Covid-19 Diaries: Kindness and Lifelines

I’m typing this one-handed, or rather, one-thumbed. I’m currently waiting until it’s safe to move the baby without waking her.

It’s been 9 weeks since the UK went into lockdown. While restrictions have been lifted in England, here in NI they remain much the same. We’re allowed to meet non household members outdoors, but otherwise it’s still “Stay at Home.”

Let me preface the rest of this blog with this statement: I 100% agree with this. That being said, I’m not going to lie. It’s absolutely horrendous.

I decided to write this because it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and I don’t know about you, but this lockdown has me down. I’m tired of being Mommy 24/7. I’m tired of working silly hours to get quality work ready for my pupils. I’m tired of being stuck in the same rut a la Groundhog Day.

I’m tired of never having space to breathe.

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme is kindness, and this evening I made a good, kind choice. My anxiety and distress had built up so much that I knew I had to do something. So I called Lifeline.

The last time I called them was Feb 2019. I only know this because the amazing gentleman on the phone told me so. And you know, it made me feel weirdly proud. I managed to make it through 15 months without being that far in distress. That’s pretty damn amazing.

Lockdown is tough. Covid-19 is a bastard that can fuck right off to the moon. The recurring physical issues I’m also having aren’t making things easier. But I refuse to lie down under all of this. I will keep smiling. I will keep looking for positives and faking it until I make it.

I need to be strong for my daughters. I need to be more compassionate to myself.

I need to be kind.

So this Mental Health Awareness Week, make sure you check in with yourself. Are you okay? What tangible steps can you take to ease the pressure and burden? How can you be kind to yourself? I eased the burden on myself a bit by reaching out, which I did today. If you need to, pick up the phone and do it. Talking to Lifeline helped massively, and that’s why I’m writing this blog. If you’re looking for a sign that everything is going to be alright, this is it. Now go be kind to yourself.

Kudos to you, Lifeline, for living up to exactly what your name suggests. You’ve helped ease my burden a little, and that means a lot.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try and move a baby without waking her, and then climb Mount Workload.

[Editing note: She stayed asleep…for now.]

*

If You Need Help

Samaritans: 116 123 (https://www.samaritans.org)

Lifeline (NI)0808 808 8000 (https://www.lifelinehelpline.info)

Get Self Help: https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/helplines.htm

Covid-19 Diaries: The Key Worker Tangle

It’s been a while since I last posted, and it’s exactly because of that tangle.

At the moment I’m juggling working from home and caring at the same time. I’m also struggling against my own perfectionism. It’s tough! There’s never really a switch-off, or a proper break. I’ve found myself checking work emails at 8pm while getting the baby to sleep because it’s been the first time in the day (which starts at 6am) I’ve had a chance. I’ve been simultaneously cooking dinner, jiggling the baby’s rocker with one foot and trying to plan next week’s work in my head, all while the toddler is hanging onto my non-jiggling leg begging for juice.

As for writing time, that doesnt exist any more.

I’m definitely getting fatigued from being needed so much and not being able to get at my projects. But I keep reminding myself that I don’t have it that bad. It’s tough, but at least I can work from home. I might be on my own 90% of the time, but I still have that 10% when the husband is present. And my book manuscript will still be there when this is all over.

I’ll be interested to see what the PM’s message will say tonight. In spite of the difficulty of current circumstances, I’m still in favour of keeping the lockdown. My difficulties are worth it if we stop people dying unnecessarily.

Stay at home. Wash your hands.

Covid-19 Diaries: Juice in a cup!

The bane of my existence

I’ve just come off the back of 5 days solo parenting. If I get asked for one more cup of juice, I’ll scream.

I’m going to do a post listing all the things I’ve learned from this pandemic, but for now I’ll say this: I have SO much respect for single parents. How do you do it? How?

Being alone at home with small babies is tough. There have been so many times these past days when I’ve wanted to jump in the car and drive to my mum’s and cry. A lot. But I didn’t because I can’t, and because I need to do this on my own.

It doesn’t mean it’s not hard. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to want to cry again. But I’ll get through it. We all will.

Plus I have this awesome book that accurately describes my current situation:

I empathise with Mrs Large

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to fill a juice cup for the 1701th time.

#staysafe #washyourhands

Covid-19 Diaries: Quarantine Birthday

I’ve had a run of bad luck with birthdays. 2017: in hospital. 2018: in hospital. 2019: morning sickness. 2020: quarantine. Honestly, I should stop having birthdays.

You might think today was shit for me. Alone all day looking after the two kids, and as soon as the husband finally arrived back after a 13 hour shift, we collapse into bed.

Actually, today wasn’t shit. So many people wished me happy birthday. I got lots of texts, phone calls, and a few video chats. My mum and dad even called me to sing “Happy Birthday.” And people were lovely. Lots of well wishes in spite of the global pandemic locking us all in. People are awesome.

As well, it was a beautiful day. I don’t think I can recall a birthday when I’ve had to put on sunscreen, but today I did and I loved it. Myself and the kids and the dog spent so much time in the back garden, and we had a lovely walk – I’ve now managed to stretch our walk to 1.7 miles, though I think that’s the limit. Can’t take a double buggy where there ain’t no footpaths.

Spot the dog!

I also finally got all the elastic tacked on to my latest donation of face masks, and I even got my most recent royalty check for my books. I had a great call with my community psychiatric nurse who assured me that everything I’ve done over the past week to reduce my anxiety has been great. We talked and reflected that I’ve come a huge way since 2017. And you know what? I’m proud of myself.

Today could have been shit, but it wasn’t. That’s the impact other people can have. It’s why I stick by the old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” You can hurt and destroy with a word or a look, but on the flip side your kindness and consideration can turn a crap situation into something special. So for that, and for those who took the time to help make today a great birthday, I am very thankful.

Covid-19 Diaries, or: why mommy lost her f**king mind.

I’ve just had my breakfast stolen. That solitary piece of toast I managed to make for myself after feeding the baby and making the toddler’s food has been nicked by said toddler. Wonderful.

All that remains of my breakfast.

Today marks the close of the third week of government imposed lockdown. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do. Unfortunately it’s probably going to kill me.*

Context: I’m a parent to two very small children (one just turned 2 and the other is 4 months old) and my husband is a key worker who’s currently pulling 12 hour shifts. But of course, a 12 hour shift doesn’t mean 12 hours away from home. It means 14 hours. It’s either 7am-7pm or 7pm-7am, so whatever way you slice it, I’m alone. Every breakfast, lunch, dinner, every permitted once-a-day walk, I go it solo.

More important context: I’m frequently unwell. I’ll be candid here in two ways: one about my conditions and one about your attitude towards them. I have a set of complex mental health conditions, and if you’re going to judge me for it you can fuck right off. Sorry ’bout it.

I mention this because one of my main issues at the moment is that I’ve been cut off from my support network and I can’t do 99% of the things I did to self-soothe. It’s near impossible to get headspace when you’re solo parenting every minute the kids are awake and can’t go further than half a mile and back from your house. Not to mention that you can’t get near your writing and you’re staring down the barrel of teaching from home because your maternity ends in 2 weeks.

All of that is why I’m doing this. I can’t work on my fiction, but I can scratch the writing itch with some blogging. And it might take me an entire day to get it done (I started at 8am and it’s now 4.30pm) between attending to my 1,701 duties in this house, but at least it’s something.

My anxiety is already worse than it’s been in over a year. I’ve removed myself from all my group chats and deleted all my social media apps (this may auto-post to my author page, not sure) because I can’t keep on top of my paranoia.

I’m big on creating, so I’ve been trying to get some crafting done too. I’m hoping that blogging and making will keep me sane and stave off the inevitable mental breakdown.*

To end on a lighter note, here’s some crafts particularly enjoyed making.

Peace out ✌ #stayathome and #washyourhands

* This is hyperbole.

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