Week Twelve – monsters.

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.  


Week 10 – it’s a long one, grab a cuppa.

It’s been two weeks since I last wrote a pandemic blog post, and what a two weeks! Full of ups and downs as well as the most terrifying experience of my life. 

Mostly we’ve been doing okay, tensions have been rising a bit and there’s certainly more niggly arguments in the house than there have been so far in lockdown. For week nine, I was mostly finding the whole food shopping situation stressful as well as trying to come up with different meals every day from what ingredients we had. It felt like a huge responsibility. Not being able to pop to the shops is harder than I thought it would be (sounds trivial I know) and screw trying to control one thing like I said a few blog posts ago, I’d quite like someone else to worry about feeding me now please. The only time someone else has fed me in the last ten weeks was the nurse who gave me a ham sandwich in hospital on Saturday.

Which brings me nicely on to this week, week ten and what I’ve learnt…

  1. The NHS is fucking amazing. On Saturday morning I woke up with a twinge in my right hand side and so distract myself I decided to ignore it and bake my friend’s 40thbirthday cake. Within ten minutes I was writhing on the floor convinced I was dying. Worse than labour – for those of you who have given birth, imagine the peak of your strongest contraction, but no tail off, no breather, just that pain constantly no matter how you lie or sit or whatever you do. And then imagine not knowing what was causing the pain. I have suffered with health anxiety from the age of five when I first thought I was having a heart attack (no word of a lie) and so I honestly thought this was it. I’m so grateful that my AMAZING nurse friend, Amanda, was on my doorstep within minutes of me calling her and screaming down the phone that I needed help. (Love you, Mand) The ambulance crew were also phenomenal. Kind, efficient, calm. Amazing. Even when I told the young 28yo male paramedic that he was ‘a lucky bugger’ for getting to look at my saggy old, have-given-birth-to-three-children, stomach. Gas and air has a lot to answer for. The staff in A&E were also wonderful. And although I was waiting for a scan for hours they managed my pain and reassured me I was in good hands. I’ve never been in an ambulance and the only time I’ve been to A&E was for a broken ankle nineteen years ago. Trust this to happen in lockdown when I am shielding two extremely vulnerable children and screaming at them to ‘be bloody careful, we can’t go to hospital right now,’ and haven’t left the house for ten weeks. But, the positives are that now the hypochondriac in me knows that if I need NHS care, I can get it. THANK YOU NHS. Ps it was a kidney stone and it has now gone into the sewage system. Thank f*ck. 
  2. My body and mind are amazing. Sounds daft when my body grew a stupid kidney stone that made me think I was dying, but when that was happening my body and my mind coped. My body was strong, my mind even stronger. I rarely big myself up but, as the lovely paramedic told me in the ambulance on Saturday, I should do it more often! And so I will. Being on my own in A&E and not knowing what was going on was really scary, but I distracted myself and focused on my breathing etc etc and without sounding like too much of a knob, I nailed it. I am brilliant. End of. 
  3. Nostaglia. I was chatting to a friend about this a week or so ago, and it’s stayed with me. We were talking about how our memories are more powerful than ever at the moment. A forgotten smell can make me feel like I am right back there in the moment, or a memorable song. I heard an old tune the other day and I was suddenly transported back to travelling on a coach to Switzerland for a ski trip when I was seventeen. I felt the exactly same as I had done then, and it was so weird. My friend and I came to the conclusion that our brains are desperately searching for new experiences because at the moment all they get is Groundhog Day. And so in searching for something to feel our brains are taking us back to real experiences and real emotions and feelings. I’d be interested to know if there was a scientific reason for this! And funnily enough, after my A&E trip, it hasn’t happened so much this week. 
  4. What are you missing? Flirting with strangers… Don’t judge me! Earlier in the week Sara Cox asked people to comment on what they were missing, but not the obvious like friends and family, the more shallow things. And this, flirting with strangers, is now all I can think about! I miss strangers, I miss interacting with them, flirting or not, I miss talking to people other than my family and friends (no offence!) The little jokes you have with people selling you coffee, or waiting staff in restaurants, bar tenders, random people when you’re out walking the dog, anyone! Male or female! Maybe it’s more that I miss spontaneity and conversations that flow and are fresh and new. And no, it is not why I told the paramedic he was a lucky bugger, like I said, gas and air. 
  5. I don’t like (most) people. Sounds harsh, maybe I should put it in a different context as this could get contentious. What I mean is that this experience has taught me that the reason I sometimes find people’s actions hard to understand is because I expect people to have the same standards and morals as me, and I’m disappointed when I discover they don’t. And this is where anger and frustration comes in at the moment. A few friends said on a FaceTime last night that lockdown was to be put in the same category as politics and religion, ie something that should never be discussed. And I get that I’m in the extreme having to shield two extremely vulnerable small people, and that my anxiety surrounding Covid-19 is higher due to this, but that aside it’s worth noting that I am fundamentally a rule follower. If I’m out on a walk someone wants to go off the designated pathway and walk where the little yellow arrow doesn’t point, I will not follow. I don’t speed. I park in the designated spots at all times. Blah blah blah, yes I am a saint. (rolls eyes like you all are!) It’s not because I’m a dick it’s because I’m terrified of something bad happening if I don’t do as I’m told _ I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with that one. And so if the government, whether I trust them or not, tells me not to leave my house or have people round to my house (even family) or go to the beach etc etc etc then I won’t. And not just to protect my children, but to protect all vulnerable people and the yes the NHS too. There’s something called cognitive dissonance where people convince themselves that they are abiding by the rules, when in reality they are bending them. And then there is selfishness and stupidity. I won’t go into it because it makes me sound like a judgy cow and I might piss a few people off, this is certainly divisive, but these rules are in place for a reason and breaking them isn’t just about you being able to assess your own risk – it’s by far more complicated than that. If in your gut what you’re doing feels wrong then it probably is. And I know it’s hard. And I know the government guidelines have been confusing. And I know I probably need to permanently come off social media so I can’t see photos of packed beaches in Southend followed by comments about how great it is that theses people have a right to be there and aren’t giving in to fear. Or that they are probably teachers. Do not get me started. But on that note…
  6. I love teachers. They have been working their butts off and putting themselves at risk going into school to look after some of our most vulnerable children. This is much more than just teaching. They have been sorting food vouchers and driving to houses to deliver food. Phoning parents daily to check they are okay. Driving to houses after domestic violence incidences to see that the children are safe and unharmed. Delivering work in school, on line and in person. And there is so much more. They have no PPE. No protection. And now they are having to prepare for a phased reopening of schools and all that entails – not just lesson planning, but thinking about how to stop any spread of the virus. Ordering bins with lids on and toilet seats, stuff that wouldn’t even cross your mind all with no extra resources or finances. Rearranging classrooms so social distancing (how the feck you do that with four year olds I don’t know) can be implemented as much as possible. All the while parents are expecting them to keep their children safe and we all know who will be blamed if the worse happens. Who knows, maybe there’ll be a VE Day caused second wave and they won’t open on June 1st. But what I do know is that we should bloody well be clapping for teachers as well as NHS staff. I am in awe. My children aren’t allowed to go back in the first wave, and I am grateful that decision has been taken out of my hands, for now. The whole thing just sits very uncomfortably with me. 
  7. Finally, I know that you’ll all be pleased to know that I have learnt to lower my standards. Normally I never leave the house without make up on, but in the past week I have chatted to people out of my window almost naked apart form a small towel after coming out of the shower (again, not in a flirty way) and have answered the door at 3pm in the afternoon having done Joe Wicks and not showered in the morning with a large chocolate cake stain down my vest top, underneath which was no bra. Sexy. 

Right, think I’ll leave it there as my children would probably like some lunch sometime soon. And I want to go and sunbathe. 

Love to you all x