2020 IN 10 FEELINGS

EMOTIONAL, FUNNY, MUST READ

This one comes courtesy of Sally Darby founder of @mums_like_us  who wanted to share her experience of Covid with MS (and 2 small kids). As I read on ‘another-Friday-that may-as-well-have-been-a-Tuesday’ I felt like she was managing to put into the words the feelings of many of us over this last year. Here it is:

  • COMPLACENCY. When news of the virus began to break I was brimming with foolhardy confidence and naivety. When my seven-year-old asked about face coverings, I confidently assured her we would never need to wear them. When my husband started to be concerned about the virus. I told him that ‘the scientists,’ would be, ‘all over it.’ Excellent. I was wise and calm and all this would blow over in a few days. 

  • FEAR.  I took a dramatic u-turn and swung from complacency to overwhelming fear when, in March it became clear this was not going to blow over. It had taken me several years to be able to describe myself as disabled without flinching. Now my disability was being termed a, ‘risk factor,’ or more often, ‘an underlying health condition,’ The thing I had worked hard to accept was once again something to resent and fear.   The mysterious algorithms of social media tapped in to my fear, repeatedly showing me news about risk factors and co-morbidities. I was struck by how rarely bad news truly and personally affects me. As a woman with multiple privileges, I am concerned about job losses, I am saddened by the privatisation of the NHS, I am distressed by the refugee crisis and I am angered by human rights abuses.  I’m not, however, frightened for me and my family because I know we will almost certainly, be alright. This time, I knew I had reason to be afraid. I was as disconcerted by my fear as I was by the realisation that I hadn’t felt it before.  

  • DETERMINATION. I am a former teacher. I retired from my career in 2016 due to increasing ill health. I felt that, as I was trained to teach and I was always at home,  I had no excuse. I was going to dedicate myself completely to two things – my physical health, and homeschooling. I would not touch a drop of alcohol; I would keep to a strict vegan diet. I would educate my children so well they would miss home school when they went back to real school. I spent hours drawing up a timetable that included forest school time, arts and crafts, problem-solving and making literacy and numeracy ‘fun.’ The rules were written up and colour coded. The reward system was ready to go. I put my all into my new role. Obviously, the timetable went to the wall within about a week. Obviously, there were tears and tantrums. Teaching 30 teenagers in a secondary school is a breeze in comparison to home educating your own darlings. But I did all I could to keep them happy at home, and I was so grateful I had the time to do it. I also ate loads of cheese and chocolate and drank buckets of Pinot. Determination will only get you so far in a global pandemic.

  • LONELINESS. The homeschooling kept my brain engaged and my mind distracted. I’m usually a glass-half-full kind of person and I tried not to dwell on the loneliness that I know had crept into all our lives. Not seeing my sister or my mum, or my mates was painful. It still is. 

  • JOY. It was brief but it was so good. BBQs, pub gardens and park life replaced the monotony of zoom and crafts. The fear subsided. In the summer, the mood of the country seemed to lift. I was confident the world would be Corona free by the Autumn. Happy Days.

  • DISAPPOINTMENT. My optimism was unrewarded, but better to have had fun and lost it than to have never had fun at all right? 

  • RELIEF. Personally, I always wanted my children to be in school. I felt that they needed a formal education and more importantly, they needed to see their friends. So I was enormously relieved by Boris’ announcement that the children would have at least that normality in their lives. I knew there were risks associated with schools but somehow them being in calmed me and brought structure and routine back into our lives. 

  • SHOCK. In the early hours of Tuesday 20th October, I read a text from the NHS saying that I had tested positive for Covid-19. The Saturday before my husband and I had relaxed in our garden drinking beers a round a smoky fire pit. That night I had a little cough. I thought I must have inhaled some smoke but took myself off to the spare room just in case. The next day the cough was gone. I was relieved it had just been smoke inhalation. But on Monday the cough returned. I was supposed to be meeting a pregnant friend but felt it only right to cancel. I knew if I wasn’t willing to see her, I should get a test but I had to quash my suspicion that I was a neurotic hypochondriac who was draining valuable NHS resources! In the coming days, my symptoms developed and I had muscle aches, fatigue and loss of smell. I was incredibly lucky. I was able to comfortably manage my symptoms at home. My husband also tested positive, also with mild symptoms and we were able to take it in turns to entertain our children. We both struggled with anxiety, waking up each day wondering if this would be the day we found ourselves in hospital. Our health got worse before it got better but we stayed out of hospital and we are recovering really well. We both consider ourselves enormously lucky.

  • GRATITUDE. Gratitude, more than any other feeling has enveloped me since the virus entered my household. I am, of course, grateful that my husband, who has asthma, and myself recovered. I’m grateful that my children didn’t get ill. I am grateful for my wondrous friends and family who sent flowers, cakes, biscuits and activity sets to entertain the children. I’m grateful for my home and garden and I’m so grateful to everyone who’s putting their necks on the line to get us through this mess. MS has given me plenty of cause for anger, frustration and shame over the years but right now, I am just so grateful not to be dealing with far worse. 

  • HOPE. As I have been writing this, Joe Biden has become President-Elect of the USA.  Then, today the news of a potential vaccine has broken. Could it be that good news is coming back? Perhaps we have reason to start tentatively hoping for spring weddings, summer holidays and children’s’ birthday parties. Hope will power us through this last few months. And for those of us who live with, ‘underlying health conditions,’ we can resume our previous relationships with our bodies, wherever we were on that journey. We can hope to move on from ‘vulnerable,’ and ‘at risk,’ towards something far more positive and uplifting. 



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