I hope….

Well it seems we are all players in some kind of dystopian society. The police ( it has been reported) going into shops and telling the store owners what they can and can’t sell. Road blocks stopping cars asking where the occupants are going. Whilst I understand some of these measures maybe necessary I do sometimes wonder if there will be long term ramifications for our civil liberties when this is all over. Possibly the free society that we have been told exists for so long, was just a fallacy. Who knows ? It is just a bloody strange time to be alive. 

I worry a lot about the adults of the future and their mental health after being exposed to these constant stress levels. No matter how good of a parent you are the kids are going to notice that things are far from normal. Exposure to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol for prolonged periods during childhood is theorised to cause damage (here) We went into this global pandemic with a vastly underfunded National Health Service, whose mental health side always played the poor relation. Now we have the very real issue that after we get through this that not only adults maybe displaying the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress but also millions of children. All people who may be needing immediate help after this crisis is over but the help sadly won’t be available to them.

My anxiety levels have been all over the place in the last week, I know I am not the only one who is struggling to deal with the current situation. Last week gin and chocolate were my drugs of choice but they left me feeling awful and rapidly gaining weight, so I have switched back to my meal replacement as I feel so much better on this and it stops the passing out after eating nonsense. Hubby is also having to battle the demon anxiety, his is related to work and the guilt of not being there. The slightest thing is setting him off so it is necessary to attempt to fill his days with as much activity as possible so he simply doesn’t have the opportunity to fall down the Covid- 19 Rabbit hole. 

I was perfectly fine with the whole lock down situation as in all honesty it was no different to any other week in the past 12 years. At the moment with Mr Myasthenia Kid being home it just feels like he is on holiday other than his work phone is on and he is ringing staff to find out how they are doing whilst they are also on 12 weeks leave from work. However more than two weeks of this and it is going to get bizarre. I have grown very used to my own company over the last 12 years. I can usually accommodate the disruption to my routine when he is home, this 12 week period could be a test as I do like my routine. 

On Saturday a dear friend dropped off mine and hubby’s prescription medication to us. Normally I would have thrown my arms around her and given her a hug. Instead we had to observe the whole two metre distance protocol . It was weird and unnatural ( I get that it is to stop infection, it doesn’t stop it from being totally alien ). We have over the last ten years become quite a demonstrative country, friends greet each other with a hug, peck on the cheek. So to suddenly go back to not greeting my nearest and dearest this way, well it really upset me. As soon as I closed the front door I started crying and I pretty much wept on and off all day long. Which was a bit of a nightmare as I was trying to do some sewing. It was the first time in a long time that I had to acknowledge the isolation. I know I am incredibly lucky, I have someone at home with me, so I have human contact. There will be many people out there, particularly elderly people or those who have been widowed with grown up families that have no one at all and it will be like that for 12 weeks ( at least ).  Countless pieces of research have concluded that loneliness is as bad for you physically as smoking 15 cigarettes a day let alone the damage it does to you mentally. For a nice easy to read article on it click here .

A lot of people are going to be experiencing something they have never done before – complete isolation. The impact on the health service after this is all over will last years and people, well those in power need to be thinking about the nations recovery, not just financial after this. Every generation will be affected, every demographic it is another ticking time bomb waiting for us on the other side of this pandemic. There will be those dealing with the loss of one or more loved ones, those who have had OCD triggered ( obsessive compulsive disorder ) by the excessive hand washing we are all undertaking to prevent contracting or spreading this virus. Also what about the women who are due to give birth right now, will there be an increase in postpartum depression or psychosis? We already knew that the mental health resources were spread thin before this started, with a depleted exhausted work force how on earth will anybody get the help they will so desperately need when this is finally all over ( and for some their conditions will be so acute right now that they need the care immediately and it won’t be there ).

I also worry for the key workers who are holding this country together right now. Ever increasing work loads as more and more people have to self isolate for two weeks. The abuse that some of them have suffered whilst simply trying to carry out their role to help the general public. Some of them have had to make some very painful emotional choices, not to see their children / loved ones for fear of contaminating them with this virus. When they are already experiencing probably some of the toughest working conditions they have ever endured they now have the added emotional toll of having the physical contact of the ones they love removed from them. The people at home can be the very support system that keeps people going at times like these.

I have great concerns for the doctors, nurses, health care assistants, home carers who may have patients that pass away from Covid-19. I can’t imagine the toll that is being taken on those who are dealing with rooms full of Covid-19 sufferers, that will or probably have already decided who will and who won’t be placed on a ventilator. Can you even begin to imagine the damage that must do to a person? Having to tell that persons loved ones that the patient won’t survive, isn’t a suitable candidate for life support. People may think they must become immune to it over time but I don’t think they ever truly do and this maybe the tipping point for many in this field of medicine that leads them to walk away from it once this crisis is over. It maybe the same for many occupations, that people realise the emotional toll that the job has taken on them is just too high.

Many of my friends still work in retail, once a job considered by many to be low skilled is now feeding the nation. However after 2 weeks worth of abuse by the general public many are now refusing to do more than their base hours, no longer willing to do over time and be exposed to the abuse both physical and verbal for just over the minimum wage. Who can blame them? Many people are making the decision to place health particularly mental health over wealth. They can no longer put up with their treatment at the hands of others, when they are providing a vital service. Without anyone in food retail from the checkout operator, to the store cleaner, to the HGV driver to the factory worker, to the packet printer, to the farmer and many others I have failed to mention, you would’ve have gone hungry. And yet some people are still treating them like they are shit on their shoes well shame on you.

I am hopeful for great social change once this is all over. I am hoping those previously thought of as low skilled get the recognition they should by being paid a proper wage. That the homeless will remain housed and not turfed out once the crisis is resolved.

I hope that we come out of this accepting that we all will be carrying mental scars no matter how tough we are and that there will be the help available to all that need it, not just those that ask for it.

I hope that we all start to appreciate each other more and realise everyone has their part to play if we want to live in a fair and just society. That it is no longer someone else’s problem.

I hope most sincerely that we never go back to once what was normal, that we strive to make a difference every day.

New Things

Six weeks ago I did something crazy. It had been in my head since before Christmas and I had been spending an age mulling it over too scared to say it out loud. It took until after Christmas for me to even say to anyone what I had been dreaming up.  One day I mentioned to my husband what my idea was, he assured me it wasn’t that crazy and that if I didn’t try I would never know.

To some this idea won’t sound that crazy at all but believe me it sent my anxiety into over drive. My big plan. my crazy idea, wasn’t really out there at all. I just wanted to start up a monthly coffee morning for like minded crafting friends who would like to learn new skills, solve a craft problem, get hints and tips etc. I will be honest  through 2019 I was a bit of a hermit, some of it self imposed, some of it well read my post Reflections and you decide. I was going months and I mean months without seeing anyone other than Mr Myasthenia Kid or Dembe. Ok so that is a bit of a half truth there as we were going to dog training but a 5 minute conversation once a week with someone other than my husband is not socialising. Especially when the topic is just Dembe or dogs in general. My mental health was being crushed, although creatively I had never felt so fulfilled as my sewing / embroidery had taken on a new direction. My anxiety was really getting bad around social interactions because I literally just wasn’t seeing anyone.

Chronic health conditions impact so much of my life, it limits the time I can spend doing it. I would love to run a small business selling items but my body couldn’t cope with the work load that something like an Etsy shop would produce. I can’t do craft fayres as I couldn’t sit there all day without then being sick and exhausted for weeks after. Crafting is my life it gives me the reason to get up and keep going every morning. Without it I would be very lost. However part of crafting is sharing your triumphs and disasters. Whilst there are various Facebook groups ( some of which are very supportive, others are like a nest of vipers) it isn’t the same as actually speaking to a real live human being. I can no longer drive as I lost my driving licence 5 years ago due to my medical conditions. Public transport is too hard going for me. I rely on Mr Myasthenia Kid if I want to go anywhere so attending guild meetings hasn’t been easy due to his work schedule. I wanted something that combined my love and appreciation for all crafts and a social atmosphere. So I took the plunge.

I knew the name I wanted for the group – “The Stitchin’ Bitches”, I also knew due to the size of my house numbers would have to be limited, if anyone wanted to come at all. A friend of mine reached out regarding a crochet issue she was having, we are both self taught and only in the last few months. I casually mentioned in my response that should I start up a group for us to meet and discuss our crochet ( and other crafts) would she be interested. She almost bit my hand off, she would be extremely interested in it and what a good idea. 

Even though I had this positive response I still left it at least a week until I built up the courage to put up a post on my Facebook timeline asking if there were any like minded crafter’s like me that wanted to meet up on a monthly basis and do crafts together. Be it crochet, knitting, embroidery, sewing. I had a lot of responses but it was from people in different parts of the country saying that they wished they lived near me as they would be there like a shot. Initially responses from local friends was slow, embarrassingly so. I was starting to think that maybe there wasn’t any desire from any of my friends ( other than the first one I spoke with). Determined not to take the lack of response from my first post as the definitive answer I posted several more times. Each time I got responses from people outside the area that I lived , even the friends I have made world wide via various health forums wanted to come. But in the end I had 4 people interested which was a good number – remember I live in a tiny house.

I set up a private Facebook group for us all to be able to post in and then set up a poll so that they could let me know what days suited them best to hold a meeting. I had envisioned when I first embarked on this idea that it would be one hour a month – which for me was fine as it would give me time to recover and give me some social time. We decided Mondays were best and set the date for our very first meeting of The Stitchin’ Bitches – they all loved the name by the way! I think we sort of sound like a Country and Western group LOL!

Initially it all seemed fine until my anxiety kicked in the day before our first meeting on Monday 10th February. I was just terrified that the meeting would be a flop, that people wouldn’t speak to each other or that after 30 minutes people would be racing to get out the door. I was so anxious I barely got more than 2 hours sleep, I tossed and turned all night. This would be me hosting an event ( thankfully all my friends know I am poorly and will pitch in with making drinks etc if needed)  without my safety blanket of Mr Myasthenia Kid. Also some of the people attending I hadn’t actually seen since I left work in 2008. For me it was a huge gamble. I am always really anxious when people come to the house anyway, I worry that they think it is dirty or uncared for etc. Its hard to keep on top of stuff when you aren’t well and all the DIY stuff falls on one partner. So I know there are some places crying out to be redecorated etc. I was also worried about people judging me, on the outside I don’t look sick but every day is a battle of some sorts. I worry that people think I am taking the piss because no one ever see’s me when I am really poorly.

Monday 10th February seemed to come around so quickly. By the time 11am arrived I was pretty knackered just from the sheer anxiety creating this “event” had caused. I really shouldn’t have worried. I also wasn’t the only one who had been anxious, a friend confided in me on leaving she had been terrified to attend. As for thinking they would all be racing for the door at 11.30am nothing could have been further from the truth. It was 13.30 that the last person left and the first person had only gone around 15 minutes before that. I had been concerned due to the fact that we all had one work place in common that we would end up discussing that but again nothing could have been further from the truth. It was barely mentioned and that was only as people left. It was just so lovely to have a few hours with people whose eyes didn’t glaze over when crafts were mentioned. I know I can get very passionate about my projects, so it was nice to answer peoples questions about the techniques I had used etc. It was equally nice to see what my friends had been up to. For all of us it was so uplifting to get out of the house and socialise – obviously I didnt go far!

The really nice thing was that as the meeting / gathering was drawing to a close one of the lady’s said “Rach, any chance we can do this once a fortnight? I don’t think once a week is enough”. Everyone else was in agreement also. I said immediately that no one would “have” to come to every session especially if they felt fortnightly was too much, that I was happy for people to dip in and out as needed. But the buzz the morning had created was so great that we set up the next few weeks worth of meetings. I was so proud of myself and what our little group had achieved. I posted on my Instagram account about it and now several other people dotted around the country have decided that they are going to do the same thing. Which is really lovely as it is such a boost for your mental health and to stop the isolation that is all too common in the world.

Today (Monday 24th March) we held the second meeting and today we had the grand total of 7 people here (including me). Dembe was like a dog with two tails, with all the love and fuss he got from everyone. Today two members learned how to start to crochet – slip knot, chain stitches and then double crochet ( UK ). Another lady had a refresher on crochet and learned how to do a Granny Square for the first time. In the corner a lady was being taught to knit. Mr Myasthenia Kid is on holiday this week from work and made himself scarce for a bit having a wander around the town. However he said the buzz and positivity he got from the room when he came home was amazing. He said he was so proud of me for being so brave to try and do something to end my own social isolation. He did make us all laugh as when he walked in he said “good god is this the budget version of the Playboy mansion”. Considering our age ranges were from 21 to 70’s it was hilarious. 

We were also spoiled by a new member who brought homemade scones, jam and cream for us to have as a crafting snack! And bloody gorgeous they were too. I had decided yesterday to make everyone little paper tissue holders as a way of saying thank you for coming and making it such a success. 

I can’t lie after every meeting I have been utterly exhausted. If I knew that it wouldn’t impact my nights sleep I would go for a nap in the afternoon. Mondays after are written off with me having a lazy restful afternoon on the sofa but mentally I feel so uplifted and happy. I am so glad that I pushed myself to do something totally outside my comfort zone and I hope I inspire others to take that chance and do new things.

****

On Thursday 20th February, I had the worst migraine I have ever had in my life. It was so bad that I am actually suffering from amnesia caused by it. I have “lost” most of Wednesday 19th, the majority of Thursday 20th, Friday 21st quite a bit is unrecoverable as is Saturday 22nd.  It is only from yesterday on-wards that I can recall anything that happened during the day with any clarity.  I won’t lie this has scared the shit out of me. Which is why I haven’t done a huge detailed blog post because basically I don’t know what happened to last week. I have a gp appointment booked because I need to know that this was just a horrific migraine and that I can be referred to see a headache specialist or if it was something like a TIA that can also be looked into. Having Google at our finger tips can be a curse and a blessing but as I can’t account for much of last week and this has never happened to me before with a migraine I can’t just ignore what has happened. Anyone who knows me also knows that I don’t run to the doctors every 5 minutes so it has really shit me up.

As soon as I know you will know.