Hello again. How are you? It’s all getting a bit real and stressful now, right? But you’re all staying at home and saving yourselves, others and the NHS, right? (Unless you are a key worker, obvs. And if you are THANK YOU!)
Yes, Jen, you say.
This week, our third at home, has dragged in places and sped by in others. I actually can’t believe it’s Thursday again already. As always there have been ups and downs and tears – but the good news is that the 18yo is now in isolation just down the road and will be home in 9 days and counting. I am calmer knowing she’s locked away – whilst she doesn’t have the same rare disease as the boys, she is asthmatic – and that she will be home with us and properly safe soon.
Also this week my middle one turned eleven, and celebrated a very different kind of birthday. (He said it was awesome!) Although, it’s worth pointing out, that it wasn’t his worse, as that was his sixth birthday when he was into his third week of a hospital stay having all sorts of investigative tests to find out why his lung was collapsed and he was having recurrent chest infections. Every silver lining and all that…
So here’s what have I learnt in the last seven days that I haven’t learnt already during this time, although there may be some repetition… every day’s a school day…
- Ask for and accept help. Yep, that’s right. You’re not putting people out; you’re making them feel like they are doing something. And there is no shame in admitting there are some things you cannot do. I’m historically very bad at asking for and accepting help, but this week I’ve had to. From having prescriptions picked up, to pints of milk being delivered, to help with dog walking, to seeds being posted through the letterbox, to strawberry plants being left on my doorstep, to daily messages of links to ideas online for me and the boys to do, to housing my daughter and then driving her so she can be put up in an annex and in a friend’s back garden, to popping down on your daily exercise walk to drop of cards and banners and gifts for the birthday boy… thank you for all of it. (And apologies if you’ve helped me and I’ve missed it out, I shall come on to memory loss later!) THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. I am blessed to have the most amazing friends and neighbours who will do anything for my family and I. I owe you all BIG TIME and when I can I will return all of your amazing favours. I PROMISE.
- There still aren’t enough hours in the day. Sounds daft, but it is true. I still cannot get on top of the washing, or get my children to regularly clean their teeth even though I’m at home 24/7. There are still dirty dishes on top of the dishwasher that needs emptying and I thought by now I’d at least have painted and decorated one room in the house. But no. No, no, no. I have sorted some jigsaw puzzles. And I have baked a cake. And I have achieved some other things, but there are texts I haven’t had time to reply (or have forgotten about) to cups of tea left to go cold on the side. But, you know what? I’ve learnt to let it go about it and not worry. At first I was extremely frustrated that I wasn’t achieving more each day. I hadn’t done any writing or been creative or anything. And I had all the time in the world, so why wasn’t I able to Get. Shit. Done? I thought that I must be a failure, blah blah blah. But bollocks to that. I’m surviving. I’m feeding my children and doing the best I can. And that’s enough for now. The fact that there aren’t enough hours in the day is a god thing. It means time for once is not dragging. And for that I am grateful. We’re in this for the long haul and so there is still plenty of time to get shit done. Or not.
- Wiser food choices. A positive! We are wasting less food. And we are eating a wider variety of foods (sounds glamorous, it’s not – I’m just throwing random things I can find together instead of going to the supermarket and getting whatever I fancy or cooking whatever I know the boys will definitely eat) We are more careful with our portions and because of this there is less waste. The children are actually clearing their plates – they appreciate their food more – because they know we haven’t got as much food as normal or as easy access to it. (I’ve registered the boys as extremely vulnerable with the Government after getting the letter through for them, but still we have no delivery slot) I’ve recognised that it’s good for my mental health to be more creative with what food we’ve got. And I’m enjoying the challenge!
- Family time. Another positive. We are eating together more as a family. With my husband here it’s no longer me cooking one meal for the boys and then another one later on for us after he gets home from work. We are sitting down together and eating the same food and it is lovely. We chat, we laugh, we talk about what things we will do when this is all over. One of which is to sit down for family meals more often!
- Trigger time. I have noticed that mentally, anxiety wise, I’m generally okay during the day – as long as I avoid the news and certain social media apps. But as the sun is setting I feel unsettled and anxious. I mentioned this on Twitter and a lovely doctor I know mentioned Sundown Syndrome. I had no idea it was a thing, and haven’t Googled it, but it made sense. I can keep busy during the day and keep my mind occupied. But then once everyone is fed and the boys are doing their physio and I might catch the news or start thinking about tomorrow, I remember what is happening outside the safety of my home. Now I know that this is my triggering time I make sure I’m doing something to keep busy, or I simply recognise the feelings and say to myself that this is my bad time, and in an hour it’ll be okay again. And it always is. Know your triggers, know the times of the day when you are more vulnerable, and understand that how you are feeling during this time will pass. Feelings aren’t facts. Fact.
- On that note, I’ve also learnt not to pick up my phone as soon as I wake up. Those early moments where I wake and forget what’s going on are precious. They remind me of what it’s like when you’re grieving. When you wake and fleetingly everything is temporarily forgotten, before it all comes flooding back. Not reaching for my phone delays the rush of reality and allows me to be a bit more mindful and present and calm. It’s a nicer way to start the day. I’m not being ignorant or wanting to be in denial, I just want to protect myself that little bit longer before getting up and getting through another day. The news will still be there later. I just don’t need it rammed in my face as soon as I open my eyes.
- Hair. I’ve learnt that I don’t have the kind of hair that looks good unwashed, or washed and then left to dry naturally. The less said about this, the better.
- Memory and concentration. This has deserted me this week. I forget what day it is. I forget to reply to texts or emails. I forget words for things. I can’t remember what conversations I’ve had with my husband – yesterday I said the same thing to him five times. I guess it’s because my mind is either so full of holding it all together that it doesn’t have time to remember the little things, or that it’s had enough and can’t be bothered anymore. Either way, if you’ve messaged me and I’ve not replied this will undoubtedly be why. Sorry. Also, now I think of it, maybe I’ve mentioned some of these points in a previous blog post and have forgotten. But who cares, right? If I’ve repeated them here then they must be important, so sod it.
- Mindfulness. I’ve never really got on with this before, whenever they told me to focus on my breathing it would have the opposite of the intended effect and make me start to hyperventilate. But this week I thought I would give it another go and downloaded the Headspace app. I am now on day 6. I do it at bedtime, but first thing in the morning would work well too, although that would involve reaching for my phone. Anyway, I think it’s helping. It’s nice to have five minutes to block everything out, be in the moment and remind myself that in that very moment we are safe at home.
And that’s where I’ll end this post because it is an important point and a mantra I keep repeating…
We’re not stuck at home; we’re safe at home.