Every morning for the last few months, my husband has posted a Facebook update on Victoria’s COVID numbers, along with a cheery message of congrats and motivation for fellow Victorians, in particular Melburnians. 

My beautiful city has emerged from a long winter, spent very much not only indoors, but also within a 5km confine of our homes. The lockdown that saw us absolutely smash our second wave of COVID-19 was tough, but clearly necessary to regain control of numbers that were starting to look very, very scary. 

I struggled with a lot of what was going on during that time. I am so lucky that the cocoon in which I live felt safe and secure and happy, because there was a lot going on that was not like that. 

I had to stop watching the daily pressers from our Premier, not because the numbers were too overwhelming, (although the days we peaked at 700 new cases a day were tough), but rather because the media’s approach to just how present the information became too difficult to watch. 

I’d already been stressed with reporting of those of us deemed high risk. That sense that we were disposable and didn’t matter with the dismissive ‘It’s nothing unless you’re old and already sick’, was a recurring theme from the moment the pandemic started. 

But now it was more than that. It was the relentless negativity that was being thrown at the Premier and the Chief Health Officer that became unbearable. I realised that once I could recognise the voices and knew the names of the Murdoch hacks that hijacked the daily updates with their attempted gotcha-questions, that those who were meant to be reporting the news had become the news. I’m sure that’s not what journalists are meant to do. 

Our whole state was desperately trying to understand just what was going on and how safe or at risk we were, but the loudest corners of the media seemed more focused on trying to bait politicians into admitting that they are the devil. 

The same went for the way that opposition politicians who instead of being voices of support for their constituents, hampered, undermined and outright sabotaged the public health efforts that were clearly working. 

This constant stream of negativity was impacting my mental health more than any curfew, needing to wear a mask, or limit to being permitted out of the house. 

I also had to turn away and stop engaging completely with COVIDIOTS and conspiracy theorists who were outdoing each other with their stupidity. I still am incredulous that ‘anti-maskers’ is a thing. Except I’m not, because most of them are also anti-vaxers, and I’m pretty sure there is a direct correlation between the two. And so, I started using the mute function deliberately. Words, phrases and people that fed my anxieties because of their fear mongering were suddenly silent, and amazingly, I saw how much better I started to feel. 

What I realised is that it comes down to this: in times when things are difficult and overwhelming, the fuel that keeps us going is not anger and negativity. 

I am an annoyingly positive person by nature. It drives people around me nuts sometimes as I try to find the upbeat spin to pretty much everything. It wasn’t always easy during our long lockdown, but I tried. 

Those daily number updates from my husband were really not about the numbers – most mornings I’d fed him the stats because I was the one tuned to Twitter until the DHHS daily update. It was the way he was sharing the news. I turned to him one morning and said ‘You’re like a cheer squad for Victoria. It’s lovely!’ I wasn’t the only one. Many people commented on how they waited for his injection of sunshine to get their day started. 

Luckily for Aaron, he wasn’t the only person I was relying on for that positivity. On days where worries about diabetes-ing during a pandemic were creeping into my mind, I turned to friends in the diabetes community – both IRL and online. But again, I got smarter about how I did that. I completely isolated myself from whole corners of the DOC – again using mute – and found that my new curated DOC provided a source of support, entertainment and decent information. It’s amazing how much nicer one’s feed is without the passive aggressiveness and sub-tweeting that is just so common. (And yes, that last sentence could be considered an example of said shitty behaviour!)

The message group of my squad of four diabetes friends in particular lightened the load considerably, and helped talk me down from ledges of feeling scared and overwhelmed, with a mixture of reassuring messages, updates from their parts of the world, goofy animal pictures, sweary-ness and general inappropriateness, and a level of understanding that helped me breathe freely again. 

I wonder what I’ll remember in years to come when I think back to 2020. I don’t think it will be the crappy media and sabotaging politicians. I know it probably won’t be diabetes because apart from occasionally heightened anxiety about the intersection of diabetes and COVID-19, my diabetes was manageable.  

I suspect it will be the people around me – both physically and virtually – who made this dark time a little brighter. It will be my tightknit bubble of family and friends. It will be those friends who sent ridiculous memes, and made me laugh. The friends who shared pics of what they were cooking or book recommendations or how they cleverly were keeping their kids entertained while distance learning was happening. It will be the people who reached out as soon as Melbourne went into lockdown to ask how we were coping.

And so, now as there is so much more light here in Melbourne (both literally and figuratively) I’m keeping all of this close. Who knows where this pandemic will take us, or if there is a third wave coming? But if there is, perhaps I’ll feel better prepared, and know what to do.

And fresh flowers make everything better.