What I’ve learnt in the last year

This isn’t a post about me learning a language in lockdown, baking a tonne of banana bread or undergoing a major body transformation. On the contrary it’s about the struggle I think we’ve all felt during the last year since lockdown was announced in 2020.

To be honest 2020 started well for me. We’d just moved into our new home in December 2019 and it was in my plans to spend time getting the house exactly as we wanted it, little did I know we would be spending more time at home than usual!

Getting the keys to our house on the 20th December 2019

The first time I remember any mention of a virus was around the end of January and to be honest it sounded like things were so far away from us in the UK it wasn’t going to be a problem here.

How wrong can you be?

I’m incredibly blessed to be healthy and have a home and a family I love. But it doesn’t mean I’ve had an easy ride during this time. Much of the social media posts I read implore us to be kind to one another but often times it seems we forget that each person’s situation is unique. I’m not blind to the fact that many people, including those in my personal circle, have been made redundant, actually had COVID and been suffering with ill health and not been able to get the treatment they needed. And of course not forgetting the lives that have been lost both here in the UK and around the world due to this virus.

Like everybody our family has been through one of the strangest times we have ever and probably will ever experience in our lifetime. So as I mentioned earlier I’m not going to wax lyrical and say I’ve baked banana bread, tie dyed my clothes or had some kind of amazing body transformation. I’ve done nothing of the sort! It’s been bloody hard. Working a full time job and homeschooling a six year old is not something I’ve enjoyed. Splitting my time has never been more demanding and difficult as well as both physically and mentally draining.

Found objects collage became a thing as we’d pick things up on our walks!

Don’t get me wrong Homeschool was incredibly rewarding when we had those ‘a-ha!’ moments with Daniel and he just ‘got it’. But equally frustrating for us both when I had to split myself in two and try to set him off with a task while I got some work done. I know it was difficult for him to understand and it’s the hardest thing about the pandemic for me the guilt I’ve felt at being at not being able to give enough attention during those times. I have always had the greatest admiration for teachers and am so grateful to our school for their support.

The hardest part of it all for me was when I realised I was experiencing burnout. After going through first the lockdown, then a bereavement, caring for our family, a redundancy consultation, psoriasis flare up and homeschool by the time September came around and things started to look a bit brighter I was just exhausted. Keeping all the plates spinning is hard at the best of times but to be honest I just couldn’t wind down. Again I know I am incredibly lucky as I didn’t end up being made redundant and I wasn’t furloughed as many others in my sector were.

So what did I learn during this time? Well, the biggest thing for me was that it’s ok to say NO! It’s ok to ask for help. And it’s ok to feel the way I did. I was trying to push through getting irritable, not sleeping well and never feeling like I’d accomplished anything. But as soon as I started to realise how it was affecting everything around me I knew I had to get some support.

So I did a short counselling workshop over the phone after being referred by my GP. I had reservations- what was this stranger on the phone going to think of me? Would they think I was ungrateful for my blessings , they must have clients with much bigger problems. I shouldn’t waste their time.

The first session I had is one I will never forget. They asked me why I was seeking help and what I wanted to achieve. I blurted out a lot of the things I just mentioned above, apologised as I am sure you’ve got clients much more important than me and said I just wanted to be happier.

The first words I heard were, “you’re going through an awful lot there in one go. It’s not surprising that you are finding things hard right now.”

Just hearing this stranger tell me that it was ok to be overwhelmed and ok to be there getting support was a weight lifted. Over the weeks I worked on various things and put different techniques into practice, something I am still doing, in order to make sure I am happy. Not just for myself but for my family who were the best support system I could’ve asked for. The best advice my counsellor gave me about worrying was this.

Will it matter tomorrow?

I was constantly worrying about every little thing but not focusing in the present. Now I take a step back when that thinking comes forward and give myself some breathing space because most of the time it doesn’t matter. You need to allow yourself to make mistakes, pick yourself back up and carry on.

Ultimately I’m so proud of the way we as a family have handled things. When the going got tough we pulled together and made the best of it. And as we head toward the future and lockdown is lifting slowly I know that if we can get through this we can get through anything.

Lockdown Partying with my boys !

If you are struggling with any of the issues I mentioned please consider seeking support from a healthcare professional you trust like your GP. You can also call the Samaritans who were recommended to me by my counsellor if I ever felt I needed to talk. Call 116 123 for free or visit their website for more information on services they can provide.