This post is a little different. Way back when I started this blog in the Dark Ages (well, 2012) I called it ‘A Life More Ordinary’, and my whole purpose was to record the seemingly mundane details of my life as a stay-at-home-mum with a toddler, because I sensed dimly then what I know for real now – those days pass in the blink of an eye, even though living through them can sometimes feel it is taking forever!
But as of the last couple of weeks, life suddenly doesn’t feel ordinary for anyone. In fact we are all probably craving ordinary as never before. All the simple bedrocks of an ordinary life – going to work, meeting a friend for a coffee, planning a holiday, going to the cinema – are vanishing around us. At the moment my children’s school is open, and as they are both well at present, they are going in as normal, but like everyone else I am expecting that I am going to be doing a period of home-schooling in the very near future.
And as of yesterday evening I am engaging in major social distancing. For the last couple of months I have been on a clinical trial of a biologic therapy to treat my ankylosing spondylitis. In the very simple terms I understand, ankylosing spondylitis, along with other inflammatory arthritis conditions, is caused by the immune system over-reacting and causing inflammation which attacks my own joints and skin. Biologic drugs work by dampening down my immune system so that the inflammation is lessened. Which is brilliant for treating the arthritis symptoms, but has the side effect of making you more prone to infections. You see where this is going!
I have no idea if the trial will continue, but at the moment I have the biologic drug in my system (well, possibly – it is a double-blind placebo controlled trial, so there is a 1 in 3 chance I haven’t had anything at all!), and so I have to consider myself in the more vulnerable group and follow the advice to stay at home and avoid social contact as far as possible.
I describe myself as an extroverted introvert – I love other people’s company, and I love socialising, but I really need time on my own and time at home to replenish myself. The things I love to do recreationally – reading, writing, listening to podcasts, baking – tend to be mainly solitary activities. I think over the coming weeks and months I am going to need to really develop the introvert in me and learn to love these activities and staying at home even more. An added challenge for me is that I am still recovering from PTSD which left me with fairly severe anxiety, particularly health anxiety. I have been having treatment for this, and I was getting much better, but the current situation is a real challenge to put it mildly. And in all probability I won’t be able to see my therapist and continue my treatment as I am meant to be avoiding social contact and she is based in a health centre! I have hugely appreciated a couple of psychologists/psychotherapists I know sharing their tips on how those of us prone to anxiety can get through the current crisis unscathed. Anna Mathur’s article can be found here and is well worth a read for anyone suffering from anxiety, or loving someone who does.
So now, instead of documenting the little details of ordinary life, I am going to blog about the mundane details of life in extraordinary circumstances. The weirdness of realising that in order to send my mum’s Mother’s Day gift I am going to have to ask my husband to go to the post office for me instead of going myself. That I couldn’t casually agree to my 5yo’s request to go to the bookshop after school to spend a voucher she was given, because I need to avoid busy places. That any of the day-to-day activities I took utterly for granted – the school run, a trip to the gym, popping to the shops, meeting a friend for a hot chocolate and gossip – have overnight transformed into luxuries I have no way of knowing when I will experience again.
I am going to concentrate on editing my third book while I have the time to do so, mindful of the fact that at any moment school could close, or one of my children could develop that dreaded dry cough or fever and then I will have to concentrate my efforts on them. And I am planning for how I will manage our days if/when the children are at home. One of the resources I have found very helpful for this is Five Minute Mum, and this is another site well worth visiting if you have toddler/nursery/infant age children you are going to be at home with for extended periods. And there are Facebook groups such as ‘Family Lockdown Tips and Ideas’ are springing up as well, which have lots of ideas for those of us entertaining small people at home, but also for older people who need to self-isolate for their own health and safety and may be missing out on social activities which are a lifeline for their mental health and wellbeing.
Are you stuck at home right now? On your own, or with children to educate and entertain? Or are you still in the group trying to live life as normally as possible and perhaps support others who are in isolation? Or maybe you are an NHS worker or a care assistant or a shop worker or a charity volunteer or someone else on the frontline of keeping people safe and fed and well. Whatever your situation right now, I’d love to hear from you in the comments box below.