I keep wondering to myself – why now, why start writing about my experience with ME and sharing it more publicly? Why attempt to fundraise and homeschool at the same time? (although let’s face it not a lot of home schooling is happening right now over here).
Well apart from the fact that I’m now able to – from a physical, emotional and cognitive level – I’ve realised I’ve actually been in training for Lockdown over the last 3-4 years. Yes – little did I realise that my last 3 years have been a dry run for Lockdown and equipping me with the resilience and coping mechanisms for what is happening right now in your world. (I know – you’re jealous aren’t you? I got a headstart on you! Whether that’s fair or not – you can decide …).
Imagine life as you know it changing overnight, no longer being able to socialise with friends and family how you’d like to, learning more about an illness you’ve never heard of before, being worried by what you read about the illness and wondering how it will affect you and those closest to you.
Now consider adding in loneliness into the mix. During this lockdown a lot of us with children have been pushed to the limits with having a full house all day and trying to juggle work or other commitments. But let’s be grateful you’re in lockdown with people you can chat to, hang with and interact with. Imagine lockdown with those who have no one to talk to, no one to share their worries or fears to, ashamed to talk about their situation or perhaps are just surviving and don’t have the energy to communicate with others (whether by talking or by text). It’s lonely. And perhaps factor in the shame and guilt of being lonely. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been in contact over the last few years with you? I’m sorry – I wasn’t in the right place to.
So – not only has your world been turned upside down – you’re lonely and you miss your old life, your old self.
My old self – who was she? I hadn’t realised how much pride and self worth I derived from being a ‘working mum juggling everything’. Yes it was a struggle at times and perhaps I had unrealistic expectations. I loved (correction – I still do love) karaoke, I loved going out for drinks and getting a bit mischievous, I loved creating change and implementing change in the workplace, I loved doing things and adding value where I thought I could, I loved thinking about things strategically and then translating that into practical things – I’m definitely an engineer not a scientist!
Suddenly – I couldn’t do. I couldn’t even think. I didn’t know what was happening to me – I didn’t have the ability to do what I prided myself on. I coudn’t work things out and how to improve things – I couldn’t think. All I could do was lie there in bed – no thoughts, no thinking, no worrying – just blankness. My husband might ask me what I’d done all day – I had no answer – the answer was nothing. My inner voice would start on me – you’re being lazy, why can’t you just get up, why can’t you just start thinking, what’s happening to your brain, you’re a waste of space, you’re useless – Get Up! Get Doing! But my rational, university-educated brain and my physical body – wasn’t able to respond. There was nothing there – I wasn’t able to consider that I was actually ill, that something was wrong with me. And apart from the blankness – there was shame and guilt.
Looking back – it wasn’t a great place to be. I wasn’t able to realise I was in a hole, I was ill, I was depressed. I had no thoughts, no plans and no opinions (which if you knew me previously to getting ill – it would surprise you).
So yes – I’ve spent the last 3 years in training for this lockdown marathon. I’ve been in a mini lockdown of my own for the last few years. And it’s taken that long for me to even start to accept and adapt and be brave enough to share. So please be gentle with me and don’t suggest I’m wasting your time.
Ironically – I’m not sure I want lockdown to end. I get more time with my family, I get to socialise via Zoom with friends I couldn’t meet up physically with, I can attend meetings virtually rather than spending precious physical energy getting somewhere. People seem more tolerant and compassionate without me needing to explain my illness. Where previously, suggesting a virtual meeting was frowned upon as it was something different – this lockdown has forced people to adopt technology that existed previously. Its changed company and organisation cultures overnight and also people’s views of productivity levels when working from home. And let’s admit it – changing the culture of an organisation is challenging and not always successful in implementation. Changing the view on working parents working from home has been a long uphill battle – will this change triggered by a pandemic stick longer term?
I don’t know but let’s hope we’re currently in training for a more diverse and compassionate society and workforce. And that we change our behaviours long term after this period of training.
Let’s not forget those who might be in their own mini lockdown right now or in the future – they’re in training and will need your support. Because you’ve been there now and experienced it and have learned from it. Right?