When is it ok not to be ok in a pandemic? When is it ok for you to say ‘I’m not ok?’ The answer is… ‘When you aren’t ok anymore’ and that is simply it. I wrote this for anyone who’s thought to themselves ‘It feels wrong to be struggling when so many people have it worse’

The lockdown gets to us all and I think it got to me from day one. It was the shock of the news that caused my first reaction. I normally pretend like nothing is really happening. A bit like the meme with the cartoon dog sitting in a burning room saying ‘everything’s fine, I’m fine’. Only, when the government actually did something and said we couldn’t leave our houses for more than essential trips and an hours exercise, indefinitely, it hit me like a brick right in my face.

I’ve been attending regular therapy at this point as I have been having difficulty maintaining meaningful relationships with important people because of some traumatic events in my earlier life. The difficulty being I prefer to be ‘an island’, even though I don’t really want to be an island as it’s really rather lonely. Islands are just much safer. I am sure almost everyone reading can probably relate?

I mean, that’s emotionally unhealthy, right? If we were in the real world people would be sending us to Codependents Anonymous meetings and telling us to find other interests.

Ironically, I am now being forced to stop this therapy of which the main objective is to help me ‘let important people closer to me’, midway through. Then be locked in a house 24/7 with said important people (cue hysterical laughter). God is laughing at me too. It’s almost like he said, ‘Save your money Laura let’s just throw you straight in, you’ll be fine and no… there is no safe word’

Boris says, no family visits. I like to see my family as most people do. I like the freedom of being able to see them when I want, even if sometimes it was a while before I saw them I still never imagined a world where it would be against the law? 

This also meant I was about to really know the meaning of ‘full-time Mom’. Toddler 24/7… downloading. I had one day to myself on therapy day and honestly? It was like an oasis in the desert of midweek sometimes. That day repaired and rejuvenated me ready for another week of the Sahara of child-rearing and housekeeping.

It’s like God asked me, for a joke, ‘Laura what’s your idea of mental and emotional hell right now?’ and I said, ‘Having no personal space’ and he got confused with which side he worked for.

The hubby will be home too, every day. Of course, I love him loads but can anyone relish the thought of never leaving your husband’s side? Ever? I mean, that’s emotionally unhealthy, right? If we were in the real world people would be sending us to Codependents Anonymous meetings and telling us to find other interests.

I remember saying to him ‘Richard, please don’t take this personally, I’ve got this crippling fear of intimacy and for some reason (my voice starts to crack and my eyes well up) I’m on a house arrest with people I am most afraid of being intimate with’. It’s like God asked me, for a joke, ‘Laura what’s your idea of mental and emotional hell right now?’ and I said, ‘Having no personal space’ and he got confused with which side he worked for.

It actually turned out to be slightly different but still just as fucking irritating. He was working in our bedroom, in beautiful, blissful silence or sometimes listening to some music. Every couple of hours or so, laughing with his colleagues on zoom… Oh ‘ha ha ha’ I would mutter to myself as Leo smashed a flask into my face with brute toddler force (basically akin to receiving a tennis ball to the eye from a Williams sister serve) for the 4th time in ten minutes.

I was doing really well and so, it was the idea of that routine and structure I’d worked so hard for going out the window that made it feel like the world was going to collapse around me

Before this hit, I had spent a lot of energy (actually, just a normal amount of energy it was just all I had at the time so it felt quite debilitating) creating a routine of family visits, classes and soft play days. After having postnatal depression, it was necessary to get some sort of weekly routine to recover or at least feel like life was still happening.

I’d got to the point where I’d started to nail the whole stay at home mom thing. I was doing really well and so, it was the idea of that routine and structure I’d worked so hard for going out the window that made it feel like the world was going to collapse around me. It was literally like I was being sent back into the hole again and I was not prepared to go easy. There was definitely kicking and screaming.

That’s where it hits me the hardest, being so invisible in society, even in my own home sometimes. Hearing my husbands success at his career can be wounding to me and I have to hide that and smile and be proud of him. After all, I benefit from his hard work too. So the solution was either getting a really good routine or go back to work, and we had already figured out me working and paying the full wack for childcare, wasn’t really financially viable.

I haven’t seen a pair of smart shoes, a salary, a van man sandwich or Sandra from accounts since he was born… he’s nearly two.

Before Leo, I loved having a job and my own money. The security of my independence and the feeling of routine and just, being a contributing member of society. It’s a real shock to your system when your main job is now to keep a helpless little bibi alive, whilst it rarely allows you time to sleep, eat, wash or dress. I haven’t seen a pair of smart shoes, a salary, a van man sandwich or Sandra from accounts since he was born… he’s nearly two.

I don’t tell this tale to elicit sympathy or a big ‘well done you’. Women have babies and are mothers day in and day out since… forever. Some women would kill to stay at home with their kids and some women are on their own in it, proper struggling. I know where my blessings are, rationally. Rationally, I know I am one lucky mother and honestly, I love being a stay at home Mom which sounds odd after what I just told you but I do. It just has it’s downsides, as with anything.

So what’s this got to do with this pandemic lockdown situation? I’ll tell you. My body heard it’s under threat right? You’re gonna be locked up with your family and you can’t run off anywhere when it starts getting hard and you can’t cope. Mom can’t rescue you from being terrorised by your own spawn and you can’t fake leave your husband for a day because it’s illegal to fucking go anywhere!

‘What’s that Laura? Oh, you have to stay at home with your lovely family and play with your son and enjoy the financial security of your husband working at home, Jesus! however will you cope?!

So, I’m bang into survival mode again. Just like when Leo was born. Fight, flight, freeze (mostly freeze in my case)

The loss of my freedom and isolation from my support systems doesn’t quite measure up to the actual horrendous human suffering going on in places such as, Syria, for example. It’s not really much if you compare it to the suffering happening on our turf right now either. In our hospitals, where people are dying due to the overstretched NHS, business owners are losing their livelihoods, employees are losing their jobs and being unable to see their own children.

This pandemic is causing massive hardships.

Then we have me. ‘What’s that Laura? Oh, you have to stay at home with your lovely family and play with your son and enjoy the financial security of your husband working at home, Jesus! however will you cope?!‘ Yes, that’s the big fat shame of it. It was the same when I had my son, my mind rationally knew that it wasn’t a bad situation. I’d gotten what I’d wanted for years, and he’s beautiful and healthy. It was a dream come true!

My body doesn’t hear that my ‘dreams have all come true’. My body is trying to stick my head in the oven. A reaction that is totally out of context but I can’t see properly. Something has poked an old trauma, it’s has disconnected a wire in my brain and it’s set off all the alarm systems.

So then, why was I dying inside?  Simple. The little men in my brain were on a night shift, feet up in the control room, there’s a big boom (iceberg/something that looks like something that traumatised me years ago) and all of a sudden, every light is flashing and all the alarms are sounding and it’s total fucking chaos. My body and my logic are just not connected, literally, because you can’t kill yourself sticking your head in an oven anymore… they are mostly electric.

My body doesn’t hear that my ‘dreams have all come true’. My body is trying to stick my head in the oven. A reaction that is totally out of context but I can’t see properly. Something has poked an old trauma, it’s has disconnected a wire in my brain and it’s set off all the alarm systems.

I can hear rational thoughts telling me I am blessed, I AM BLESSED. I can also feel crippling shame, for reacting like this when someone would be praying for what I have. Shame is just fuelling the whole mess. The more you feel it the more your judgement becomes clouded and despite all your resistance it just takes over. A bit like a mental virus really. You’re depressed and you’re anxious and you don’t really understand why.

If I have feelings that are big and intense I believe I’ve gone insane. Someone had to teach me that was just how emotions work. Sometimes they are big and they do take over but they pass.

My take on an Easter Egg hunt for a 1 year old!

When the lockdown was announced I went from anger to fear to sadness and then acceptance in about two days. Quite a average response. I imagine my husband probably really enjoyed that ride. After that, we did really well most days. I didn’t try to be ‘Mrs Perfect Pandemic Pinterest Parent’ but I do love the whole crafts and making him games!

Probably pissed all the other Mom’s off that were going through it too but for me, it wasn’t just for him it was a way to feel like I was doing good by him, tiring him out, getting myself a good rest at naptime and also my way of sharing because that’s the way I had gotten the idea…through another Mom.

I was already insecure with Leo, feeling that he was learning so much less because he doesn’t go to a nursery or have any family his age. So I’d already started panic designing a home learning centre/playground until I realised we don’t have home learning centre/playground money. So I settled for things like play-doh and a mini trampoline and things under a fiver made in china from eBay.

Groundhog day after groundhog day, about 4 weeks in, I felt myself slipping further and further into this feeling of hopelessness.

Even when we were doing well, my emotions were still a bit all over the place and sometimes, some would come up and they were HUGE. If I have feelings that are big and intense I believe I’ve gone insane. Someone had to teach me that was just how emotions work. Sometimes they are big and they do take over but they pass. To an emotionally healthy person, they might not even use the word huge… I just… cried for a bit! But they were big tears ok?

Groundhog day after groundhog day, about 4 weeks in, I felt myself slipping further and further into this feeling of hopelessness. Despite the little Pinterest projects and the fun in the garden thanks to the wonderful weather, the fairground music was playing on repeat in the back of my mind and I just felt like my head was becoming a pressure cooker.

When can I get free again? Go somewhere just for the sheer hell of it? When will I ever be alone again? God, what I wouldn’t give to be alone. Why can’t I just cope with this better? Why can’t I ever just… cope?! With anything?!’ The little shame goblin is on my shoulder talking in my voice, all the time, no days off. I seriously can’t do this much longer.

There were helpful suggestions that I knew would work. Meditation, yoga, exercise. But it’s like someone has put a soaking wet 15 tog duvet around my shoulders. I’m searching for the will to live... so the ‘will to yoga’ will be a search for another day.

One evening, I find myself shouting at my husband because he was leaning on me on the sofa. I felt that claustrophobic, that my husband was innocently resting on me and I couldn’t stand it. Next, I found myself falling asleep, sitting up, as Leo played in the morning. I wasn’t even sleep deprived my brain was just shutting down. I found myself wanting to cry when the baby monitor sounded, earlier and earlier every morning. I can’t call in sick.

There were helpful suggestions that I knew would work. Meditation, yoga, exercise. I couldn’t do them… I didn’t want to. It’s like someone had put a soaking wet 15 tog duvet around my shoulders. I’m searching for the will to live... so the ‘will to yoga’ will be a search for another day.  Helping others is always something that made me feel better but I couldn’t even help myself.

At the point where I was totally mentally and emotionally broken, I admitted defeat. I got some support with looking after Leo and some time to just do whatever the hell I wanted to. I painted and listened to a podcast. It was like a 5 star all-inclusive to Mexico I’m not even joking. It was short but it fixed so much.

After my respite, Rich said it was lovely to see me back, as I danced like a twat in the living room to make him laugh. He said he hadn’t recognised me in ages. Things are getting a lot better. I hope that anyone out there who is beating themselves up for finding this hard stops doing that.

I’d felt completely without hope before that break. I often say it to Rich that ‘I’m just going to lie down in the road’. It’s a tongue in cheek reaction to ‘I’m really stressed right now and being run over by a bus seems to be a sweet release’. I’ve thought about death as an escape many times before I had my son, as we know from my previous stories. Now I have Leo, I would never, ever abandon him, or want to. It just made me think, over dinner one evening… on a level of one to ‘I can’t even kill myself’ how trapped are you feeling? and I laughed with my husband… hysterically.

After my respite, Rich said it was lovely to see me back, as I danced like a twat in the living room to make him laugh. He said he hadn’t recognised me in ages. Things are getting a lot better. I hope that anyone out there who is beating themselves up for finding this hard stops doing that. We are all humans and our experiences of everything are unique, based on our pasts and in our make up.

Almost all of us will be in survival mode right now. The unexplained exhaustion, the brain fog, the overeating and the big overwhelming feelings combined with numbness and listlessness. Strength comes in lots of shapes and sizes… asking for help, sharing your pain, helping, sacrificing, loving, surviving, kindness, forgiveness, empathy, compassion or just plain old getting through with white knuckles.

This explanation of my seemingly ‘unearned suffering’ is for the awareness of those people who can be so easily forgotten. Isolation is too, a killer virus.

In the end, I stopped doing anything other than staying sane and keeping the baby alive. It was time to get real streamline. No work, no writing, no social media. I was supported until I was feeling better and now I see things much clearer. The colour has returned a little. Even though as I write this, there is no hope of anything changing soon I have managed to finally adapt.

Unfortunately, my son has missed out on so much social interaction. He may be a bit behind, even though I have kept him busy with coloured spaghetti and flour sand and the like. Mine and his Dad’s bond with him has grown so tight it’s incredible. This period of time is when he’s been learning to talk and communicate and it happens so fast. Ironically, words can’t really express how special it has been to see his every little new connection that he makes and to hear him ask us for cuddles.

So, that is my experience of the survival of something that perhaps, doesn’t match the terror of the wars or working on the frontline right now but it is something that I never the less, found quite emotionally distressing. The mental health impact of isolation that I am still, very fortunate to be supported through with the love of a wonderful husband and parents.

Some people don’t have that. Some people are alone and struggling with many different diagnoses without the right help or access to help right now. This explanation of my seemingly ‘unearned suffering’ is for the awareness of those people who can be so easily forgotten. Isolation is too, a killer virus.

To those who are in a situational depression or just struggling to cope with all these ups and downs and are holding on tight, I promise it will pass. Even I, the eternal pessimist, princess of cynicism, has started drawing rainbows…