Day 7: anxiety

colourful hand-drawn unicorn

Today’s been a hard day. I miss normal life. I miss not being afraid. I miss people and talking and going out. Nothing particular has happened, I’ve just been tearful and lonely all day. I fought off the temptation to switch off, go back to bed and hide and I’ve just tried not to show it to the girls and be normal.

We had an ‘inset day’ of sorts. The girls started the day with a drawing tutorial and did some maths. They chatted to friends on Zoom and watched a lot of TV and YouTube videos. We didn’t do any PE, we didn’t bake any bread as I’d planned. I did some work and listened to an audio book.

colourful unicorn drawn by Lucie, called Glitter, likes rainbows, eats colour food pink, red, yellow, orange and pink

In the afternoon, as I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, a friend knocked at the door to deliver a thoughtful care package of French brioche and biscuits, which was lovely and kind and I’m feeling tearful again just thinking about it. We had a quick chat from a respectable distance and that’s the first chat I’ve had with someone not from my family in a week so that was nice. I’m an introvert and a pretty poor friend in general, not keeping in touch with people very well, and I felt grateful and overwhelmed. And now I’ve also tried a Welsh cake for the first time and enjoyed it, and I’m feeling tearful again because man, this is the longest day. I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow in better spirits. I don’t have any good words, and I am not going to give you any words of encouragement or put a brave face to it. Today’s been sad with a touch of sunshine. I am grateful for the sunshine, and I am sad and scared and grateful for friends.

Sending everyone hugs and kisses from my living room xxx


Planning for the end of the world

woman wearing a white mask leaning against a fence at dusk
Photo by Dimitri Karastelev on Unsplash

I don’t know about you but life has been a bit surreal these last couple of days. As Coronavirus cases increase, so does the sense of impending doom. On Thursday in particular as we waited for the announcement coming out of the Cobra meeting, our office felt like that bit in Titanic just before the ship hits the iceberg, or the moment before the ship breaks in two. You know something is going to happen; you don’t know when or what or how but there is a shift in the atmosphere, I think the term is ‘pregnant with expectation’. As it happens, nothing has actually changed, and no one knows yet whether that’s a good or bad thing. As with most things with this government you’re not sure whether their choice to delay the implementation of more stringent measures is the right thing (which is entirely possible) or if they are catastrophically incompetent.

Living in a state of such uncertainty is not comfortable, is it? Most of us are pretty worried even as we try to rationalise our fear by trying to ‘put things into perspective’. I’ve seen the list on Facebook, ranking all the other terrible things that people are constantly dying of, with Covid-19 towards the bottom of the page, cosily nestled between Leishmaniasis (yeah, me neither) and yellow fever. Yep, I feel so cheered up right now, knowing we’ve just added a new item to the top 20 death menu!

All things considered, I’m doing pretty well. My phobia is more directly linked to vomiting bugs so I’m not experiencing high levels of anxiety, just the normal kind for the occasion, not great but better than nearly passing out. I’m not too worried for myself or the children – or indeed Badgerman whose immune system, strengthened by years spent in the midst of dirty teenagers, pretty much guarantees he will get to look after us all should we catch the virus.

If you’ve clicked on the post thinking I was going to tell you how to plan for the apocalypse, I’m sorry to disappoint. I have not been bulk-buying for the end of the world, neither will I start bulk-buying now. It is a terrible selfish idea, so don’t do it. My existing Brexit stockpile however, a small affair I’ve been working on for the last few months in preparation for the worse case scenario of no-deal/end of transition without a working EU trade deal, has showed itself to be a nice bit of foresight, but not quite foresighted enough. Not least because, up to the 31st January just gone, we were well on the way to building a nice little fort of toilet paper around the bog. However, since that date, we have slowly but surely wiped our way through it because I thought it wouldn’t be needed for another few months. Oh the irony.

This said, should things quickly escalate further, aside from having to hunt for the early leaves of spring to wipe our butts, we will be able to keep going at home for a while thanks to the B-Stockpile. We have enough rice, pasta, tinned chopped tomatoes and olive oil to last a few weeks. It’s a sad coincidence but the Covid-19 crisis has been quite informative on this, giving us an insight into the products that might disappear fastest from our supermarkets should the worst come to pass. Aside from the overnight disappearance of all toilet paper, hand-wash and soap, people in my area have also panic bought painkillers, dry pasta (but not pasta sauce) and, to my surprise, antipasti. I never thought tinned sun-dried tomatoes, peppers and artichokes would be the first to go. They are not on my emergency food list, in fact I can’t even picture what kind of emergency list needs antipasti on it “Darling please don’t forget the tinned peppers, you know the tapenade doesn’t taste right without them! I’ve seen the neighbours’ underground bunker and they have a whole shelf for the caviar“. With that in mind, when the threat of contamination subsides and the shops return to normal, I’ll restart the Brexit stockpiling (one extra item in every shop, not bulk-buying – never bulk-buying!) and in addition to starting again with the toilet paper pile, I’m also planning to add salt and flour to the list so we can make our own bread and pizza dough.

You may think it’s all a big over-reaction, and it may be. I know I’d rather play it safe and find myself mid-January 2021 with too many tins of lentils rather than face the alternative. I’m not planning for the end of the world but I am prepping for a few weeks’ disruption. If the current situation has made you rethink your Brexit plan but you don’t know where to start, fear not! Wait until the current health crisis abates then think again. And you don’t have to work it out yourself, thankfully clever people have done it already, like Jack Monroe’s Brexit stockpile post, it covers all the basics and more. 


A Year of Sour Lemons

citrus lemon and lime

It’s kind of interesting how different people cope (or not) with the same thing in different ways. Everybody has a different trigger point, a different level of resilience. What one person will sail through, another will struggle with as if through sinking sands. Some people have incredible levels of energy that allow them to always be on the go, moving from one activity to another, engaging with people all day and still finding reserves for socialising in the evenings, and loving their life. Others, not so much!

I’ve been suffering with a fluctuating mental health this last year, specifically anxiety, and it has made me realise, amongst other things, that I shouldn’t try to compare my resilience levels with others. I’ve found a lot of people online for whom blogging through their mental health problems like depression and anxiety was helpful and empowering, a form of therapy, whereas my well of motivation dried up like an old prune. The mental exertion of dwelling in deeper thoughts was leaving me feeling more tired and anxious. I haven’t been able to write, despite loving and missing it. Part of my coping regimen, such as it is, has been to relax through reading superficial material (e.g. trashy novels!).

After a year of barely keeping my head above water, I am pushing myself out to be proactive again, in part because winter is especially hard for me and I have to be prepared. I am using whatever reserves of energy I have to plan things I enjoy, that are restful rather than draining. And I would love to be up to blogging again.

I’ve not suffered from noticeable mental health issues before, if you discount a short time in my late teens when I had psychosomatic symptoms from stress. A one-time intervention from a psychologist pretty much purged a whole lot of unhelpful expectations I had put on myself and I never suffered from that type of pain ever again – one of the biggest light-bulb moments of my life. Counselling is so helpful and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Anxiety strikes us in different ways. Some people are well acquainted with it and have had to learn coping techniques early on, with or without medication. Others, like me, find that their personal circumstances change and compound to a level where the body and mind no longer react to events in the way they used to.

These last 18 months have just been a bucket full of shit for us as a family, and I found that things that I would have coped with fine on their own, piled up in such a way that I no longer could. It was unexpected, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. If you want an idea of the things that led to this crisis, they are, in no particular order, the Brexit vote and its implications for me and my family both as an EU citizen and as someone who loves the UK, by extension the relentless bad news on TV, the fall out from the death of a close relative in late 2016, a phobia of sickness and Luciole’s long term bout of sickness – think one sick bug after another from end of November 2016 to late February 2017 – that landed her in hospital two days before Christmas. I did finish my business course with flying colours, but that’s about the only majorly positive thing that’s happened in a year and a half. All of these things conspired to turn me from a well-adjusted adult (so says I, you may disagree 😃) to a very anxious person suffering from all manners of physical symptoms, not sleeping or eating well and generally feeling completely unable to get control of my body or mind’s reactions.

Having got to the point where the anxiety was affecting my daily life, I decided that enough was enough and took myself to the doctor who gave me medication along with a look of  ‘I’m not surprised you’re stressed’ when I explained the last year (the acknowledgement was reassuring). She sent me to counselling via the NHS Time To Talk service, which I am doing for the next little while in the form of self-guided telephone support with a trained counselor. I am also planning activities to enjoy over the winter. Obviously winter itself is a bit of a trigger for anxiety and fear around my sickness phobia, and I get a bit down at this time of year with S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Syndrome) and struggle with the dark afternoons and general lack of light. Planning ahead is therefore key to my success in not taking it lying down.

This said, I’m doing stuff, but not too much; ‘doing’ always tires me out if overdone. I’m also doing some mindfulness and breathing exercises and generally taking each day as they come. So I may blog, or I may not, but my absence is not for lack of desire. Thinking positive thoughts and cutting short negative thoughts is pretty much a full-time job.

But you know what? I’m much more aware of the fact that you literally cannot tell what’s around the corner, you cannot plan for an unknown future and you cannot control everything. The most important is to be present in all things, to listen to your body and your mind, to take note of what they are telling you and to take care of yourself. And not to expect your healing and self-care to look like everyone else’s.