Week Eleven – them and us.

Week eleven – them and us. 

A lot has happened this week, both outside of my home and in it. Inside the house both my eighteen year old and my eleven year old fell down the stairs, which warranted another necessary trip out for the house, this time to the local minor injuries unit. Thankfully the eighteen year old just had a few bruises (she stayed home) and it would appear there were no broken bones in the eleven year old’s foot (swelling can hide this though so not 100%) but definitely lots of torn muscles and ligaments, which means he’s hobbling round instead of running. But once again the NHS were amazing – we went straight in when I told them he was extremely vulnerable and shielding, the x-ray department was cleared, and the staff were kind and compassionate even in full, uncomfortable, sweaty PPE. I like to think that as a family we are doing the public a service and testing out all of the different NHS settings for you in case you need to know what they are like in the middle of a pandemic (gotta laugh really.) Newsflash, they are ALL great. 

This morning I drove the eighteen year old to Cheltenham to collect all of her stuff from university halls. The motorway was busier than I expected, but we saw only the maintenance man at the campus and no one else. Getting there for 8am was a good idea! But it made me sad that her first year at university has ended this way. She was having the time of her life and although it was hard for me not having her here anymore, knowing she was the happiest I have ever known her helped. It’s sad it’s been cut short and that she didn’t get to spend the summer term there having a blast, but like she said, she has two more years to make up for it. Let’s hope that happens! 

So what have I learnt this week, amidst all of the ups and downs of life at home and externally thanks to the crazy news? (No, I am not going to mention it, I’ve decided not to talk politics on here, too divisive.) Well, I wouldn’t say I’d learnt so much as come to some conclusions…

  1. Even though we are allowed to go out for one hour of exercise, we don’t want to, and that’s okay. We have all been out for a walk in the last week, not together, but one at a time everyone has come out with me for a stroll near our home. Trouble is, our home is near a beauty spot (although it’s fast becoming a spot full of rubbish, scorched grass and empty nitrous oxide canisters) and that means people from far and wide all come to party here. Crossing the main road whilst maintaining social distancing is impossible. Cars are racing to get to the river near us, down a narrow road, and it’s dangerous, not to mention scary when drivers stop to call my lovely neighbours who ask them to please slow down, ‘fucking slags.’ People are picnicking where they never have before and leaving a whole load of crap behind. And it makes me angry. They BBQ on the grass and leave large black smouldering spots behind. They are littering and f*ck only knows where they are going to the toilet because the public ones aren’t open. And to be honest it makes my anxiety rocket. It’s horrible to be out walking near people who think it’s okay to not social distance at all. I hate it. I get that they don’t know we’re at the far end of the spectrum for shielding, or that we’ve only just started going out again, but there seems little regard for staying safe round here at times and it makes going for a walk not worth it. I don’t care if people want to come to the river, but I do care if they shit in bushes, take drugs and brush past me whilst they are on their way there after having called my neighbours fucking slags. Just no. They can f*ck off. I’d rather stay at home. 
  2. Following on from the above – I think some people think this is over. And I’m not going to elaborate on this musing for fear of sounding like a judgy cow or wading into talking about politics territory. But like I said above, I appreciate we are at the far end of the spectrum of how closely we have to follow the rules, but I think that even if we didn’t have to shield we’d still be respectful of them. All I will say is, I’ve learnt that I cannot change what other people are doing or thinking, I can only change my reaction to it, and as long as I know we are doing everything we can to keep our children safe then that’s enough for now.
  3. Social fatigue. You heard it here first (although, maybe I need to Google it before being so bold as to claim I thought of it?!) I reckon this is going to be a thing. (well, not for all the teens ignoring the rules down by the river that I can hear right now, but for the rest of us maybe) It was my middle one’s eighth birthday yesterday and he was blessed to have so many of his amazing friends pop by and chat to him through the lounge window. But my goodness he was exhausted by the end of the day. It was as if seeing so many people and having to make conversation was almost too much. By the time his last ‘guest’ turned up he was almost close to tears at having to lean out the window and shout ‘thank you,’ again. It got me thinking – when we return to normal, will all of our senses be so over-stimulated by touch and speech and smell that for a while we become super knackered by it all? When I think about the difference between how many people I used to communicate with on a daily basis before this all happened to now, then the drop is huge. The mums on the school run, the cashier at the supermarket, the strangers in the street (yes, I’m thinking of the flirting thing again.) There were so many people, even if just for one word or sentence, that I spoke to daily and now it’s pretty much just my children. And maybe my husband when he emerges from his ‘office,’ as well as the odd Facetime, which let’s be fair isn’t the same and is tiring in a very different way. I worry we’ll either have nothing to talk about or will be so pleased to be social and see people that we can’t shut up. Maybe some of you are ahead of the game on this now you’re allowed to be socially distant with one other person? Is it exhausting? Oh, and I’ve just Googled social fatigue, turns out it is indeed a thing…

Social Fatigue occurs when a person is overwhelmed by being put into far too many socialsituations for their comfort, often resulting in boredom or annoyance at those around them.

…maybe I should call it social exhaustion instead…

  • I’ve just asked my eighteen year old what she thinks I’ve learnt this week and she’s made a good point… she says I’ve relaxed (believe it or not) since being in A&E and having to take the eleven year old to the minor injuries unit. And she’s right. Most people have been able to leave the house for an hour to exercise and more recently for longer, and I imagine have got used to being around other people and being more confident as the weeks go on and they don’t become unwell. I’m still very much in the early stages of that process and thinking that everyone I pass has Covid-19 and will give it to me just by looking at me. But the more I go out, the more it becomes normal and the less anxious I am. Don’t get me wrong, I am still anxious and I am in no rush to go out for a walk this afternoon for the reasons I mentioned above, but the anxiety around it all is easing a bit. She also noted (she is a wise one) that I’ve spent a lot of my life living with anxiety and so this is somewhere where I am ahead of the game, I’m used to having to calm myself down and know exactly what techniques work. I’m actually sleeping like a baby and haven’t had a panic attack in a while. Is it weird that I’m grateful for this? Grateful that I have been in so many shitty situations that I know how best to handle this one? And know that because I’ve survived worse before then I will do again? I was wondering if the universe was trying to teach me something by sending me so many challenges in lockdown, and maybe this is it? That I’ve got this. 

Anyway, I think that’s it for this week, but just to reassure you the news has made me fume. And with the bizarre approach to track and trace starting today I don’t see that frustration disappearing any time soon. 

One rule for them, another for us… (dammit I went there after all, sorry.)

Take care x

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