Good morning everyone. Thank you for visiting my blog page. This is my first blog written in the month of May. I started blogging about this pandemic as we went into lockdown at the end of March. A blog sharing my own thoughts and experiences.
Blogging about this pandemic definitely wasn’t on my ‘to do’ list. I am sure most of us have ‘lists’ that linger around for ages and we get reminded of them at the start of a New Year! It sometimes takes a life changing event to make us step back and make time to do the things we are passionate about. Our busy lives sometimes makes us unprioritise doing the things that really matter.
Over the last few years, I have been encouraged to write by family members and friends. I am sure it isn’t because they think I am a good writer! It’s because of an experience that my older daughter K went through 4 years ago. K is 18 years old now but a week after her 15th birthday she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. K went through a horrendously traumatic time. It was devastating to see her struggle through her treatment, that involved various chemotherapies and she experienced several serious side effects that went along with it. She spent many weeks/months of her life in hospital.
Her social and school life stopped for at least 18 months. She isolated herself for most of that time as she needed protected from the various infections that she could have easily caught by seeing people or leaving the house. A very similar scenario to what she is experiencing now but this time experiencing it with the global community.
Every single day of K’s illness, I found myself reflecting, analysing and vocalising the experiences subconsciously to myself. I also felt the need to read about how others coped . K also has Down Syndrome. Her condition made her experiences different sometimes. She couldn’t have one of the drugs that they gave to the other children and her threshold for being admitted into hospital was lower. I contacted the Down Syndrome Association asking if they knew a family who had been through what we were going through. A Mum kindly contacted me, she had gone through it with her son over 10 years ago. Her’s was a positive story and I appreciated her getting in touch with me. I needed to hear another family’s story.
As we reached the end of K’s treatment phase and she went into remission, I felt a need to put my thoughts in writing. I needed to go through it all in my head and somehow make sense of it. I decided to take the advice of family and friends who asked me to write 3 years before. I told myself it didn’t matter if no one reads the book. However if just one family can find something useful from it that would be great. Hopefully one day my book will be there for my daughters to read, if they ever needed to look back at ‘those years’. Writing the book was a way of me consolidating those 3 years and boxing it up.
As coronavuris hit the UK and we went into lockdown, I somehow couldn’t help but compare our current situation to our past experience. Again I felt the need to capture my thoughts in writing and this time as we experience this very unusual way of living.Writing in the last 5 weeks has helped me cope with the stressors of life we currently face.
My current anxieties are around keeping my family and myself safe and praying our family and friends are safe. What upsets me more than anything is when I see my daughters look sad and when I hear the stories shared by families who have lost loved ones. They each have a story to tell and they want us to hear it.
We are a family of 4. K is probably the person in the family who is most affected emotionally by this. She cries at least once a day when we talk about her friends. Before lockdown she cried about events that reminded her about the time while she had Leukaemia.
However, I think she is coping well and is still her joyful and smiley self most of the time. She is also keeping herself busy and is having the time to be creative.
When K was ill, we sought advice from a psychologist. We were worried about her low mood during treatment. We were worried she wasn’t able to tell us how she felt and what she thought. K spent several hours with the psychologist whom she had a great rapport with and who understood her well. The psychologist addressed our concerns. After a few sessions, she then pointed out to us that K’s reaction was normal. Yes, she cried and yes, she looked down and sad, but it would have been more worrying if she didn’t confront her emotions and while doing this learned to deal with it at the same time. It was making her emotionally stronger.
This pandemic has been compared to World War 2 by some. I heard a comment recently that said at least people could see each other and touch each other in the blitz. I personally don’t see how we can compare the two. There were almost 500,000 people that died in the UK in WW2(Civilians and Military) and along with it came the constant fear of being bombed at any time of the day, severe food rationing, no homes to live in, families being separated and all this went on for 6 years. We remember the victims of VE day this weekend with great respect.
I am not saying we are not going through a terrifying situation now as we definitely are! Our enemy is a deadly virus that has taken away at least 30 000 precious lives in the UK. We can help to reduce the numbers dying each day by staying at home. There isn’t a cure but there is hope for it. We live in a world now where science seems to have the answer for most illnesses. I am sure science will find a solution one day.
There has been a lot of focus and concerns around the mental health of the public at the moment as we move into our second month of lockdown. The restrictions on meeting up with loved ones and concerns around the coronavirus has stirred up anxiety, low mood and depression in the community. I believe anxiety and depression is experienced in so many different ways by people. I think it is important for people to recognise and acknowledge their own symptoms.We shouldn’t fear it. Only by recognising it can we challenge it and learn to cope. We will all do this in our own ways. It is only normal to feel anxious at this time. However we will experience it at different levels . Some of us will be able to manage it ourselves and some of us will need help from loved ones or professionals.
I am fortunate to be isolating with my family. I have their support. We look out for each other and comfort each other. Writing my blog has also helped me unwind my thoughts and fears.
I don’t readily express my emotions to others in conversation. However since writing I have found it a more comfortable way of dealing with my emotions. I have discovered how important it is to communicatre our fears and anxieties with others. Sharing life stories, whether it be via conversations over the telephone (Facetime, Skype, text ) or by writing or reading, is so important. We don’t only gain support or give support but we can learn from each other.
Below are some of the charities people can contact whether they have family and friends support or not.
Mind , a charity for people with mental health issues could be of help. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus
Mencap , a charity for people with a learning disability https://www.mencap.org.uk
Age UK https://www.ageuk.org.uk
There may be local community groups near where you live who are reaching out to help people.
The Government Guidance on mental health has lots of useful advice too. Links below.
Click to access Easy_read_looking_after_your_feelings_and_body.pdf
There isn’t a single type of advice that can be given to everyone on how to cope, as people have different life experiences and circumstances.
We also need to remember those who are Shielding. As the lockdown is released and people start trying to live normally, this group of individuals will probably continue to be shielded and will need us to look out for them. There will be several families needing to keep themselves healthy to protect their shielding relatives. This group of individuals are not only extremely vulnerable from a physical point of view but from a social and emotional side too.
Remember to seek and empower your inner strenghts as we celebrate VE Day as a nation this weekend. This will pass and one day it will be history.
My family and I are making scones and we are planning to have a picnic in the garden. Hoping the sun shines too! I hope you all manage to have a happy weekend if you can.
#Stay Safe #StayHome #SafeLives
4 thoughts on “SEEKING THE INNER STRENGTH”
Insightful and informative blog, brings everything into perspective
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Thank you Shona for reading this blog and for your support always x
Another inspiring read Janet.
Your blogs have actually made me realise that I myself, suffer with my own mental health occasionally, even though, you may see my “happy, smiley “social media posts, we can all hide sadness with a smile can’t we? .
Your stories make me genuinely smile, it’s heartwarming to know that you are all happy and safe.
K (as you address her🤗) always made our little work family laugh/smile every day, she was a pleasure to care for😊
Keep writing, keep smiling.
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Thank you Nicky. I am glad you have found my blogs helpful and enjoyable. Thanks for your kinds words about K too. Take care and keep safe . Hope you are off this weekend and can enjoy your time in the sunshine x