’ve heard from friends she’s with the guy I was jealous of, and I’m truly happy for her – again, it’s called growth. We met, I was in a bad place - it ended. You move on.

It’s been a tough ride and I’ve discovered honesty is the best medicine. Hopefully by sharing my experience it will resonate with some people reading this. Perhaps it can inspire others to better themselves through admitting their faults, and, of course, to work on them.

I also know that by writing this I'm lifting my head above the proverbial parapet, and I'm expecting a few nasty opinions in the comment sections - but it is what it is.

Dorset Echo: A view of Weymouth from Portland in April 2021
Dorset Echo: A view of Weymouth from Portland in April 2021

A view of Weymouth from Portland in April 2021

It doesn’t matter how old we are, or how much money we have - one thing we share is that the pandemic DID happen to us. And we've come out the other side. Hopefully as better people – I’m optimistic of that.

Now, you may see headlines or hear catchphrases such as ‘normality is back’ or ‘the new normal’. Don’t listen to any of that, it's nonsense. Whatever the future has in store for you, YOU can do something about that. It’s up to YOU to get yourself out of any rut, which I know is easier said than done.

And you and I will make mistakes along the way because no one's perfect. It's about learning and not repeating those mistakes.

Dorset Echo: Toni the degu
Dorset Echo: Toni the degu

Toni the degu

Dorset Echo: The degu's tour of Durdle Door in March last year
Dorset Echo: The degu's tour of Durdle Door in March last year

The degu's tour of Durdle Door in March last year

And if you need to forgive yourself, or maybe forgive someone else - then do it! I have.

And always take responsibility for your actions. Be accountable.

And NEVER feel guilty for taking some 'me time'. Relaxing and switching off is crucial to a healthy mind.

Do what makes you happy. Spend an hour in bed scrolling through TikTok or Facebook; or binge watch that show on Netflix or Prime. Read that book. Lift weights, learn a skill, avoid junk food, drink more water, eat more fruit and veg, love your family, talk to men/women offline, wake up before sunrise, take 30 minutes of sunshine everyday – your future self will thank you.

Just stay clear of anything that will set you back. And don't give energy to toxic situations.

Also, listen to your gut – that’s the best advice I can give.

Take what you’ve learnt from the pandemic and move forward in a positive way, otherwise it was a wasted 22 months.

And one more thing: trust me, everything will be okay in the end – it always is. It just takes a bit of work to get there.

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