Hello! No, you don’t need to refresh your screen – it’s me, Alexandra.
Surprise! I’m back.
You may or may not have noticed that I’ve been basically MIA since May. Talk about a completely unplanned hiatus. But, over the course of the past two weeks, I’ve been ~tentatively~ posting reviews and I’ve realized just how much I’ve missed Reading By Starlight.
So today, I’m here to share where I’ve been, why I disappeared into internet obscurity and why I’m back.
Before we get started though, I just want to note that this post gets pretty long and VERY candid which might be triggering to some readers. I’ll be talking about lockdown, depression and mental health and I don’t hold much back. If you or a loved one is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. In Australia, you can call Life Line on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 to speak to a trained councilor.
Okay. Let’s get started…
I’m currently sitting at my desk. Its cold, I’m fresh-faced and wearing PJ’s – surviving in the midst of Melbourne’s sixth hard lockdown. And it’s been a LOT. Collectively, we’ve spent more than 200 days in lockdown since 2020. Let’s just take a moment to let that one sink in. 200 days stuck at home completely isolated from my friends and family.
And it’s been wreaking HAVOC on my mental health.
let’s back track a little… It all started in January this year. My parents had finally made it across the border, back home for Christmas and New Years. It had been eight months since we’d seen each other but we ended up having one of the best holiday seasons of all time. Suddenly, it wasn’t the presents that felt important – it was that fact that after a very hard year mostly spent in isolation, I was surrounded once more by my family.
But even in January, I was mentally exhausted. 2020 had well and truly burnt me out and Christmas working in retail is always hard. I’m sure you can imagine just how hard it was for me when we had to say goodbye and Melbourne was plunged back into a snap lockdown.
Even though February’s lockdown 3.0 lasted only a week [which I mostly spent re-reading Crescent City on the alfresco and soaking up the last of summer] after a health scare I started spiraling, falling into one of the deepest depressions I’ve ever known. I was almost CONSUMED by a gnawing sense of loneliness that just wouldn’t dissipate. And I was terrified to be alone. So I started throwing myself into a semi-regular social life, solely depending on distractions to keep the dark thoughts and my even bleaker moods at bay.
And eventually I clawed my way back into the light. I can mostly thank my work wives and amazing network of family and friends for that [you all know who you are 💙]. They held my hand and supported me the entire time and it honestly made all the difference. I wasn’t 100% okay but I was treading water and keeping my head above ground.
Then came the crisp chill of the colder months and my holiday in the Whitsundays – basically the catalyst for my extended hiatus.
Now before I give you the wrong idea, I had an AMAZING holiday. And considering Melbourne’s COVID climate, I was super fortunate that my holiday was able to go off as planned without a hitch.
But seeing my parents laid-back life in Queensland, seeing how social distancing and isolation weren’t a thing, only forced me to remember just how much we’d lost in Melbourne. Queenslanders complained about masks and restrictions, taking for granted their freedoms. And why wouldn’t they? For them, the strict rules we had to follow, the restrictions were unfathomable.
So while I had the holiday of my life, sipping cocktails around the pool and diving the Great Barrier Reef, it became a painful reminder that back home, things were pretty bleak. Shopfronts were sitting deserted, businesses had folded, families were kept apart and lockdown was quickly becoming a way of life.
I cried nearly the entire plane ride home.
Getting back to everyday life after such an adventure was hard. A lot harder than I’d originally anticipated. I had every intention of launching straight back into writing – I’d even teased a travel diary post. But every time I sat down and looked at that blank Word document, I just couldn’t bring myself to actually write.
And then came lockdown 4.0.
It was late May, I was suffering a bout of seasonal depression and desperately missing my parents when yet again, Melbourne was plunged into a snap lockdown. This lockdown was supposed to last a week while contact tracers worked to contain an outbreak but was extended well into June. The authorities discovered that there were actually two variants – two clusters that were moving faster than any outbreak before them.
Lockdown 4.0 only worked to amplify the sense of loneliness and isolation I was already feeling. Mentally burnt-out and suffering lockdown fatigue [although I didn’t actually know it yet], I was finding it harder and harder to read, losing motivation to cook, exercise and even eat. Everything just felt so hopeless and, as clichéd as it sounds, I truly felt as though the world was ending.
I’d never been so scared of my own mental well-being in my entire life. Thank god once again for my therapist, my parents and my friends because while I definitely struggled, nobody let me fall.
Depression might have set in again, this time more aggressive but I was fighting, keeping up a steady stream of FaceTimes and throwing myself into drafting my WIP. I also started celebrating the small victories – getting out of bed in the morning, staying relatively calm, hitting 10,000 than 15,000K on my draft, finally beating my reading slump [thank you From Blood and Ash] and keeping mostly productive during lockdown.
For the most part, I was keeping my head above water but that constant feeling of exhaustion was still hanging over my head like an angry little cloud and my arms were starting to fail. It felt as though I’d been swimming gainst the current for so long and I just didn’t have the energy to keep going. So when lockdown 5.0 was announced in July after another outbreak, I felt like I’d been smacked in the head and pulled under water.
I had officially hit rock bottom.
But the reason I’m sharing this is because I KNOW I’m not alone. I know there are so many people struggling right now and I want you to know that it DOES get better. Currently, we’re in lockdown 6.0 [only nine days since the last] and the weeks just keep stretching on with no end in sight.
And yet somehow, I’m doing okay…? At least, for the moment anyway.
Honestly I don’t know why – I haven’t been doing anything differently but for the first time in nine months, I feel like myself. And not the burnt-out husk I’d become since 2020. I’m actually getting caught up in reading again and it feels ✨amazing✨. I’m also FINALLY writing reviews.
So while I might not be keeping to a ~proper~ posting schedule, I’m trying to post once a week while I find my feet again. I’m hoping that by going easy on myself I can maintain this recent surge of creativity and continue to get back to my COVID normal.
But before I go, I just want to thank each and every one of you for sticking around. I can’t wait to start chatting with you again [keep an eye out – I’ll be stalking your blogs and catching up on all your posts too] and sharing amazing books.
And one last thing:
If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that the sun really does come back around. Although like me, sometimes you might have to hold on just a little bit longer. Life comes in waves so if you’ve been struggling with these truly unprecedented times, I want you to know that it’s okay not to be okay – it’s going to get better. And in the mean time? My email is always open if you need a friend to listen.
Much love always,