Special leave in lockdown, Pt.2

Keeping some notes even though I’m not working

I started writing some notes about some of the things currently going on in my life during Covid-19, you’ll find Pt.1 here:

View at Medium.com

Through weeknotes writing as a practice I’ve come to realise how writing helps me work through and process things that are happening.

When I published Pt.1 I ended it in a bad place. I had been on my own, stewing in my anxiety for too long, and not reaching out. But, on deciding to hit publish late on Thursday night, I immediately felt a little lighter – it was the start of me opening up – and deciding to feel what I was feeling.

A pencil drawing of two rivers, at the top the river is labelled “anxiety” it is blocked by what look like a lot of bricks and the water has built up behind it. The second has a label above it with an arrow saying “talking to someone” three more arrows show how the water keeps flowing. The drawing is by @decadezdoodles

I feel immeasurably better as I write this now, in no small part down to the support I’ve had from my community, thank you all xx

Day 6: Friday 15 May

I slept really badly. I stayed up late writing and then couldn’t sleep. When I woke up this morning (at 5.40am — thank you little man) I still felt really delicate. The stress headache was still firmly wedged in my forehead and I basically shuffled around for a couple of hours.

My mum called, I drank tea, and I procrastinated, leaving myself only 15 minutes to get ready for little man’s 9.30am virtual speech therapy session. He did really well, and it lifted my spirits a bit, but then when the therapist asked me how I was getting on I burst into tears.

Afterwards I called my mother in-law and she suggested again that I come over and stay with them.

A pencil and ink drawing by @rubyetc of two houses, speech bubbles saying “I love you” leave both houses and zigzag to become one speech bubble.

I felt so exhausted and didn’t want another night on my own, so I decided to go. I felt like I was packing up my life and running away.

After lunch we waited for my mother in law to turn up. I packed up the hammock (an essential item) and we stuffed it into her car. I packed up all of the food in the fridge and gave some veggies away to a neighbour. Then we were off.

I was really tired and tried very hard to stay awake while my mother in law chatted to (at?) me.

My sister in law and nephew came round, and we spent some time in the garden. I’m not sure what the guidance is at this point and that may well not be allowed, but my brain was fuzz. I felt overwhelmed and in need of company.

I’m sure that when I publish this it will be frowned upon by some people, but I’m not an idiot. I trust my family and know that they have been sensible, been isolating. We have been isolating because my husband has been shielding. It wasn’t too chilly, and we were in the garden.

An illustration by @peopleiveloved a reclining woman is held up by five other people. Each person is labelled “valued, touch, connection, security, attention”. Underneath it says “Turns out I need more than one person to fill my emotional needs…”

Seeing little man and nephew together having a big hug was something I didn’t realise I really, really needed.

In the evening I ate dinner and went to bed, and slept like a log at 9.30pm.

Day 7: Saturday 16 May

Little man, excited to be at his grandparents, woke at 4.30am. He came into bed with me, and after half an hour of trying to get him back to sleep, I gave in and gave him my phone to watch TV. By 6am we were downstairs. I dragged my duvet to the sofa.

Weirdly, for such an early start, before I’d even realised it 11am rolled around.

We went for a walk to the nature reserve and it was nice to be out, seeing something new. We came home for lunch and had cheese toasties, which were really mundane and oddly comforting.

In the afternoon a tired little boy lay in my bed and played Mario Kart. Husband is feeling much less happy again today. The days change, one day progress feels great and real and fast, others feel like a slog. He’s been upset and not wanting to call me today, even though he is still making progress.

Little man is exhausted and in bed at 6pm for story time. We call daddy who is tired and sad. I’m starting to get used to the shifts in the days and the high highs and low lows. Thought it’s still horrible, I’m feeling more able to reassure, and not to spiral myself.

Day 9: Sunday 17 May

Husband called early in the morning adamant that he would “convince” the doctors that he should be able to come home today. At 10am he called again and told me that he could come home if the observed him doing this one thing correctly, which he did, but it took until around 3pm to get the discharge letter and to 4.30pm to get his medications from the pharmacy. We drive 40 minutes each way to collect him past 3 McDonalds. I suddenly really want McDonalds.

So today was mostly spent in a bit of limbo, waiting for the all clear to go and get him. Like turning up to early for a flight. That waiting seems an infinite amount longer than any other because it is coupled with being on high alert, ready for action.

Little man wanted to be on his own today and in the quiet. It was as if he knew something wasn’t quite right.

In the evening we had roast chicken, husband ate some. I have been burrowing my way through a giant bar of Dairy Milk and had a glass of wine. Bed at about 9.30pm. Waiting is exhausting.

Day 10: Monday 18 May

I forgot to write, well… I didn’t want to write.

Day 11: Tuesday 19 May

Here I am again. I didn’t write yesterday because, honestly, it was tough. I’ve been thinking on and off today about how I progress these notes. I think they have to come to an end now as things become just that bit too personal and I start trying to tell a story that’s not mine to tell. I’m not going to do that.

So what can I say?

1. Well I can say that anyone going through being in hospital during this time is not in for a fun time. Being in a stressful environment, without people to check for you, to advocate for you, to make sure you remember things, to talk to you if you’re feeling like it’s all a bit too much — it’s really crap. More than that, you have to return to the “real world” only to remember that we aren’t living in the real world right now.

2. Being a carer is really hard. I’m not sure I realised the need to be both soft and hard at the same time. To make decisions about what someone needs, while also supporting them to come along with you. It’s a difficult balance. I’m not sure how people do it long-term and retain their sanity.

A cartoon of two hands holding lots of balls that are labelled with things like “juggling uncertainty and adjusting” and “Isolation” with a banner that says “Just because I carry it well it doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy”

I guess it’s a special kind of leadership that’s needed here.

I’ve been internalising a lot about how I’m not cut out for this, my inner voice has been telling me that I can’t be a carer, I’m not “giving” enough. I’ve been feeling selfish for being tired, for thinking about my own needs and mental health.

A mug from the Happy News that says “You can’t do all of the things all of the time”

3. But I’m currently living a life that I never imagined for myself. It’s not bad, and others’ experiences are far more challenging, but when I was young and idealistic this isn’t where I thought I would be. Aged 37 and moved in with the in-laws for in unspecified amount of time, during a lockdown, caring for a recovering husband and an autistic child (granted, with help), while negotiating a new kind of loss of freedom both national and domestic. Honestly, if you are my age and enjoy living with parents or in-laws then you are super human.

Perhaps it gets easier. And at least, for me, there is an end in sight, and a positive end. I know things will get easier.

4. It’s Tuesday today, and I’m already thinking about how I’m going to return to work next week. I’m getting quite worried about whether I’ll be able to manage childcare (hint: I won’t, unless we all stay at the in-laws) but also about whether my head will be able to adjust back to the pace and the change and the work. I’m worrying, perhaps unnecessarily. But worrying nonetheless.

Anyway, I think I’ll probably call a halt to Special Leave in Lockdown now. Thank you for reading and for your words of support and encouragement, it means a lot.

As a final note I wanted to call out to the brilliant Amy Hupe and link to her writing about dealing with a health issue during these times. I think it’s easy when your life is on hold to forget that for so many of us life still has to go on, and the things that would be hard in normal times are made harder. Amy is writing brilliantly about her experiences and feelings.


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