We are okay, I am okay… – Schapa

So I thought I was doing ok with this whole Covid thing and utilising my cultivate self-compassion to deal with the ups and down, acknowledging how much different my practice and therapy meant I was approaching and dealing with it all than it would have done if this, happened a few years ago….

My husband lost his job immediately as we went into lock-down, he was devastated understandably so but we are still living in a building site so picked ourselves up, tried to focus on the fact that maybe this was the opportunity after many years of failed attempts so far, to finish it, finally move on with our lives and this massive barrier that had invaded and pretty much destroyed our marriage. I felt lucky after 6 months out of work to pick up another contract, able to work from home and due to commence 3 weeks into lockdown. Financially we would be ok …. for now.. first tick, we would be able to pay the bills….

We are ok, I am ok.

I did all those things many mothers did, routine, structure, for the kids – but not too much, bit of flex and change because this is all unprecedented all so new and would be a big adjustment for both of them, let’s try and make the most of it. 6 days a week of sports and activities, both loving school, competitions cancelled, camping trips and gatherings to look forward to – to nothing, all stopped overnight. We will try to embrace it, my kids will learn some more life skills, help out a bit more, we will have more time together as a family a break from that crazy school and extra-curricular activities that life has become. First weekend of lockdown we spontaneously bought chickens, something talked about for years….. panic buying somehow driving us to more ideas of self-sufficiency and a focus on something different and new in these strange times. We are lucky, we have a garden, the weather is good, we can still walk, run, cycle and be outdoors and we are lucky that where we live gives us that opportunity…there are things we miss and can’t do but…..

We are ok, I am ok.

Easter weekend and the article of a 13 year old boy, dying in hospital without his family around him and unable to have a proper funeral because they were all isolating. I couldn’t get it out of my head, unable to sleep at night that situation playing out in my mind, over and over and over if that happened to me, my kids, my family. I was able to hear my most compassionate self, not dismissing that, not making me feel like that was an over-reaction. I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone else as I didn’t want to put that thought in anyone else’s head, so I practiced my compassion, turned towards those feelings and wrote letters to both my children. Letters I hope they will never read, but captured some of the things I wanted them to know if I wasn’t here, if I went into hospital and never came home…. I never finished them fully, I realized I couldn’t manage to say everything I wanted to say, I never got to the letters that I wanted them to have if they got sick and got taken from me into hospital alone… maybe that was literally too hard for me to even imagine. I allowed myself the tears, I spent Easter Saturday, writing, at my computer, letting those feelings pour out and then I slept. Instead of roaring around in my head, they were down on paper. Nothing had changed, I had no more control than I did before, but they were captured – I could allow myself not to have to revisit them over and over and over again. Tick number two on practicing my self-compassion – my feelings are valid and ok, I dealt with them myself.

We are ok, I am ok.

We carried on, starting a new job from home, never having met any of the people I was working with, for or working for me, trying to ensure my kids were ok, home-schooling, doing chores, engaging with friends – was hard. Really hard. I practiced my best self-compassion, for the first time ever in any job, to give myself the space for that to be hard and to bring it down to day by day. What was reasonable for me to be able to know, understand, lead on and what wasn’t, don’t worry about expectations in 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 3 months – just now, what could I do now, today… . slowly slowly, catch a monkey…. I worked hard daily at not crucifying myself for not being ‘better/more/capable/sure/brilliant/able……. Etc’ than I was, work is my biggest trigger for fostering my crucifying self-critic to come roaring out of his box and I hadn’t even needed to name P (my compassionate other) to know I was trying to take care of myself and give myself a chance. Tick number 3 on the practicing my self- compassion.

We are ok, I am ok.

Then the first decision came that we had to make, not made for us by the rules, by the science but our decision – my daughter is in year 6 …. Schools were to open for reception,year 1 & year 6… would we send her back? I agonized, ‘most’ other people in her school appear to be going back, why was I so torn…. Well if I’m being honest, not torn … my gut was clear it was just arguing with my head saying I should ignore my feelings…… The context…. In my new contract Iwas still in the probationary period, if I got sick statutory sick pay isn’t enough for us to live on, I’m the only one earning with a global depression looming, I can’t lose this job, even if it weren’t for the sick pay I’m just starting to find my feet – even a week, or 2 off work right now would be very, verydifficult. My daughter is struggling with lockdown the most, she is a social extrovert, loves being with her friends and lockdown seems to have brought the hormones out in force and full on teenage-hood at 11 appears to be the new normal for us… she would love to go to school. The even bigger context, my dad got a virus when he was a fit, active 38 year old man and never recovered. He never worked again having suffered from ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to this day, I watched my parents struggle to stay afloat and keep their home all through my teenage years. I don’t trust virus’s especially viruses we know so little about…. I reconciled myself to the fact that 12 days of school in the latter part of Year 6 wasn’t worth the potential risk at that point of either her picking it up or passing it to us and the potential effects to the whole family livelihood. I have still felt the need to justify that in my own head, in many imagined arguments with fictious other people who would in my view think I was being hysterical, OTT, the virus doesn’t effect kids, your harming her mental health more by keeping her home……. But just about hanging onto tick number 4 on practicing my self-compassion, these were my feelings, based on my life experience, based on my family’s risk/benefit balance, that’s ok, I’m allowed to have them, I don’t have to feel ashamed of them.

We are ok, I am ok.

I read the news every day, I feel a responsibility to be informed, this is important. I am aware I am lucky to have a job and one that I can do from home. I appreciate all key workers the jobs they do, I have always voted and supported a strong public sector and welfare state. I am doing my bit, one of the organisers for our local voluntary effort to support those needing to shield, I am staying home apart from my exercise, seeing no one, homeschooling my kids and working… paying taxes … I’m doing everything I can as an individual. Now I have to fight my way through the anger, the fury at how this government had handled the entire thing, from beginning to end. I try so hard to put aside my anti-Tory sentiment, hoping this is a national moment, hoping this is about everyone pulling together to do the right thing and so desperately want to give them the benefit of the doubt, not be the anti-Tory person on everything they try do to… But I can’t, I can’t let it go how decimated our public services were coming into this, how lazy and slow they were to react, how ineffectual they have been at keeping people safe, how many people have unnecessarily died, …. This is 2020, Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War understood the importance of cleanliness in passing infection, we have PPE these days to help with that… why do we have doctors and nurses dying… This blog isn’t about politics I promise, but I cannot express how angry I was during April and May, I couldn’t let it go and I couldn’t understand why more of my friends weren’t so furious too. I get that some people need not to accept the idea that the government are either incompetent or don’t care, because that’s too scary – but at the same time it left me, still leaves me feeling isolated, powerless and furious. Looser threads hanging on to tick number 5…. I try to acknowledge my feelings, I try to find places where I see others who think similar things.. but it doesn’t help and I don’t know what to do about it… so I at least try to acknowledge how I feel… maybe that’s enough.

We are ok, I am ok.

And then as time passes, and I try to keep mixing things up, we did our own home exercise for a bit, we did a bit of Joe Wickes, then the outdoor swimming lakes opened and we felt safe doing that, we did online antics, a random tic-tok video as a family, the 26 challenge the weekend of the marathon… I try to mix up exercise with seeing people for the odd driveway chat…. It all becomes not enough. The creeping build of work taking over, being busier and busier at work, working longer and longer hours as I find my feet, stress building from a how much there is do to and I have to deliver it because I need them to extend this contract or else my family has no income……, kids losing the initial novelty factor of things we had tried to do, the house being painfully slow to finish so that we are still without a proper kitchen or the mall thing of not being able to sit at a table to eat… and the weather turned. All this comes at the same time as the world is unlocking… the “Government says….” We can do all these things now, go shopping, do activities, mix with various people, in various circumstances, in so many different scenario’s such that I don’t even know what the rules are anymore because actually from a scientific and practical perspective – they don’t make any sense…. not to me… I can’t be bothered to find out what the rules are because throughout it all I haven’t been interested in what the government says we can do, as if a particular date changes what the virus can do to a person’s health. I have been trying to see what the science says… and the science hasn’t fundamentally changed, other than to know more – potentially more ways of transmitting, asymptomatic people not producing enough antibodies to necessarily be immune and some people who survive of all ages demonstrating similar symptoms to my Dad regarding ME/CFS. I have friends in Germany, Australia & New York all different personalities but as they see their governments deal with it in different ways the psychological impact to the general population is clearly so varied. Those in countries where they trust and can see evidence of control and calm feel more confident to be out there in the world, those who can’t see that – don’t.

We are ok, I am ok.

And I feel my self-compassion erring, the old voices of ‘I have much to be grateful for, there are so many, so much worse off than I… OR so many other people, going to the pub, shopping, going back to the gym, meeting friends, going on holiday…… what’s wrong with you, you know the economy is important stop being ridiculous, your miserable just get out there starting living your life again…. And I know its ICWOLF (my Inner Critic) taking me out for a walk but I feel less able to argue… I feel ground down, exhausted by work, exhausted by a fully flourishing teenager who I ache to make feel better but I don’t know how to help, not feeling like I have the capacity to engage fully with my kids so they are drifting and reducing the things they do, looking at my building site thinking when will this end… all the issues that were there before in both my marriage and the physical manifestation of how emotionally difficult life was before, let alone now – are rearing their head again.

We are ok, I am ok.

I don’t have the capacity to engage with things I might find helpful… today the first time I have missed my pre-booked outdoor swim because I just couldn’t get motivated to go. I watch endless, mindless TV, I can’t be bothered to cook, or pick up the phone. I’ve tried to stay in the moment, not plan too much allow plans to evolve and let things go with the flow… but I guess maybe I’m feeling it’s all becoming too much, I don’t’ know where to find some resilience, find my self-compassion and build myself back up again… and we aren’t at the end. This is still only the beginning, I usually start dreading the winter in October, its July and I am already dreading it. Once my kids are in school from September, I won’t see my parents until there is a vaccine… how do you meet in people’s gardens in the middle of February – will we see family at Xmas?

We are ok, I am ok.

I don’t know where to start… so I started with this… maybe it will help, maybe it won’t…but at least I haven’t given up trying to believe that compassion is the only way I will get through this time, through my life… maybe I’m allowed a blip…..maybe…

We will be ok? Maybe I will be ok?

Schapa- July 2020 Schapa is the pseudonym of a member of the #365DaysOfCompassion community who is kindly sharing their experience with the hope of supporting others and through writing to help with deepening their compassionate approach to themselves.

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