What I've learned in 2020 is that I can face my fears.
I can stay home for five months.
I never thought that was possible, I struggled to stay home for one day, let alone five days, five weeks or five months. But when you're told to shield you do it and I did it. There were really hard days and weeks but with help from my GP, counselling, family and friends I did it. I was blessed not to be entirely on my own because my husband and teenager shielded me by staying home as well. However they found their inner hermits and actually loved the experience - in fact they would have continued for much longer and hubby is now working from home full time and daughter is currently isolating from school and very content.
I can cope without hugs
This was by far the worst part of shielding because I'm a hugger, I love to hug my friends. I was really struggling with this but decided to try a weighted blanket after hearing how they were helping people. Well all I can say is - give it a go. When I lie under it I feel calmer, held, supported and my anxiety reduces. I never would have thought it could work but it is just what I need. I have embraced the weighted blanket revolution so much that I now have two, one for bed and one for the sofa.
I have trauma in my past which I can heal from
I won't go into detail, maybe I will in the future, but not now. Lockdown has uncovered trauma I didn't really know about and I have been diagnosed with PTSD and an awaiting specialist therapy. It was terrifying when my counsellor and I identified this trauma issue but I've been incredibly well cared for by Talking Therapies and have been moving through two sets of preparatory counselling whilst I await the PTSD therapy. Two months ago I wasn't sure that I would be able to face the past, I just wanted to lock it into a box in a box; but I have developed new skills for my toolbox and realised that I have been using lots for years which I can be proud of. I am now looking forward to healing and living an even less anxious life in the years to come.
I still like my husband.
This may sound flippant but it's not. Over the last few years I have been worried that we've been drifting apart and although we love each other still I wasn't sure we'd choose each other as friends any more. We just didn't seem to have much in common and life was too busy to try to reconnect.
Well being locked down together for all these months has given us time to hang out as a family and as a couple and it has been a joy to rekindle our friendship and know that we are an amazing unit just as much now as we were twenty years ago. Of course we still argue, I'm a passionate red head after all, but we always make up.
I can go into A&E and face hospital admission on my own.
This might not seem like a lot to most people but A&E fills me with fear, I've just had too many bad experiences of not being listened to and that is even worse when you can't breathe properly or see properly. When I realised there was a good chance I had Covid I had a counselling session focused on how I could help myself should I need to go into hospital. I knew I could pray and use my mindfulness techniques and put an app on my phone in case I needed some additional help with that. I knew I would have my phone and could message people. But I needed more tools to be able to ground myself if my anxiety started getting out of hand. My toolkit included:
A metallic heart with a bell inside (sounds like a meditation ball) which Rachel gave me - so both a gift from her, a tactile object and a soothing sound
A holding cross to help me in prayer and to hold as a way to self soothe
A weighted lap blanket to put on my lap much like a high l hand of a loved one
A blackcurrant tea light in a pot which I've had since primary school and still smells strongly bringing back very positive memories
iPad, long charging cable and power bank to allow me to mindfully draw and create digitally
A document with all my medication and conditions so I wouldn't have to worry about how to remember it all
Less than a week after preparing this kit I had to go to A&E. I had to hug Rachel not knowing if I would get to do that again. Then Mike drove me to A&E and had to drop me at the door and leave. Just writing that I can't believe I did it. But I did; and I was there for 4 hours and I didn't have even one panic attack. I used my tools, I created, I was mindful, I prayed and others prayed for me, I was honest with the nurses about my anxiety and I did it!! I faced my fears and I am proud of myself and so thankful to all those who helped me.
The final fear I have faced is one I really hoped I wouldn't have to face…..
I can survive covid!
Having not gone anywhere since March to avoid catching Covid I sadly caught Covid. There has been an outbreak at Rs school and sadly she must have caught the virus, was asymptomatic and I caught it. All of her cleaning and care, the systems she put in place and the responsible way she balanced going back to school with protecting me could protect us from her actually catching it in an exam hall. We knew it was a risk and it happened. We still believe it was the best thing for R to go back into school for her GCSE year and thankfully as I write this I am on day 12 with medication working and I am breathing much better. The doctors, nurses and I now believe that I can and will survive Covid. I will have to rest for many weeks and months, but it won't beat me.
A few people have asked whether I regret shielding for all these months since I caught it anyway and the answer is NO. I have caught it from one person only so have had a low viral load, I have kept away from all other bugs and so am as healthy as I could be to help me fight it, and I have learned a huge amount about myself in the process. There are no regrets, they are a waste of energy, there is only thankfulness for the blessings in every day and the hope for the future.
There's one other thing I want to share about 2020 which has never been a fear of mine, but I know other people worry about….
The world is full of people who care.
Watching the news and reading the papers we'd be forgiven for thinking that humanity is selfish, ungrateful and uncaring. But that is not what I've ever thought and the covid pandemic has brought to the fore the innate goodness of people and the way we care for each other.
Neighbours have helped neighbours, community groups have sprung up (such as our own a Earley Help Hub) and have been inundated with volunteers, people have stayed home to protect the vulnerable, family and friends have supported each other physically and emotionally, and we've all realised the value of key workers and carers as well as our amazing NHS.
Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but I believe that where people aren't behaving in a caring way that's probably because they need to be cared for themselves.
One of the most maligned groups of people are young people and especially teenagers. Well I want to big them up. My daughter was absolutely committed to shielding me to keep me safe, I was blown away by that gift she has given me. But more than that, her friends have supported her in supporting me. They have worked together online, they've chatted together online, they've group called, they've arranged socially distanced meets in our garden and more. Her best friend even kept herself safe in order to come to a social distanced separate tents sleep out in the garden for Rs birthday. They have supported each other and by following the rules they have protected the vulnerable in the community, not just me. They rock. And I know that the majority of teenagers and young people have done the same, because they care! I have no fear for the future in their hands