Week four – cabin fever sets in.
Four weeks of shielding. Four whole weeks. That’s a long time to not leave your house when you’re used to being busy. Cabin fever set in this week. I didn’t know that was an actual thing, I thought it was a flippant phrase people used. But no. It’s a thing. And it properly makes you go a bit crazy. If you look at the Wikipedia page about it you’ll see that cabin fever can make people do risky things. Like leave their homes in a pandemic. I did it myself last Thursday. I. Had. To. Leave. The. House. So I got in my car and drove down to the car park near the local river. And before you start tutting at me it’s less than ¼ mile away and I can see it from my house, but obviously due to shieling I couldn’t walk there like I normally would. Anyway, I wanted freedom. A change of scenery. Some time alone. Time out. Whatever. I had succumbed to cabin fever. But leaving the house was horrible. The short drive down was filled with anxiety. I freaked out that I might break down or maybe crash. Then I sat in my car down by the river with the windows firmly closed and I held my breath every time someone walked or ran past. (And a lot of people walked or ran past.) It wasn’t relaxing or comforting and all I wanted to do was go home. The some hideous human stood in front of my car and blew his nose onto the road in front of me. Well that was it. I was sure I was contaminated with the dreaded virus and I HATED myself for having left the house and putting everyone in danger because I selfishly wanted some time alone. Some release from the mundane groundhog-ness of every day life.
Never again. This week I toyed with the idea of sitting in my car on the drive with a flask of tea and a good book instead. I haven’t done it yet, but I might.
And what did this experience of fleeing the safety of my own home teach me and make me think about? It reminded me that I am privileged. That I get to stay at home and be safe. It taught me once again to be so bloody grateful for those who don’t have the choice of whether to stay safe at home or not and I want to thank each and every person who is on the front line or is a key worker for putting themselves in danger and their families too. I am in awe of their bravery and resilience. Their selflessness at a time when no one would forgive them for hiding away with their loved ones is to be hugely applauded and I will be stood at my window clapping like hell for them all again later.
It also made me think of people whose lives are like this all the time, pandemic or not. Miranda Hart has been doing some chatty rambles (aka chambles) on her Instagram account and she talks about this and hidden disabilities and illnesses far better than I could. Go check them out.
It also made me think about all the fuckers who are ignoring this whole thing and getting in their cars unnecessarily and driving a lot further than ¼ mile down the road to their second homes or holiday lets. If this is you and I find out, consider our friendship done.
So, what has this fourth week brought aside from cabin fever? (And apologies if I am repeating myself in these blog posts. I’ve decided not to read back over the previous ones to check what I’ve written as I’m worried that may affect what I write today or skew my memory of this week’s thoughts/feelings/experiences somehow. And now my blog is part of a research project at Swansea University – I know! – looking into how people react to a pandemic/social isolation, I want it to be as authentic as possible.)
- Control. It is no surprise to people who know me that I like to be in control. I like to know what, when, why, how and if I don’t know these things and I can’t find them out then I hate it. I like making things better, solving problems, finding solutions, fixing things. But I can’t fix this. And I can’t control it or how it affects us and that’s been hard to let go of. So instead and as a way of coping I decided to control the feck out of what I can – and that, for this week at least, has been food based. Sourcing online delivery slots, even when you have someone in the house registered as extremely vulnerable, is a challenge, but one I have nailed this week. Coming up with new recipes from the bizarre mishmash of foods we have has been a challenge and one I have relished. In the kitchen I am in control. So if like me you’ve struggled with lack of control recently then find something at home that you can control the hell out of. For me, right now, being in charge of food, both its sourcing and cooking, makes me feel in control. And gives me a purpose, which brings me nicely on to…
- Having a purpose. Much as I like to be busy and in control I also like to have a purpose. I need to achieve and sitting on my arse doing bugger all is not something I am comfortable with. Not that I don’t do it, but I want to be able to choose to do it, not be forced if that makes sense. I hate to think I’m wasting a single minute of the day and put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve something daily. Well, obviously in the middle of a pandemic I have struggled with this. I haven’t achieved anything, or so I think. I’ve had a go, but my brain hasn’t wanted to create, so novel number three is very much on hold, even though I keep thinking now more than ever I should have the time to be cracking on and writing it. I ought to make extra effort to sit at my desk and work. I must at least try. And I’ve struggled with my job and so have lost the purpose of supporting others, for now. It’s hard for me to achieve nothing. I feel like I’m not moving forward. I’m not making a difference. I’m wasting precious time alive. This may sounds daft, but I have always been brought up to do, do, do. Plus that’s how my brain works, I like to do, do, do. But during an epic meltdown yesterday I was reminded by a very good friend that I don’t need to achieve at the moment. And in fact, surviving everyday IS an achievement. End of. I need to lower my expectations of myself and notice what I am in fact achieving. No shoulds, oughts or musts, which ironically is what I tell pretty much every woman I support through my job. Those words are now banned! And if all I achieve in a day is feeding my family (control!) or making sure they feed themselves then that’s something!
- Sleep. I was quite surprised that so far in this pandemic my sleep hadn’t been affected, but that changed this week. I can’t drop off easily anymore and I wake more often during the night. On top of that, although undoubtedly inked, I’m sleepier during the day too. I’m told this is normal and often think to the Big Brother house where after several weeks living in there all the contestants started sleeping a lot more than usual. I’m sure there’s something scientific to back up my theory that this is all perfectly normal, and napping during the day may in fact be a healthy way to help cope with it all, but to be honest I banned myself from Googling anything even vaguely health related a while back so am not going to start reading up on how sleep, lack of it or too much of it might impact my health now. What I will say is that I think going with the flow and listening to your body on this front it probably best. Don’t panic if insomnia strikes (easier said than done, I know) and if you need to nap then go for it. I certainly am.
- Time. I think I wrote last week that there still weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. This week there are too many. The afternoons in particular are dragging. Maybe because that’s when I hit peak ‘I should’ve achieved something today’ time, and then realise that I can’t and there’s nothing to do. Or I haven’t got the energy or motivation to do it anyway. God I sound miserable. But it’s hard because the time I do have is making me think more, which is not always a good thing with an over active imagination like mine. I find myself worrying about all of the people who are unwell at the moment and all those out helping them. Worried about women and men in violent relationships or children in unsafe homes. I think about all of the smear tests that are being missed as well as bowel screenings and the knock on impact of how some people’s illnesses won’t be picked up early enough. I worry about people’s mental health and resilience, about how many of us will become agoraphobic and too scared to leave the house every again. I worry I’ve forgotten how my friends smell. (Yes I know this one is weird, but it felt huge yesterday.) Time = too many thoughts for me, many of them I recognise as unhelpful. Like my best friend said to me yesterday – we could be in a world where there were no worries and I’d be like, ‘hold my beer.’ I’m trying to learn to enjoy this time (and I do enjoy of a lot of it, I promise even though it might not seem like it in this post today!) and to appreciate the long, hot days in the garden with my children instead of wishing we were at the beach in Cornwall like we were meant to be right now. Time is a gift. My children will hopefully remember this as the time when we were altogether at home for weeks on end having fun together. The beach will still be there when this is all over.
- Information. I’ve learnt to go with the flow on this one and I’m pretty sure I’m repeating myself here. Whilst I still stand by reducing your exposure to the media and the news I’ve come to the realisation that some days I want to know nothing, whereas on other days I need ALL THE INFORMATION. And I’m learning that on the days when I devour every news article going and watch the daily briefing and look at the statistics and scour twitter for information I’m going to feel a little more shite about the whole thing.
- Music. Ending on a positive. Music is really amazing and can change how I feel in an instant. My latest obsession is the new album by Dua Lipa as every single song is upbeat and makes me want to dance around my kitchen, whilst cooking and convincing myself I’ve not lost all control. Or hope.
Stay safe people. And stay at home.
Oh, and as my best friend very wisely says… it’s okay if now is simply a time to survive, not thrive.