I had major plans for my 27th journey around the sun. Standing in awe at the wonders of India, an American wedding in California and a Taylor Swift concert the would-be highlights.
However, the story of the last fourteen months naturally tells us that it didn’t go that way. Instead of trips abroad and all the other fun things I wanted to do, I – like so many others – spent the majority of it living under some form of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first nationwide lockdown in March 2020 I thought a lot of things. I thought it was at least a month too late. I wondered if I had enough toilet roll and hand sanitiser to get by. And, to be honest, I was feeling grateful. Grateful because it came at a good time for me (more on that later) obviously I wish the circumstances were completely different.
One thing that didn’t cross my mind for one second, certainly not in the early stages, was the impact doing lockdown by myself would have on my self-esteem.
My seven year self-esteem journey – 2015-2020
I’ve always kept the content of my therapy sessions private and confidential and will continue to do so. However, in the past i’ve alluded to low self-esteem being the foundation on which my depression and anxiety was built.
In a nutshell, my self-esteem was so low that it hindered my attitude going into anything and everything. I was living life with a very low opinion of myself and my place in the world. On this day seven years ago, I hit rock bottom on the streets of Colchester during a birthday bar crawl.
What followed was a very mentally challenging week in which I was diagnosed with depression. Soon after I had my first therapy session which lead to one-per-week for nine months. Around halfway through this period of therapy I took what a lot of people described as a big risk and booked my round the world ticket for March 2015.
One of the standout moments of that entire experience was my trip to Hobbiton, New Zealand. I’ve always loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy and have fond memories of watching them in the cinema as a kid.
I vividly remember speaking to someone close to me the day after my trip to The Shire full of excitement that I had finally been. One of the things they said was ‘I’m so thrilled [that you’ve been] and remember no one can take that from you now’.
That is something that has stayed with me ever since. Once I had the awareness that no one can take away the things I do, whether it’s traveling, charity sporting events or even a career change, my self-esteem becomes a lot harder to crack.
My seven year self-esteem journey – early 2020
The month or so before the first lockdown was a tough time for everyone. I’ve always said that was the worst part of the pandemic for me. A time when no one really knew what was the right thing to do in a situation that was growing rapidly.
While all this was going on I was having severe difficulties with my self-esteem. It was all over the shop. It got as low as it has been since I first started therapy seven years ago, so I knew I had to return for the first time in over two years.
There is a long version of this story but it’s irrelevant now. The only reason I’ve included it in this post is to paint a picture of the state of my self-esteem when lockdown started.
The short version is the minority of people I was working with at the time began to get intrusive on a part of my life I like to keep to myself. There were no issues at first because I never told them otherwise. Once I did the majority of them stopped and that was the end of it. The end of it except for one colleague who kept going despite me asking, telling and begging him to stop. Making assumptions and effectively ripping my life apart.
That’s the gist of it. Overall the whole scenario was like attacking my self-esteem with a flame thrower.
And that is why, a matter of weeks later on March 23rd 2020 when Boris Johnson announced nationwide lockdown, I was feeling grateful.
I needed to be away from people. I just had to be alone for a little while.
Other than the obvious global pandemic that was effecting the lives of us all. There was one other issue I struggled with in the initial weeks of lockdown – I was full of anger.
I was angry at the way one colleague showed me so little respect. Angry that the people who were in a position of power and responsibility to nip it in the bud didn’t (despite my asking). And it showed. In May 2020 I had three exams in a two week period and failed two of them. With the one successful exam being so easy my one-year-old niece could have passed.
Anger is the emotion I struggle expressing the most. I’m not confrontational in the slightest and to be honest I usually lock it up until it surfaces as another emotion – usually sadness. However, after my double whammy of exam failure something clicked and I drew a line under what had happened in the month before lockdown.
Earlier on in the post I mentioned that someone once said to ‘Remember that no one can take that from you now’. By storing that anger I was effectively letting the antagonist in this situation take my six years of self-esteem building away from me. I wasn’t prepared to do that.
By drawing a line under it I could start focusing on what I could control during lockdown. It ultimately proved successful and I passed the exam resits.
Solo lockdown throughout the pandemic
Lockdown alone was a strange one. The initial response from people was ‘Jordan will be fine, he’s travelled around the world by himself’. This is true to an extent. For the most part I wasn’t with anyone I knew other than the odd week here and there. But I was never alone.
Due to the way I travelled I met people so quickly. By that I mean everything from the backpacking routes to staying in multi-bed dorms in hostels. As well as the Kiwi Experience bus pass in New Zealand and other tours when it seemed sensible to travel that way. Any day spent alone while traveling was usually my own personal preference.
Conversely throughout all three lockdowns I was truly alone. I’ve never been alone like I was during lockdown.
I was always surrounded by people in the pre pandemic world. Whether I was socialising with friends and family, in a stadium with 60,000 West Ham fans or even on a commuter train into London. Wherever I was, people were close by.
Going from that lifestyle to social contact being illegal took it out of me a little. I didn’t know how I was going to cope when it became clear lockdown wasn’t ending anytime soon.
Once I’d drawn a line under everything that happened in the month before lockdown my plan for this period of social distancing and self-isolating was a simple one. Routine and minimal stress.
I built a routine around what was immediately important – my work, exams and checking in with friends and family.
The rest of the free time I had was dedicated to self-care. I read a lot, completed Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney + and took my Titanic knowledge to Mastermind level.
As lockdown went on it became incredibly freeing to know that I could look after myself in the most extreme of circumstances. It’s helped me realise that I’m an independent individual which has done wonders for my self-esteem.
I’ve definitely become way more confident as a result. I’m just ready to get back into the world!
Seven years since my biggest mental breakdown
In a matter of hours I turn 27. Although the days of putting in any sort of effort to plan elaborate birthday celebrations are behind me, the significance of the day before will stay with me until the day I die.
Every day I think about what happened that night in Colchester seven years ago. The years since haven’t always been pretty or kind, but I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I’ve made mistakes, settled for treatment way below what myself or anyone else is worth and to be honest I’ve let myself down at times. But the highs… the highs have been beyond what I thought was possible seven years ago.
Although the last fourteen months has proved that I am independent, the journey of the last seven years isn’t something I could have done without the love and support of so many. Sadly, I don’t have pictures with everyone so if you see your face missing don’t under appreciate the positive impact you have on my life.
I write an anniversary post like this every year and it is one of my favourites to put together. However, this year there is a lot more to it than personal feelings of gratitude.
The coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation on March 11th 2020. Despite posing a threat to our physical health, it has also contributed to the growing epidemic regarding the world’s mental health.
I’m fortunate enough to have been aware of my mental health problems for almost 10 years. With every step I take one to improve my conditions. However, many people will have never experienced such extreme patterns of depression and anxiety as they have throughout the pandemic. The mental health crisis is real. Meaning the services of charities such as Mind are needed now more than ever. Which is why I feel so blessed to be running the London Marathon as part of their team.
2021 London Marathon
On October 3rd 2021 I, as well as 40,000 others, will take part in the iconic London event. It will be my biggest endurance challenge so far and I have no doubt it will be the highlight of being 27.
I’ve tried to get a place in the London Marathon for a number of years with no success. However, to get a place on behalf of a charity that is so representative of my entire ethos off the back of numerous lockdowns and restrictions will make it worth it the wait. I know it won’t be easy but I’m so excited to take part.
If you wish to donate or follow my journey to the finish line please see the links below. I’d also like to thank everyone for their love and support on this anniversary of my mental breakdown – here’s to the next however many years.
Fundraising Page: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JordanCamp
My blog post about the event
Mind Website: https://www.mind.org.uk