A Year in Lockdowns

I started writing this post once. Started and then stopped. It sat in my drafts for ages. It was raw. Too raw. And angry and bitter. Writing it all down the way I was feeling at the time was therapeutic I needed to spit all that poison out. But I am not an angry and bitter person and it has taken time and therapy to work through that. To feel more like me again. This is still an honest account of my year.

When the events that kicked off the pandemic began to unfold on our TV screens I never thought it was something that would affect every one of us in the world. Sometimes I still can’t believe it. When it did eventually hit the UK I honestly thought back then it was just a bad flu. I mean to be fair the UK Prime Minister was shaking the hands of Coronavirus patients and who would be stupid enough to do that if it was deadly. Right?!

By March I was afraid. Very afraid. It was clear that this was not just a nasty flu, nor was it only affecting the vulnerable. Young, healthy people were dying. Healthcare workers were dying. The guidance for PPE was very slow in coming. Thankfully I was not personally affected by the PPE shortages but I watched the news concerned as it was reported in many parts of the UK. I wished we had locked down sooner in that first wave. The announcement eventually came and I felt relief.

I am not going to lie I quite enjoyed the first lockdown. There was a sense of people coming together. Neighbours looked out for one another. Communities cared for the vulnerable. People stepped up and showed me what is good in human nature. We all drew rainbows and put them in our windows and clapped at 8pm on a Thursday. We chatted across quiet roads and talked about how amazing Sir Captain Tom was. Work was challenging. I was partly redeployed for a short time. While it was a stressful time, work was also a bit of a relief. I was able to see other adults that I didn’t live with. For my work I was able to travel as I visited patients at home. The weather was nice. It kept me sane I think. I made Tik toks. I enjoyed having the children home and there wasn’t homeschooling properly then. Going for our daily exercise and counting rainbows. We bought a pool. I saw my parents through the window as I dropped off shopping to their door. It really didn’t feel so bad. Then.

As the restrictions began to ease we tentatively went back out into the world but generally still avoided crowded places. We had a pretty nice summer although I was sad we had been unable to go on holiday. We had a few days out here and there. It was in August, towards the end, that I first noticed signs that I was struggling. Becoming tearful at the slightest thing and the low level of anxiety that I live with started to crank itself up a notch. I thought I’d be ok. It had been one hell of a year. My eldest son had also begun to struggle with the isolation and lack of structure and so when school resumed in September it was a relief. Some kind of normality at last. But the threat of a second wave still loomed.

Normality was short lived unfortunately. The town I was living in had an exceptionally high infection rate in the whole of our county and our town got put into local lockdown by the beginning of October. We weren’t ordered to stay at home but we were unable to leave our town if not essential. I was raging about this because the pubs were allowed to be open but I couldn’t go and visit with my mother in the next town. It wasn’t making any sense to me and I felt that normality whipped away like a rug from underneath my feet. It wasn’t long after that we had the ‘firebreak’ lockdown, for 2 weeks, before we were granted some more freedom by the beginning of November. As soon as the Welsh First Minister made that announcement I was on that Bluestone booking page in a flash. Of course so was the rest of Wales and I couldn’t get in until the next day. I’ve never been an impulsive person. But if 2020 taught me anything is that you have to go for it when you can. We had 12 days to wait and I prayed none of us would get Covid or be contact traced in that time. I was feeling as fragile as ever by then and I really needed a break.

We made it! You can read about our break here if you are interested but we had the best time! I had filled up my cup a bit and was ready to keep going.

In December 2020 as you all know things started spiralling and fast. There was the race to get the vaccine out, everyone wanted to have a nice Christmas but Covid had other ideas and with the discovery of these new variants and the rapidly rising infection rates in Wales we were again Locked down suddenly and asked to stay at home from December 20th. I was not fine but what could I do? I had to keep on going for the family. I felt I couldn’t let anyone down in work. I just focused on that one day I could spend with my parents and children on Christmas day. We had a lovely day but as we came to leave them I knew it was a goodbye for a bit again.

My parents and sister are such an important part of my support network I really found it hard to stay away. By now online shopping was well established so I had no excuse really to visit and even that aside it was very cold and wet to sit outside. This was not like the first Lockdown. I felt no sense of community. Everyone was as tired and fed up as each other. January is always a month I struggle in but this year it began to feel impossible. I felt the walls were closing in. Homeschool had been cranked up a notch and with daily teams meetings and proper lessons set it was like having another job. My son didn’t take well to the changes and again it affected his behaviour and then also his sleep. I was getting little to no down time. The anxiety was creeping further and further upon me. My mood was getting lower. By mid January I couldn’t go from one hour to the next without breaking down and crying. Over something, mostly over nothing. When I finally (and mortifyingly) broke down in a work Teams meeting I knew that was it. I had to stop. I just couldn’t carry on like that. I was broken and I needed to heal.

Credit: @thepsychologymum

This most recent Lockdown was not like the others. It was dark, cold and wet. We took walks when we could but a lot of the time I just didn’t have the motivation. I knew I needed to find something to help me through. Something to focus on. A goal. I found a site that does virtual journeys and signed up for Lands End to John O’Groats, all 1083 miles of it. It was something to work on achieving. It would force me to get up and out. Something for the body and the mind. Plus there’s an awesome medal at the end of it!

By the middle of February I started a course of CBT. Each weekly session via WhatsApp. I have had CBT before and it’s very helpful. I didn’t realise actually how much I had going on in my head until we started unpicking it. We talked a lot about moral injury which I didn’t really understand before but I do more now. I have linked it here in case you want to find out more about it. I felt like I was having some kind of existential crisis. For me I have always been a nurse, carer at age 17, started my training at 18 and qualified at 21. I am now 42. Half of my whole life has been spent nursing. Doing a job I have always loved. It’s part of who I am. A massive part. But over the past year something happened. I described it to my therapist how I imagined it would feel for someone to lose their religion. I felt so lost. I honestly didn’t know if I wanted to be a nurse anymore. Let me be clear this was not on a local work level. This was on a more global scale. I felt let down by the UK government on many levels from the start and throughout the pandemic. I am not going to go into it all. We all know what happened with not taking it seriously sooner, delays and cock ups with PPE etc. I have also felt completely unvalued by the reluctance to deliver on any meaningful pay rise. I honestly wanted to jack it all in and just leave the UK!

So I have been working through this. It has taken some time. I think I needed to find myself again and figure out what I really wanted. Lots of walking has helped. I am currently in Bournemouth on my virtual challenge. I have also found that I actually like cooking. Well batch cooking. All the prepping of vegetables is very therapeutic apparently. I also don’t have to cook a fresh meal every day then. I think I just don’t like cooking every day (!?!) My lovely neighbour Laura across the road has also somehow brainwashed me into signing up for Boxercise zoom classes! I have even gotten up at 6am for this torture (who even am I?!) and I’m actually really enjoying it, even though I probably look like I’m having some kind of sponsored epileptic fit! That’s the beauty of a zoom class though, camera off and no-one can see what a knob you look like. Here is the link to the page if you want to see what kind of thing it is. Highly recommended. Thankfully, with some time and lots of reflection, I reconnected to my why. Why I love being a nurse and why I want to carry on. I have had to detach from all this government shit and stuff in the news. It’s not about that. I don’t do it for the money (trust me none of us in the NHS do although it would be nice to feel valued) I do it for the patients. I do it because through what I do I can make someone’s quality of life better. I do it because I care and because I like helping people and I know I can make a difference. And that is enough.

This week we have seen more easing of restrictions and I welcome it. I can’t wait to explore my beautiful Wales again. I can’t wait to take the children to the zoo soon and am looking forward to our holiday to Devon in July. Who knows what will happen in the future, whether there will be a third wave or any more lockdowns. I am going to live firmly in the present and enjoy life (safely and appropriately) and make every moment count. I will deal with the future as it occurs and if we have to go into another lockdown I am equipped with some new coping strategies to survive it.

If you’ve got this far well done and thank you for reading. I hope you are all doing well.

Love and peace xxx

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