There is a common theme doing the rounds on my social media pages these days of “We’ve got this” or “You’ve got this.” It picked up momentum in the third lockdown given that a lot of people were struggling. In one sense it’s comforting and gives a sense of we’re all in this together. But on the other hand, yes we’ve got this but at what cost?
I definitely did find the third lockdown challenging. It was the hardest of the three for me. It was during this time that Katie especially struggled. Her anxiety was worse than usual and she started self harming, and we really experienced the bleak end of a system that is clearly struggling to manage its load. The agencies we turned to for help were unable or unwilling to do anything useful. Instead the Emotional Health Academy told us to contact CAMHS, and CAMHS told us to contact the Emotional Health Academy. The GP put in an urgent referral to CAMHS, who promptly said Katie didn’t meet their criteria and closed the case. How can an 8 year old who is self harming and saying she should be dead not meet their criteria?! The Emotional Health Academy took a month to get back to us and their advice was to go on a parenting course and read a book. That stung. Absolutely we need to do parenting courses and autism courses, and that will be ongoing, but we had already done several at that point and we needed help for Katie specifically. They said they would contact us to follow up and see how Katie was getting on but they didn’t. They have since written to us to say they are closing Katie’s file and that we are still on their waiting list for their parenting course. We were (and are) still in an ongoing battle to get her school to provide the accommodations she needs to stop her getting overwhelmed on a daily basis. It’s a never ending uphill marathon that shouldn’t be so difficult. She deserves better. We deserve better. I spent most of that lockdown feeling totally helpless and desperate for some guidance and someone to lean on.
It was so hard for me and John to get any time together to talk things through. During the day we were working, or the kids were around, and evenings are non existent. Whichever of us was doing bedtime would spend hours with Katie trying to reassure her, make her feel safe, listening to her worries, trying to help her switch off and get to sleep. And then we would fall in to bed to get up and go again the next day.
I never felt so lonely as in that lockdown. We’re so lucky we have phones, video calls, social media etc as ways to stay in touch but week after week of these forms of communication rather than face to face is draining. By the time I was done with the work teams calls, the extra curricular zooms for the kids, the phone calls to school, the council, SENDIASS, CAMHS, the GP, the Emotional Health Academy, looking into private therapies because we were making no progress with the above, I didn’t have the capacity to call the people that actually mattered. I so wanted to talk to family and friends, but I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone again or get on yet another screen. There is no replacement for an impromptu catch up with a friend in the school playground or a hug from someone. It felt like conversations were getting harder as more time went on and no one had any news to share. No one was doing anything, no one was going anywhere, people were just existing. Even without covid a lot of people close to us have been going through their own personal difficulties and I didn’t feel comfortable adding my load.
Add covid on top of that, and even if no one had any bigger personal issues, lockdown 3 was still nearly 3 months of balancing home schooling, work and general life admin for most parents without their usual support networks. It was a case of head down and make it through each day. It was really difficult to look up and look around to see who was keeping their head above water, who was frantically splashing to stay afloat, and who was quietly drowning.
So yes during lockdown 3 I guess I found that “we’ve got this.” We avoided covid and we got through the lockdown just about in one piece, albeit slightly fragile. Life has certainly got easier now that things are easing up again and we’ve been allowed to start seeing friends and family outside. Katie and Alice have benefitted from their extra curricular activities starting up again. Katie lives for her riding lessons and Alice absolutely loves gymnastics. They also both do swimming and singing lessons.
There have also been some positives and things to be proud of for me personally during this time. During lockdown 2 and 3 I made a big effort to lose some weight. I pretty much ate my way through the first lockdown and having gone into it already bigger than I should have been, I came out of it with an extra stone on top. I’ve now lost 2st 10lbs and am thinner than I have been in the last 10 years. I’ve never stuck at healthy eating for this long and I’ve never lost this much weight before. At the moment I’m certainly motivated to keep going with it and hopefully I can lose a bit more and then maintain a healthy weight. I’m not sure how I’ve managed to get myself in the right head space to do this but I’m definitely pleased that I have.
I’ve also been seconded at work and am now in a different team. I was moved in November and started getting to grips with my new role in December, but then ended up being furloughed in January and February with lockdown 3. Once I came off furlough it’s been a real fast learning curve but I’ve got myself up and running to be delivering virtual workshops into secondary schools and have had some really good feedback from them. It’s been a challenge learning a totally new role and new processes alongside everything that’s been happening personally but I think I’ve done it well.
So from that point of view yes I’ve absolutely got this. Not only have we got through the lockdowns just about in one piece, but I’ve also achieved a big positive professionally and have made big inroads into losing the weight I’ve been yo-yoing up and down with for the last decade. I’ve gone from a size 14/16 to a 12.
As of tomorrow (17th May) the UK is easing restrictions even further and we will be allowed in each other’s houses, so in theory life is about to get even closer to some sort of normality. But not for us. Covid suddenly seems closer than it did through the peak as it’s suddenly spreading through the girls’ school. There have been positive cases in both their bubbles so they are both at home isolating for 10 days. They will both be off school next week and then Katie can go back on 24th and Alice on 25th. We’re back to home schooling and trying to juggle two different sets of school work with me trying to keep up with my own work. No extra curriculars, no seeing people, no leaving the house. It’s hardly the end of the world but it does feel like quite a set back. Katie is gutted to be missing her riding lessons. Alice is fine at the moment but she’s little miss sociable and will be bored and grumpy by the end of it. We’re actually really lucky that this is the first time through all of this that any of the kids have had to isolate because of being in contact with a positive case, but it is quite nerve wracking having to sit it out and watch for symptoms.
Being in our 30s John and I haven’t been fully vaccinated yet. I had my first jab yesterday (yay!) and John has his on Friday. We don’t have dates for the second jabs yet. I know the chances are that we’d be fine if we caught Covid, but that doesn’t mean I want to try it! John was asthmatic as a child and when all this first started he was put on the shielding list, but then told he didn’t need to shield after all so the messaging there isn’t too clear. Matthew also has asthma and has been hospitalised twice for breathing difficulties in the past. He is still under consultant care and takes inhalers twice a day and pills once a day. His consultant has been reassuring and said given that covid presents so differently in children she doesn’t think he’s at any greater risk than any other child, which is great. I’d still rather not find out though!
So, a lot of the time I feel I shouldn’t moan. We really are lucky in the grand scheme of things. But I have a twitch in my left eye that won’t go away and is seriously annoying. I have a lump in my throat that the GP thinks is silent reflux. It doesn’t hurt, it’s not really a problem, it’s just there. All the time. I feel breathless a lot. I’m the first to admit I don’t do anywhere near enough exercise but this isn’t breathlessness from walking or going up the stairs. It’s sitting down or lying in bed but feeling like I need to take a really deep breath and I can’t get enough air in. I’ve had an upset tummy on and off for the last few weeks. I have an itchy dry patch of skin on my stomach which again has been there for a few weeks now. I have a long term bad habit of picking my lips, which I had pretty much conquered, but have started doing that again with a vengeance. My lips bleed and are sore (one good thing about having to wear face masks, people can’t see!). I find it really hard to concentrate on work. I’m not as productive as I should be and then wake up in the middle of the night worrying about it. I’ve always been a headachy person and they’re not going anywhere any time soon. I have a headache most days. None of these are massive issues, but I would guess a collective physical result of emotions without the outlet they would have in normal life.
Yes I’ve got this. Yes my head is above water and I will keep swimming because there are still a lot of positives in life. But it would be nice to know when we’re going to reach dry land again and be able to take a break.