I think we can all agree that the Coronavirus has affected us all. Whether in a minimal or maximal way we have all been changed. At the beginning of lock down I was going through something of a health crisis which brought on severe health anxiety and depression. I was coming to the end of my second year at university, trying to get assignments finished and exams revised for, whilst all I wanted to do was shut myself away in bed and retreat from the world.
I found myself grateful when lock down was actually confirmed and I had no choice other than to stay at home in the safety of my family and not have to pretend that all was well. I spent at least a month in bed, only getting up for necessities. I felt paralysed by fear, and some days lay in bed arguing with myself that nothing awful was going to happen if I got up.
That is the despicable thing about depression and anxiety. It robs you of today and makes you dread tomorrow. And, as a parent, is further exacerbated by guilt that you are neglecting your family.
I am fortunate. I have a wonderful family who have seen the signs before and always do their utmost to help me. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would not still be here without the love and care of my family and friends and God.
Slowly, things began to turn around. I sought comfort in prayer and my family. I began to look forward to things again. But I recognised that I needed more help and so I began to take anti-depressant medication again.
So here is Lesson One I have learnt.
Needing or relying on medication to reset and even out your hormones is not a bad thing. It does not make you weak or less of a person. It does not mean you are not a Christian. It does not mean you are a failure. It simply means you needed a little extra help.
Lesson Two I have learnt.
This is a hard one for me. Friends and family do want to help but can only help if you speak out. They are not mind readers. Even though I know he loves me it was so hard to say to my husband “I need help, I am not coping”. Of course he knew that anyway but it took me articulating those words to start getting the help I needed.
Lesson three I have learnt.
During Covid, a couple of times each day my husband and I and sometimes the kids, and always the cats, would sit out in the front garden and watch the world go by. If the weather was bad, which it fairly often is in Wales, we sat in the porch and watched the rain or the storm. We have never really used our front garden much even though we have lived here for almost eight years but we slowly began to value and look forward to these times together. In a busy family of 6 with so much going on I will be honest and admit we had grown apart a little. But as we spent those times, watching the birds over head and having the quiet to actually hear the birdsong, my heart began to heal. We would take a coffee out with us, leave our phones indoors and just talk about everything. This was one of the most precious things during lock down and one we plan on continuing. Remembering to make time for each other as a couple.
Lesson Four I have learnt.
In times of worry and pandemics there is still precious beauty in the world if we would only slow down and take the time to look for it. The sun shining through the rippled windows, warmth on your face, neighbours who stop to pass the day, a hymn that rises unbidden to your mind, the fragrance of a budding flower, cat cuddles, laughing with the kids, crosswords with the hubby, free school meals for children over the holidays, national theatre shows online, Sir Tom Moore and so many other things that I could mention but don’t have space for.
Lesson Five I have learnt.
I have put this under the lesson title but obviously it was something I was aware of and mindful of before lock down.
We are all responsible for each other and for this planet. We all have a part to play in standing up for injustice and inequality. No one should ever be disqualified or made less of for the colour of their skin.
Lesson Six I have learnt.
Do something to stretch your mind….. but only if you feel up to it. If all you can do today is just get through the day, that’s ok. But please let me remind you, from someone who has been there, feelings are temporary and will pass. As someone said “This too will pass, it may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass”. I am in no way trying to minimise anyone’s pain or sadness but I have found it vital to remind myself not to believe the lie that I will always feel that way.
So with that in mind and mindful of the fact of how much time I waste looking at my phone I decided to teach myself a new hobby. I intended to learn macrame last Summer but as quite often happens I never got around to it. For the last two weeks I have been learning macrame through online tutorials and attempting to make my efforts look somewhat similar. It’s going fairly well although my hand eye co-ordination is not wonderful. The main thing is it keeps me from over thinking about things I cannot control.
Lesson Seven I have learnt.
Normal is over rated. I don’t know why but unless you are a strong minded individual everyone just wants to fit in with everyone else. No one wants to stand out or be noticed. We all just want to be normal. However, the conundrum is that everyone’s idea of normal is also different. So much depends on family environment, genetics and life events. “What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly” (Morticia Addams).
Despite what we choose to portray online, no one has it all together. Everyone has their own problems and difficulties they don’t share with the world. Everyone is struggling, some just hide it better.
And by the way, the grass is never greener. It might appear so but there are always weeds lurking…..
After all this is over, we do not know what the world will look like. There will be a new normal we will have to get used to and new measures and precautions we will have to participate in to prevent second waves.
For myself, lock down has been a reminder of all the things I value in my life but had begun to take for granted. It has also meant a return to some important values I had left along the way.
Last lesson, I am here if you need a shoulder to cry on or just someone to listen. Whether we have been friends for years or are recent acquaintances I care about you and what you are going through.
P.S ” You were born an original, don’t die a copy” (John Mason).