New York-based, ex-Victoria’s Secret model Bridget Malcolm shares how she turned 14-days of compulsory quarantine into “an opportunity to dive deep” – facing her fears and healing her anxiety.
I’m Australian but New York City has been my home for the past twelve years, and in my last week there I watched it fall into utter chaos. Rumours ran rampant that Manhattan was sealing its off its bridges, and that the entire of Midtown was to be closed down. The estimated number of COVID-19 infections, and subsequent deaths, was horrifying to consider. Slowly, that which was predicted started to come to fruition.
On March 14th I landed in Sydney, from NYC, after deciding to go home and to wait it out with family. I had spent a stressful week in Brooklyn, and arrived from Sydney with my pre-booked jobs being moved or cancelled, and the city shutting down around me.
Then the compulsory quarantine law came into play March 16th. The only ethical thing to do was to follow it and stay at home. Alone.
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Self-isolating hasn’t been awful…
And you know what? Self-quarantine turned out to be the best thing I have done for myself, a long time.
As a fashion model, I had been living a life of non-stop travel: filled with strangers on set, and relationships put on hold whilst I fulfilled my last-minute job confirmations. I am in no way complaining. My job has been such a huge gift to me, and it is one I hope to do for as long as I can.
But the intensity of modelling had left my relationship with myself patchy at times. Since the age of 14 I have been working as a canvas for other people’s ideas. I missed out on those college years of self-growth and discovery.
This year I have found myself feeling unsettled in my sense of self. I like myself. But I was not sure about what I want out of life, or who I want to be. When the order came down to quarantine, I chose to view it as an opportunity to dive deep inside.
This forced slowdown introduced me to myself, in a whole new way. Each day that I was able to cope with my emotions on my own, I felt my independence renewed. With no one around to project my fears onto, I was forced to do the work myself.
To explain – I have a condition called PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder). At times it has completely disabled me. I have suffered from panic attacks for the past three years. And these experiences have left me with anxiety and fear around having more panic attacks. It is a nasty positive-feedback loop, that I was not sure I could cope with on my own. But self-quarantine taught me that this previously held belief was untrue.
On my own, I felt my hormones swing, and I felt the anxiety ramp up. Because calling someone to come around to help me was out of the question, I was forced to sit with the fear. I made the decision that, no matter what, I would pay attention to what my fear is trying to tell me.
Strangely, once the anxiety was pulled into the light, it slowly faded away. I was empowered in my ability to solve my problems on my own.
Meditation has been a huge help
The key to this level of self-understanding for me, was meditation. Meditation is the hardest habit I have ever cultivated. Even in quarantine, with nothing looming to fill my day, I still had to talk myself into sitting still. But I am nothing if not stubborn.
At the beginning of my quarantine, I decided to double my usual daily meditation time to 30 minutes. When I sat and meditated, I didn’t try to ‘not think’. I simply followed my breath, in and out. Sometimes I counted my breaths. Sometimes I said the word ‘quiet’ with each inhalation, and ‘calm’ with each exhalation. Sometimes I cried.
My mind always wandered. There’s no point in trying to pretend otherwise. But I am kind to myself when it happens. I acknowledge it, and let it go. It’s all you can do, both in meditation and in life.
The lessons I learnt in my meditation practice have carried over into my life, right now. I cannot do the world’s work. I can’t even do anyone else’s work. The only person I can work on is myself.
So when March 28th rolled around and finally set me free, my lifestyle barely changed.
The most humane thing we can all do right now is to stay inside. We must protect those who are at risk. My meditation and self-exploration practice continues. With a couple of solo, long trail runs thrown in.
Stay safe, and please stay inside!
Bridget Malcolm is an Australian model and mental health advocate. You can follow her on Instagram or find her via her website.