Two and a bit weeks ago was the first time that I felt vaguely human as I entered the recovery phase of COVID-19. A couple of days later, my husband came down with it too. He has end-stage renal failure so it’s been a very stressful couple of weeks including trips to hospital, calling 999 and and trying to cope with everything.
I have had to let go of being productive, being on top of things; had to let go of all my usual coping mechanisms for crises; had to let go of doing what I felt I ought to be able to do or what I felt I should be doing. Home schooling went out of the window along with balanced diet, exercise, housework and work in all its guises. I felt completely at sea and utterly overwhelmed with what is happening in the world, knowing that it will never be the same again.
A couple of weeks on and I am getting better at discerning what I need to do and what I want to do and some of the stuff in between that is about things I need to do but perhaps don’t want to…My husband is through the worst of it thankfully and, although his dialysis has been put on hold for 2 weeks, he is doing ok. The reality of this is that he sleeps a lot and can’t do anything so it falls to me to keep it all together. I have now been furloughed and I leave my job at English National Ballet on 17 April to start at the University of Northampton on 20 April. This means that I am having to do my handover and close off all my projects 2 weeks ahead of the original schedule and with a necessary delay so I am behind and the deadline has moved closer. It meant that my son and I had a serious conversation about watching TV; I said that he can stay in his PJs, watch TV, play video games and just chill out. He has become used to me being on conference calls and the dining room is now my work space. Discipline is decidedly lax in our house at the moment so this coming week, things will change a bit.
Now the husband is starting to get better and will restart dialysis, we will have some routine back in our week (which might help me to know what day it is!). I am starting to book in FaceWine sessions with friends (I just couldn’t really cope with it until now). My son has reignited his friendship with the lad next door and they have water fights and play ball over the fence. I also have FenceWine with my pal next door and every afternoon my boy and I are taking the dog to the big field out the back for playing ball whilst the boy and I do a bit of rugby training.
The issues haven’t gone away and I still have moments of being overwhelmed and scared and worried but I am feeling more able to cope with what comes my way. One of the biggest tools that has helped me is KanBan, both for getting on top of the work, ice hockey, changing jobs and 80% awesome activity and for all the stuff at home. My son and I have a huddle each morning and look at what we’re going to do over the day which includes what schoolwork he is going to do each day. It gives me control over my own sense of coping and getting on with things and it gives him control over the content of his day. When we move the post-its into Done, the sense of satisfaction is a really positive end to our day. Having the backlog section also means I can park the things that I know are coming up that I need to remember to do and that also takes a bit of stress away.
There are heaps of resources out there about what we should all be doing during lockdown – online exercise sessions, conference calls, online socials, online learning, books to read and programmes to watch…. which is great (if at times I cannot stand the competitive home schooling!). I have been truly impressed by how some businesses have pivoted in response to this pandemic – our local pub has become a takeaway/delivery service as well as our village shop and it continues to be a social hub through social media. It is keeping the supply chain viable as well as providing a vital support for everyone in the village.
Having been through COVID-19, what all the resources, blitz spirit and ‘making the best of it’ is masking is the emotional stuff, the uncontrollable panic, the stress and tension on our relationships. The care and love is fantastic (and essential) but let’s not shy away from how awful this is. The ice rink where MK Lightning (my team) play ice hockey is being converted for use as a mortuary. It’s an ideal emergency resource and sadly will be necessary. It’s hard to process that a place that is so positive and happy for me personally, for us as a family and for the wider hockey family will be a place to store dead bodies. Dead family members. Dead friends. It’s more than sad. The world will not be the same after this.
The other part that is difficult is that we don’t know when it will be over so for those of us who are planners (yep, that would be me) it’s stressful to be unable to plan beyond the end of the day and I worry about the businesses, charities, venues and public sector as well as the NHS and support services. It’s more than ok to feel sad, angry, upset, depressed and everything else – talk about it, share it, feel it.
The last 3 weeks (including when I was ill) have made me accept being stuck at 10% awesome and made me accept that other people have thought I’ve been a bit crap (Note: I have moved “being judged by other people” into the ZFG). It’s also made me accept that this is entirely ok and I can give myself permission to not be resilient or productive. I am confident that I am slowly moving up the scale of awesome and at some point I will be back in the Opportunity Zone. I am trying to find positive things in every day – whether that’s through a great conversation with a friend, the sunshine, a lovely meal from random ingredients, teaching my boy something new….anything that helps us see the light at the end of the tunnel.
For the moment though, let’s stay safe and stay in. Find joy and energy wherever we can. Ask for help. Give ourselves permission. And let’s get through this.
Editors note: Shortly after writing this, I created a spa day with my son. It was a source of joy for both of us and was an experience that was more than the sum of its parts. That is, the treatments were not the most professional but the time spent with my son was invaluable.