Updated: Nov 30, 2020
We have all just spent the best part of a year at home. Our lives have been turned upside down and inside out. Now, just as quickly as this all started, we have had to get back to some sort of normal. On the upside the kids are back at school, many people must be happy to be going back to work, we are being encouraged back into restaurants and the shops are open again. On the downside we are on the brink of a mental health crisis, people have lost their jobs left right and centre, we are heading towards a recession and the coronovirus is still doing it's rounds.
The truth us that I can't know what it's like for you, just as you can't know what it's like for me, but I suspect there are many people who are struggling. Getting back out there into everyday life is hard. Initially many will have gone through a sort of meltdown period, a period of confusion, because brains take time to adapt to sudden change. But over time you will have settled down into a new type of existence.
But now some will be having trouble getting life back in order again, even going out of the front door may be a struggle, the very thought of going very far, having to interact with other people or being worried about catching the virus may trigger an anxiety reaction or even a panic attack. Your world will certainly have shrunk in zone and going out on a bicycle ride, to the post box or to call into your Sainsbury's local may feel quite enough.
I must admit I'm feeling pretty comfortable at home myself. I have an organic delivery set up weekly and I can order groceries online to arrive in less than an hour. The outside world does seem much too difficult to navigate at times and agoraphobia has struck me often. It feels so safe inside your own house but you have to push through it. Anxiety is a shape shifter comes in man y forms, just getting into the car and driving may well feel too difficult. Driving anxiety was common enough even before,we got to where we are at now.
Facing people in the school playground may be difficult but a degree of social anxiety when you haven't been out much up but are now up close and personal with others will be common as we re-enter the orbit of everyday life again. It's an easy one to get over though, just turn your focus of attention outwards, look at what outfits people are wearing, ask them about their holidays, notice that they haven't had a shower either and try to dress in a way that makes you feel relaxed and confident. The problem with social anxiety is that the more you feel it, the more you will over compensate, and the more weird you will start to feel and the more weird you will become. Just try to relax and stop processing yourself as if all eyes are on you, they aren't. Everyone else feels just like you do. You aren't the odd one out - and anyway, who cares if you are!
It's a struggle to get out on with our life. Opening the letters and facing the reality of dealing with difficult paperwork has seemed insurmountable to me. And quite often it is, with people still working at home, networks down, no joined up thinking and everyone sending out bills and demands, it's firefighting and at the same time we have to get on top of the school diaries, playdates, getting the house repairs done and remember still to book clubs and teacher meetings. My motivation seems to have plummeted and I get the fear as the day slips past too fast yet again having not prepared that gourmet tea that I had imagined I would for my children.
It all too overwhelming yet again, and the sense of frenzied fear rises up after a little while but you just have to get a grip and stop being so hard on yourself. I am not rubbish, I am actually doing pretty well and you are too. It has been an insurmountably tough year for all of us, from Covid-19 alone, but many, like me will have had much more to deal with as well. If it is has been as much of a roller coaster ride for you as it has for me and my family and you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed draw a big picture diagram of your life and everything in it. I can sometimes feel like I am starting to lose the plot but when I remind myself just how much I really actually do have to do, I know that I'm not. I just have too much to do. And you may do too.
But there really are only so many hours in the day. I have no doubt that many people think I am flakey and that's because I am, but I am past the point of caring. I am attempting to keep on top of what should really be more realistically tackled by probably 3 people. I have taken on someone to help me for the first time in years but very nearly lost him because I was struggling even to get my head around what I wanted him to do. It's hard to explain that I just need someone to be a second me, to help me tackle twice as much stuff as I can on my own.
I am trying to work my life in a new way, but people are so used to either doing the cleaning, or the maintenance, or the garden and so on. I have done everything for as long as I can remember, in every domain of life. You will were a fly on the wall you might find me precariously teetering on a ladder changing a lightbulb, whilst talking on the phone about an issue at school, whilst trying not to burn whatever is on the stove. I will more than likely be writing an article, getting another load of washing on and getting the robot hoover started on the first floor landing. You won't be aware that I am scrubbing the shower screen or reconnecting the robot lawnmower, pulling out a stray bamboo shoot or picking tomatoes from my home grown plants whilst answering the phone to you.
It is hard to express just how complicated and busy my life is, as a mum trying to keep my head above water and I can't be the only one. Running a household, and my own life whilst managing the demands of my three children and trying to get my work life back on track and back to work was never going to be easy. My mum is constantly in a huff with me because I simply don't have time to make phonecalls. Its hard enough to pick up all of my kids, get them each to do their (complicated) homework and feed them a decent tea.
But my solution has been to develop a life plan. I like to write on my windows and mirrors with chalk board markers, connecting everything up. Seeing everything you have to do and what you need to regularly keep on top of makes it more manageable somehow. It helps me to Listen to a book tape on audible, keep the kitchen tidy enough and a bath before pickup is essential.
Life's engine is powering back up again whether we like it or not. We are emerging from a kind of sleep zone. The world is at the door, knocking for those mortgage payments and we can delay paying those bills no longer, even if it does take an hour for anyone to answer the phone.
Everything has become more difficult and that's just how it is. Just do one thing at a time and morve forward step by step. I have spent the best part of a month trying to get on top of my admin and get me life organised but I am not sure if I am going backwards or forwards. The financial regulations mean i can't access or move my own money, or get my internet speed up, despite having spent the best part of a day on the phone to BT. It can feel like someone is playing tricks on me at times.
The main concern I have, however, is that I don't know what my children are meant to be learning in school. In some ways their return has been a relief, the bill pile having grown critically high, but now I am feeling desperately miserable that my kids are back and I have no control over their learning. It has been straight into CAT tests which are barbaric and bear absolutely no relation to the real world, yet the whole term they will be force fed on verbal, non-verbal and spatial reasoning tests.
My kids don't do well because they can rarely understand what have to do, or the time runs out before they have even finished reading what they have to do. Of course I could have made it easier for them if I had got them to practice reasoning tests over the holidays along with reading 'at least 6 'historical novels', but funnily enough I didn't even look at the school website. I was far too busy relaxing. We all needed a rest after the ordeal of trying to keep up with learning what felt like about 50 topics in a single day. We were really happy back then, in the summer, just for a short while.
But now it's back to life and back to anxiety. The weather has turned and we all have far too much to do, but we just have to get on with it. For the time being at least. But really I don't want to have to wear a mask just to go and buy some milk, or sit in crazy traffic because everyone's driving now rather than using public transport, or shut my child in their room if they so much as cough, or have to imagine them back in school dealing with that jargon of a curriculum, or queuing for ages to get lunch because of social distancing. I don't want them sitting down all day being crammed full of stuff they don't need to know, or make them do their homework when they are too tired to even remember what they are learning about to tell me so I can help them.
It's all just too much - life has already got back to that ridiculous whirlwind that it was before. The problem is that the world was crap before lockdown and it's even worse now. But don't let it get you down. Life is silly, we just have to laugh at it. When we have time, let's put our heads together and work out how to do things differently. But in the meantime take heart, you aren't the only one who is struggling. Just do what you can and step by step things will work out. You'll see.