Like many people when lockdown first started there was a feeling of disbelieve , or worry , concern and uncertainty – I remember thinking ‘ it will be fine ‘ they won’t possibly shut down the school ... and when that happened I thought ‘it will be fine – this will only last a couple of weeks ...
In terms of my business I was worried – what would this mean – within days of lockdown being announced a big contract went on hold and I waited with baited breathe for the avalanche that I presumed would follow ..
Initially though like many people I faced each day with a renewed sense of purpose that we would get through this ... I would embrace the concept of home schooling, I would move my business easily onto zoom - and again I thought ‘ it ill be fine ‘ – like mantra that played over and over in my head.
I soon noticed as time went on that my own emotions were like a roller coaster – one minute being all motivated and ‘ we are in it together’ and the next minute feeling a type of despair and days turned to weeks , turned to months and my old life slipped further and further away.. On the plus side after that initial shock in business the avalanche did not come and determined to not have to shelve my business ( solo Limited company ) I worked hard to juggle the needs of a lively and confused himself 6 year old with a busy practise - in the first couple of months I was also studying – in my final weeks of research for a degree which had taken me 4 years to work through – so it was appointments and home schooling during the day .. then when everyone had gone to bed – the night shift of study and prepping for submission. ‘the mantra going round in my head as I frantically held onto everything including my own sanity ‘ it will be OK ‘ this will not last much longer.
I have read various articles on how women has generally taken on the lioness’s share of the load during lock down – mainly because as is in our household whilst my business is successful my husband’s is more so financially – we had agreed I would work around our son when we re- started our family – but that was when we had help such as full days at school and after school club and my mum on hand.. so whilst he has still being going out everyday to run his business which was not on the furloughed list- and that has brought it’s own stresses to us in terms of keeping us safe – my own life centred around being at home almost 24/7 and trying to fit in any aspect of what I needed around everyone else.
It was inevitable that this was as it has been for many people, especially women, in these situations that it was not sustainable -I submitted my final research paper on the evening of Monday -by Tuesday I felt extremely unwell – by Wednesday my back was covered in a blistered raging rash and I was diagnosed with stress induced Shingles…. Through out all of this I realised I had for sure not practised what I preached, and things needed to change.
I began to reflect on what was causing me the most stress and it was my total belief that I was a failure and a dreadful parent to boot ! – and as a therapist who enables others to feel good about who they are – this was a big problem to come to terms with let alone work through it. You see I had waited and waited for the joy of home-schooling and spending time with my son to dig in - and it never came.
Our time together previously was very much about being out and about – cake and coffee at the local café , down to the park , members of both English heritage and National Trust... now it was daily struggle of finding activities – those which had previously been a treat such as crafts and painting were now routine and lost their sparkle ... I realised I resented the fact that my role on my business which I loved and which was a defining part of who I was got squished in as and when and when I wasn’t working I was parenting, and there was no time to embrace the reading time or down time others were reporting during their quarantine. I adore my son ( see -still feeling the need to caveat my dreadful confession) yet I felt genuine sadness when I found my handbag – leopard print , bought just before lock down hanging on the peg as I put away winter coats – a whole different life inside of driving gloves , perfume , note books and lipsticks that had never seen the light of day since this started.
So when the option for our son to return to school 3 full days a week came I admit I leapt at the chance – whilst also judging myself that others would judge me for not wanting to keep him at home ... I didn’t even announce it on the parent forum – just messaged a few specific contacts to let them know. Exhausted with the ongoing shingles and processing all of this it was no surprise that a meltdown happened with hubby – 2 Sundays on the trot … and it was time to really take stock!
Why do I write about this so honestly? – because as a therapist it is vital I am self-aware, I ask others to look at their vulnerabilities , I sit with them in their own pain and therefore I need to take leaf out of my book and face up to my own difficulties , to be with my own discomfort and be honest with myself. I need to decide how to take action , what to choose and biggest of all – the hardest thing I ask of my clients – to have acceptance of who they are- and thus who I am.
The biggest question which has come up in session during this time my clients is how they start to work with the new normal – because actually it isn’t going to be over soon – and what this new normal means in terms of their relationship with themselves. Many people will come out of this experienced changed , there will be things we will want to hold onto and things we desperately want to move back to. But how do they piece it all together and rebuild that relationship with themselves?
But the main thing to take from this for me is ‘ it’s OK to say ‘ it’s not OK ‘ ‘I am not OK’ and ‘ It won’t all be fine’ – there are lots of ways to keep moving forward but trying to convince myself is something I have stopped doing . And that feels better somehow. Being honest with myself about who I am, accepting the decisions I have made for me and my family has taken a weight off and I like many other people am now looking at my relationship with me and those around me – deciding what the new normal actually looks like. And realising I am not a dreadful person - I am just human - living in crisis and chaos - like everyone else.