Coronavirus Emotions and Feelings

Last month (October 2020) I posted this on Facebook: Coronavirus frustration, tension and weariness seems to be a thing (or rather three things that are linked) right now. Please feel free to share your experiences, which I’ll possibly compile into an anonymised blog post. It might be cathartic. There’s a lot going on in everyone’s lives at the moment.

I received a number of replies, but the first one (not in response to my invitation) is particularly helpful and is shared with permission. I have simply removed one sentence (and part of another) to make it totally anonymous.

I don’t usually share how I’m feeling, especially here on Facebook, I normally just share the good stuff and keep the rest to myself, part and parcel of being an introvert I guess. […..] For sometime now, I’ve recognised that I’m not struggling, that’s not the right word to use, I’m simply overwhelmed with everything that is happening at present, you know when you reach saturation point? Well that’s me. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to watch the news (not constantly) without just wanting to close my eyes and hope and pray that this pandemic will simply disappear, puff, and it’s gone, but it won’t, will it. I desperately try and stay optimistic, and yes I know that one day, all this will be over, we will pull through. I think what I’m trying to say, is that I recognise that at the moment, I know it’s okay, to not be okay, and I’m not! I’m finding that at times I am anxious, fearful, trying to live in hope, but failing miserably! I know that everyone is struggling, some days for me are better than others, I wasn’t going to do this, but I feel I have to, for the sake of my own mental health. [….. I fear it’s only going to get worse.] I just feel, that at times, sharing how we really feel, when it’s safe to do so, is so important as we move forward during this time. I am not wanting or needing attention, that is not my intention, I just want to share, how I’m really feeling without any stigma or judgement.

Here are the replies I received in response to my invitation, each in a separate paragraph. They are posted in full and unedited.

  • I think lots of uncertainty causes the most issues with me and being away from all family for 5+ weeks now!
  • I live alone and I work alone (from home). I’ve been pretty much isolating since the start in February, mainly because both my parents were ill and moved into separate care homes and I wanted to be virus free in case I got the chance to visit them. I saw my dad in July at mums funeral, then last week dad died. It’s not the virus that bothers me, as much as the people who are dying alone and the families that are unable to see the people they love. My dad was so much in love with mum and hadn’t seen her since Valentine’s Day. If he wanted to talk about mum, if he wanted to share memories, if he wanted to be comforted it had to be done with a stranger in a care home and not by his family. It’s the craziness of the rules why you can buy vodka in Tesco’s but a child’s winter coat is taped off as non essential. It’s the pubs opening and closing suddenly at 10pm then the complaints that people are all leaving the pub at the same time and too drunk to socially distance. I’m fed up of the ****** four walls but there’s no escape. I’m fed up of people complaining that some stranger in the supermarket didn’t wear a face mask, I’m fed up of others complaining that it’s a hoax. I’m just fed up of the endless nothingless of it all.
  • We have been in strict lockdown for about 3 months here in Melbourne – this included curfews, not being allowed to leave your home except to work (if deemed an essential worker), exercise (for 1-2 hours a day depending on what month it was) or shop for essential items (and only one person from the household once a day). I’m not going to say it was easy, it truly wasn’t. I’ve been in relative isolation since March 17 as I have chronic health conditions and my doctors felt it was best, but knowing that even if I wanted to bend the rules I couldn’t made feel harder than it was. Having said that, every day watching the numbers tumble from 700+ positive tests daily to double digits to single digits to two days of 0 positive tests (and our testing numbers have still been quite high) actually gave me genuine joy. Knowing that we are protecting our health system and the vulnerable made it seem worth it. Today I went out for about an hour to grab some firewood and get our weekly shop because finally the restrictions are lifted (though we still can’t go outside our 25km radius of home, and I can’t see my family because they live in regional Victoria which has its borders closed to us suburban Victorians and city folk!) and to be honest, I was actually a little scared. I don’t want the numbers to go up again because people flaunt their new “freedom”, as I’m worried that will mean that we can’t see family for Christmas! I know things will normalise into whatever CoVid normal is in the future but right now it still feels a bit surreal. I feel blessed to still have my health (though I did spend 8 days in a hospital without having any visitors due to the rules during lockdown) and I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home, but I’m sad I haven’t met my 8 week old niece, and I’m sad I can’t see my parents, sister and other nieces. Overall though, I’m just thankful for the life I have, for a warm and safe home, for technology to keep in touch with family and friends and for the ability to continue to work and earn a living when so many others have lost their jobs.
  • I came home from my after work walk yesterday and began crying uncontrollably as I approached and entered my home. I turned to tiktok, and even though I spent 2 hours on it instead of eating dinner, I was super happy! It makes me feel more connected to other humans than any other online platform. I think it’s because we enter one another’s homes and lives in a unique way there. And it’s silly as all get out too!

You might like to add your responses in the comments.

Mental Health Impact of Lockdown

A report has been published today (Wednesday 21 October 2020) into the mental health impact of the first six weeks of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. Research by the University of Glasgow reveals they had a major impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the population in the UK.

You can read the report here, along with some first-hand stories from my friends I’ve previously published here.

The report says: As we move through this pandemic, investigating the trajectory of mental health and wellbeing is crucial to giving us a better understanding of the challenges people face during this difficult time. By having such analysis and information, we can formulate targeted mental health measures and interventions for those most in need as this pandemic continues, as well as being prepared for future.

How are you coping?

There’s a deliberate double-meaning in the title of this post. It’s asking (1) how are you coping in the present difficult circumstances, and (at the same time) it’s asking (2) what positive things you are doing to help yourself cope with life right now.

In difficult and unsettling times, it’s important that we remain grounded.

Grounding exercises are things we can do to bring ourselves fully into contact with the present moment, the here and now. This is where we live, breathe, and have our being. They can be quick strategies like breathing deeply and consciously, or longer exercises (of which there are many).

Different strategies work for different people, and there’s no right or wrong way to live in the present.

If you think about it, we can only live and breathe in the present. We can’t live or breathe in the past, any more than we can live and breathe in the future. We need to be present fully in the here and now, it’s a way of coping with an uncertain future.

Breathing exercises can help, and there’s an app for that, although you don’t need one. Here’s a helpful page from the NHS, but Google is your friend.

So, I’ll ask the double-meaning question again, how are you coping?

The Story of Alex (Jemma Smedley)

On a special anniversary (16 February 2020) my friend Jemma Smedley posted the story of Alex on Facebook. I was so moved by her story that I was prompted to ask if I could share the story here. With Jemma’s permission and final approval, I’ve edited her words to tell the story as a guest post in Baby Loss Awareness Week.

13 years ago today at 5.30 am our beautiful boy Alex came into the world sleeping, a day when I really thought I was going with him, but let me rewind and tell you the story of Alex Smedley…

It was the day before Valentine’s Day 2007 and off me and Richard went for my 20 week scan at QMC, we were so excited to find out whether our baby was pink or blue. We left Leah and William with my mum and promised to bring a present back from the baby, so first stop when we got to QMC was the shop a Barbie for Leah and a teddy for Will.

Then round to antenatal, booked in and sat waiting for my scan. You watch smiling couples walk out the scan rooms clutching scan photos, thinking that will be me in a minute. My name is called, yeyyyyyy our turn! I lie on the bed, cold jelly on my tummy holding Richard’s hand excited to see our baby, chatting to the lady doing the scan.

I can see the screen, then after a few seconds…silence and the screen is turned away…sorry I just need to get someone else. OK Jemma take a breath, this isn’t happening – I knew what was coming!

I’m silent, yet in my head I’m screaming. Another senior sonographer comes in, and they whisper while I stare at the ceiling in the dark and Rich squeezes my hand then the words, “we are so sorry we can’t find a heartbeat your baby has died at around 18 weeks.”

I ask them to check again, “there is nothing we are so sorry.” I see for myself, hands feet arms legs nose and face perfect outline of our baby, but no heartbeat. Gone, but still there inside my tummy, safe and warm. I cry, the tears won’t stop, I’m trying to wipe the jelly off my bump while I stand up. Now what do I do?

We were taken into a side room with pictures of lilies on the wall, and Miscarriage Association leaflets on the table with a box of tissues. This is the room no parent ever wants to enter, but here I am with Richard and a lovely woman. She’s talking asking me how I want to deliver my baby. What I think is, is she joking, not a chance they are taking him, I’m off home. I heard inducing labour with tablets or operation, at that I was out of the door, nope I’m keeping him, and I was sobbing and crying for Rich to take me home!

That’s where I went, home. I walked into the house and straight upstairs, I sat there numb. Leah and Will came up, I gave them their presents and told them that Alex sent them, but he had to go to heaven.

The hospital rang to say if I hadn’t started to lose Alex in 2 days I had to go back, that gave me 2 days with him. So, Valentine’s Day came, and Rich had twelve roses delivered from Harvey Nichols, they were stunning. I stood up to sort them, and blood was gushing everywhere. Shit, what had I done by coming home!!

An ambulance was called, and off I went to hospital. I was admitted onto the gynaecology ward to save me having to go to maternity with all the new mums and babies. By now it was late, the bleeding had stopped, and I was told get some rest, we will scan you in the morning…and they did. Great, back to antenatal to sit with all the pregnant women going for their scans!

I’m sat in my dressing gown hooked up to a drip in a wheelchair with blood shot eyes when just 2 days ago I was one of them, into the scan room I go.
Cold jelly, screen turned away, until I say no I want to see; and there again is my perfect beautiful boy. still safe in my tummy. I remember smiling just looking at his silhouette, and I asked for pictures of every angle, as I knew this was the last time I would see him.

Up on the ward I’m told that I’m booked in later for that day to have an operation. The anaesthetist came, forms were signed, I asked for the Chaplain, and I cry as she prays for Alex and tells me about the ceremony and cremation he will have at Wilford Hill. I felt better that he was going to have a Christian funeral, and we could go to the service of remembrance. The day dragged, I’m nil by mouth, waiting, waiting, waiting, then I’m told my operation will be tomorrow as they’d had an emergency. Fine, I get to keep him a bit longer. Richard visited me; we didn’t have much to say as we were both just numb. What do you say?

I lie awake watching the car park out of my window. I must have fallen asleep as it’s still dark outside. Suddenly, I’m woken by pain ripping across my stomach, I manage to get to the loo on the ward and OMG, blood everywhere again, I pull the red cord, alarms go off, I’m put in a wheel chair, and taken back to my bed. The contractions are coming thick and fast. I’m screaming in pain. At 5.30am I push Alex out, still in his amniotic sack, protected in his little bubble. The lovely young nurse carries him in her hands out of the curtain as I lie there, I feel a warm sensation by my feet, I look down and the bed is soaked in blood. I’m surrounded by doctors sticking drips in every vein possible, being told I need to go to theatre as the placenta is just bleeding out and it’s stuck.

The red button’s hit at the back of my bed, alarms sound. I’m dizzy, not quiet with it, and absolutely terrified, screaming for Richard. The porter comes with a bed, the nurse said no time to transfer me, I need to get to theatre now as they were waiting for me.

The porter runs with my bed, all I can see is the lights on the ceiling flashing by, the young nurse that took Alex is running by my side holding my hand, I feel the mask on my face and I’m gone…

…I wake up shivering in recovery, hooked up to fluids and blood. I’m soon back on the ward. I’m now known as the lady that lost her baby. The other patients were lovely, one even ringing her sister to bring me a cake in at visiting time and asking to see my scans.

The doctor that looked after me came to see me and hugged me. He told me I was as white as a ghost, but at one point he thought I was going to be a ghost! Two days later, I went home. I had Alex’s remembrance service at the hospital to go to, losing Alex broke me in more ways than I can say. When I lost the twins, we didn’t have any other children. People understood that we were childless, so we got support then. With Alex, it was “Oh, at least you have Leah and William.” The support wasn’t there. I do remember Richard’s dad buying me three boxes of chocolates. though he said nothing. But he didn’t need, to it was his way of saying sorry.

Today, I tell our story. We remember you; we miss you, but most of all we love you. Happy 13th birthday, my beautiful boy.

Simple Tips to Boost your Mood

As much as many of us enjoy fresh coffee (not instant), it’s not always the best thing for our moods, especially if we’re anxious or stressed. It’s one of the reasons I usually limit myself to one coffee a day before about 2.00 pm so it doesn’t disturb my sleep.

I’ve previously written about the value of nature in lifting our mood. I found being outside especially helpful in the strict coronavirus pandemic lockdown earlier this year. Simply taking a walk can boost our mood, moving our bodies and getting out in the daylight can also help clear the mind. Problems will often become less intractable after a break in the open air.

We also need to seek out the good stuff. Since retirement I’ve started to keep a daily journal. I simply write about the day to day events, but also what I’m grateful for, and how I’m feeling about things. At the end of the day it can be helpful to write down three things you were thankful for or enjoyed. Even bad days will have had their good moments, so reflect on them and what you’re feeling.

Finally, ask for help, even though we’re often reluctant to do this. Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way is how Roger Waters of Pink Floyd summed up the English character in the song Time on the classic album The Dark Side of the Moon. Yet it can be so beneficial when we overcome our natural unwillingness to ask.

I found life difficult before, during and after moving to a new house and area this year. Fortunately, I had a colleague and friend who I could chat to on Messenger or telephone at any time. This was invaluable in lifting my mood and keeping me focussed. Incidentally, asking for help often gives the other person a wellbeing boost, a win-win situation.

Life will always throw challenges and difficulties at us, ones that can affect our mood negatively. Let’s take simple steps (as far as we’re able) to lift our emotions and moods.

Reasons to be Cheerful

Pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and imagine you’re sitting on the bench looking out into the distance. Think about the reasons you have to be cheerful in the harsh realities of today’s world. We can’t make them go away, but we can focus on reasons to be cheerful.

First, there’s the beauty we can see all around us. Nature has remarkable restorative powers; I’ve previously posted about it here.

Second, simply the act of feeling happy and smiling more can have positive effects on our physical health and lift the mood of people around us. People groan at the jokes I post on Facebook, but laughter is a good medicine.

Third, we can learn to be happy. We have more control over how we feel than we might think, and feeling a sense of control over our lives is an important ingredient of happiness. One builds up the other.

Fourth, the happier we are the more we’re able to encourage and help others, and there’s such a need for this now. People are hurting and need encouraging. Doing someone else a favour activates the ‘feel-good’ area of our brains, we help each other. It’s a no-brainer, a win-win situation.

Finally, we need to look for the positives; not the insipid reassuring lies that are so often peddled today, but realistic affirming hopes. We need to train our brains to notice the good things around us and be grateful for them. There will always be negatives, but we need the tools in our emotional toolkit to deal with them constructively.

Photo Credit: I’m grateful to my colleague and friend Shelagh Clift for allowing me to use her photo.

What is Labyrinthitis?

I was scared to death when I woke up yesterday morning at about 5.00 am with my vision spinning, nausea and sweating. I later found out from my GP son Philip that it was labyrinthitis, something I knew very little about at the time. It struck totally without warning and was very scary.

I spent yesterday in bed, the head spinning episodes were practically non-stop and very debilitating, I was often sick and couldn’t keep fluids down, and this was often associated with sweating.

I’m really pleased with my recovery today, I expected another day in bed. I’ve been up and about, eaten some food, drunk plenty of fluids, and no longer have the nausea or sweating.

The condition usually improves on its own. There is medicine, but I was advised only to have this if it got worse or I didn’t get better.

Having experienced it personally I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But hopefully, if you get this in the middle of the night you won’t panic like I did. Click on the link above to find out more.

25/09/20 Update: I had a bit of a setback yesterday, feeling washed out today with occasional dizziness and head spinning. I’ve had a good telephone consultation with my doctor and he’s prescribed medicine to relieve symptoms, but only if I need them in severity. Naomi telephoned the surgery for me and told the receptionist what I’d got. “Has he got a sore throat?” “No, why should he?” “Well, he’s got laryngitis!” Oh, how we laughed!

27/09/20 Update: First time dressed and out of the house since Monday (six days ago). A little walk round the block. Still unsteady, but confident enough to go out.

30/09/20 Update: I’m finding that the unsteadiness returns if I overdo it, but balance is very quickly restored by the simple act of sitting down on the sofa for 10-15 minutes.

02/10/20 Update: I’ve been driving again for a few days now, being careful of course. In these first two days of October I’ve experienced a real sense of improvement, although there’s still a way to go.

09/10/20 Update: I’ve had a bit of a setback in the last few days, but overall, I’m on the mend. Rest helps, but not bed rest, as being up and about exercises the brain and encourages recovery.

18/10/20 Update: It’s been nearly four weeks since the onset of labyrinthitis and I still get some mild symptoms, although nothing that can’t be managed. Unfortunately, stress and tiredness can aggravate the symptoms.

27/10/20 Update: Five weeks since the onset and I’m finally symptom free.

Coronavirus Pandemic Second Wave

It’s been announced today (Friday 18 September 2020) that a second wave of COVID-19 is hitting the UK. Now I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist, I’m a realist. Sadly, we need to prepare for a very difficult winter with the complications of Brexit thrown in for good measure. We need to brace ourselves and hold tight, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Yes, it’ll be tough, but I feel we can get through it if we support and have consideration for each other.

Are you drinking enough water?

We all know the value of drinking plenty of water, but equally we don’t always get around to doing it. That was certainly the case for me, but since retiring I’m making a concerted effort to look after myself, especially with three young children to care for.

Just over a month ago I started to drink at least five glasses of water a day (one as soon as I wake up). It’s made easier because we have one of those convenient cold-water dispensers on our fridge. I also drink herbal tea in addition to my regular drinks and restrict coffee to one a day no later than 2.00 pm if possible.

I have to say I feel much better as a result. Keeping hydrated is so essential and has many health benefits, both physical and mental. Any downsides? Not really, although I do have to go to the toilet more often!

This article is very helpful, along with many other you can find with your friend Google.