This week was always going to be a tough one for us, with the announcement that lockdown was about to be eased and the general population were going to be able to do things that shielders cannot, but I didn’t expect it to coincide with a mass influx of monsters descending on the village I live in.
I’ve mentioned my inability to break rules before (as well as my unrealistic expectations that everyone else should be the same) and before lockdown was relaxed even further I was struggling with people I know bending the rules to fit their own needs – my in-laws for example, who meet with my sister-in-law and her family when the rules were, at that point, that you were only allowed to meet one other family member at a time. Not six to go for a walk. It’s taken a while for me to realise that my anger at this was probably jealousy mixed with frustration because our situation means we cannot bend the rules, not even a little bit.
And then this weekend, thousands of young people defied the law and shunned the rules and partied like animals along the riverbanks where I live. There was shameless drug taking, excessive littering (think used tampons, dirty nappies, used BBQs, nos canisters and so much more) using residents’ gardens as toilets as well as verbally abusing them, shagging in broad daylight on a patch of grass children play on, parking without thought for any emergency services that might need to get through, attacking a cyclist and breaking his nose and so, so much more antisocial behaviour. In all honesty I was scared to leave my own house, and even if I had chosen to leave it would’ve been impossible to maintain the safe two metres distance from anyone. At one point I couldn’t even sit in my garden because I could hear them all screaming and swearing and throwing all the hard work and sacrifice I have made back in my face. It made me so angry. The disrespect these people showed was off the scale and I hated every single one of them. I became obsessed, watching the local sailing club’s webcam, my anger growing with every waft of smoke from a BBQ, every splash of a teenager into the river, ever piece of litter left behind.
It highlighted how different their pandemic experience is to mine. They’re not worried about catching it, and why should they be? It’s not targeting youngsters and we’ve not had a huge enough load of cases here for them to know someone it has hit. It’s not close to home for them. Not only was I angry because they were not giving a thought for anyone but themselves, I was angry because I couldn’t do the same – I couldn’t party without a care in the world. I was envious of their enjoyment and carefree abandonment of any responsibility. They couldn’t be further away from where I am right now and that only served to highlight how hard I am finding all of this.
Since the pandemic started, and as you’ll know if you’ve been reading these blogs, I’ve been struggling to accept that I know no one else going through this in the same way as us. I know no one else shielding their children. Not even another parent of a child with PCD. Thanks to the rule that children with PCD shouldn’t mingle (as with Cystic Fibrosis) in case they pass on dangerous infections (oh the irony) we’ve never met any other parents of children with PCD. But life was okay when everyone else, shielding or not, was in the same boat as us and having to self-isolate and stay home. But then the rules changed, and we’re in a very different boat now. My book club will happen without me socially distanced in my neighbour’s garden this month. My 11yo’s friends are going back to school without him on Monday. My mum is meeting my brother and his family on a beach. Zoom meetings are dwindling in favour of group face-to-face meetings, of course they are. And all of this is happening when thousands of people are still being diagnosed daily, and hundreds of people are still dying. It doesn’t feel right to me, but I understand how excited people are to see each other and how they are craving these face-to-face meetings and getting so much pleasure from them.
But it hurts I’m not able to be a part of it. And neither are my children. (Just going add a disclaimer here – I am not for one minute saying my friends and family are insensitive souls who are purposefully leaving me out. Not at all. They are lush and I am blessed and I am not expecting them not to meet up just because I can’t be there, of course I am not, but as I always say there is no point in writing these blog posts to document this time if I am not going to be honest about my experiences.)
And so, my children? Well, they’re feeling it too. It’s the 18yo’s birthday next week and she’s gutted she can’t have five friends round for a socially distant barbecue. All of her university and school friends are beginning to meet up again and it’s no surprise she’s suffering because of her brothers’ vulnerability. It hurts to see her upset by it and anxious about what her return to university will be like, and if she’ll have to go through the tough process of self isolating for two weeks every time she wants to come home.
And the boys? The 8yo claims he is okay, and to be fair he’s always been happy in his own company and at home so I believe him, thankfully he’s probably not as aware of the situation as the older two are. The 11yo had claimed up until now that he was okay with it all, but the cousin he’s been communicating with and playing with online daily went back to school this week and I think it’s finally hit him that everyone else here will be going back too. The conversations in the Whatsapp groups he’s part of will change to subjects he won’t be ale to contribute to, because he won’t be experiencing them. We briefly mentioned that this might also be true when the new school term starts in September and that he may not be able to start secondary school with his peers. But we’ll deal with that if and when it happens.
After the events of the weekend I spoke the PCD psychologist again yesterday, who was as wise and wonderful as ever. She taught me that’s it’s okay to voice how I am feeling and that I’m allowed to be upset by the seeming injustice of all of this. And she helped me acknowledge how external factors are making my life even harder at the moment. The virus. The easing of lockdown. The monsters by the river. I was having a difficult day yesterday when I couldn’t see the wood for the trees, where I felt like this pandemic was never going to end and that we were going to be trapped and forgotten at home forever. It’s fair to say I was at my absolute limit for dealing with external stresses. But then she rightly pointed out that I am getting through it, and that I am supporting my children and my family to get through it too. She asked to me to think of somewhere I am desperate to be, and the answer was as it always is … on a beach in Cornwall. A beach I’ve been watching the webcam footage of for weeks now. She asked me what is it about the beach I am craving, what does being at the seaside give me that I’m not getting right now, or that I can attempt to replicate here. She doesn’t mean buying play sand from a supermarket and listening to wave sounds. She means core values and emotions. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Going to a beach, watching the waves roll in, digging my feet into the sand offers me so much more than fresh air and freedom. I won’t share my thoughts on this with you now because they are not fully formulated, but it’s certainly something I’m going to be focussed on this coming week. A new technique to help me continue to get through this, as I’m sure there are still fresh challenges to come.
And so all that is left to say is – if you are meeting up with others then have fun for me too. And please, please do it safely.