Hey guys! This is my fifth instalment of this series which is from Rose’s perspective who works for the NHS in the UK (*pseudonym used*). Hope you enjoy reading her thoughts on the virus!
Coronavirus…. A word that I had never heard of until a few weeks ago. And yet it has brought with it such devastation, fear and anxiety, death and destruction to so many lives already and so many to come. Apparently first appearing in a place called Wuhan in China (a place I had never heard of either). Since the first few cases, the virus has spread rapidly throughout the world, with hotspots in China, then Italy then slowly creeping through and consuming Europe, with a few cruise ships along the way. Within weeks the virus has spread across the world, just showing how interconnected we all are and how rapidly something like this can become a global phenomena – now a pandemic. Fighting an “invisible enemy” as it has been called, we have been sent scuttling back into our homes, with the authorities advising “social distancing” i.e. all avoiding unnecessary social contacts, washing our hands and catching our sneezes. The isolated and lonely are becoming more isolated, the people who have mental health struggles are really affected by enforced isolation and lack of routine. People are stripping the food shops bare as they panic buy and hoard food for the impending lockdown. A few weeks ago we would not have considered that there ever might be food and supply shortages, and yet now things like milk, bread, flour, pasta and tinned tomatoes and beans are rarities in the shops. Toilet rolls, soap and hand sanitiser were the first things to become scarce. I spent about an hour the other night scouring some online shopping sites looking to try and buy soap as I realised we only had one spare in the house.
And yet amongst all of this there are incredible showings of human kindness. People looking out for each other, people offering to help out others who were strangers up to now. A sense of community spirit, people rallying round to help. The earth seems to be healing a little with the reduction in human intervention. As people in Wuhan and Italy have retreated to their homes, the air has become clearer of pollution, the birds can be heard singing in Wuhan again, the canals of Venice have clear water again where fish and even dolphins can be seen. While we fight coronavirus, nature is healing too.
There was initially a sense of it being so far away and we probably wouldn’t be affected by it. I remember being quite shocked when I heard it was rife in Italy – that was much closer to home. And then reports of Spain, France, other European countries heading the same way. The figures of people affected here and the number of deaths started to rise. Experts warned of measures which might have to come. Then a couple of weeks ago, social distancing was advised for the over 70s and people with underlying health conditions. I felt angry as it seemed like these people were being isolated and protected so we could all get it instead. There was talk of “herd immunity” by us all getting it and developing an immune response, but at the same time no one really know whether people are immune after having it. It felt like we were being used as an experiment. But then I realised that the world has to go on turning, and by isolating those who were more vulnerable, it gave a chance of the health systems not being quite so overwhelmed.
Schools have been closed, with two days warning. At the school gates there were mums only just holding it together as they know what their children might lose, might miss out on. Those important milestones, developments, learning socially. So hard. Telling my mum who is in her 70s and fit and healthy that I didn’t think she should look after my daughter any more, for her own protection, was such a hard thing to do… we were both in tears as we don’t want it to come to this. We are struggling to work out how to work, how to juggle childcare, how to provide emotionally for our children when we are holding back tears at times, grieving for those things which we have lost already by events being cancelled, for some already losing their jobs, for some school children losing their chance to show how hard they had been working in preparing for their exams, losing their chance to have a good ending to their education or schools they are leaving.
I take care to try and encourage my seven year old to talk to me, to share her fears and worries, or ask me questions. Sometimes I can’t answer. I am careful to try and talk about “when this is all over”, hoping for a near future where things which were normal can resume. Until then her usual daily life is cancelled and she is isolated from her friends and activities which she knows and loves. I hope that this won’t have a negative effect on her future mental health, that it will make her more resilient rather than more fearful and scared. But we won’t know for a while….. time will tell what problems we are now storing up for the future.
I realise that many of us are in mourning today – hit by the grief of the losses yet to come. Struggling to cope with the meaning of this for our lives, and for ourselves what it all means, how we will get through this, indeed which of us will get through this. When will we be on the other side….. we really don’t know.
I reflect on whether my grandparents felt this way when they knew we were heading for world war, whether soldiers deployed to warzones had this sick feeling and sense of foreboding. That you wish it wasn’t happening in your or your children’s time. And an acceptance that there is little you can do, little you can change. What will be will be, and you can only do what you can and think is right at the time. And then I am reminded of that famous quote from Lord of the Rings:
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Fellowship of The Ring
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”.
The end to my working week. It has felt a struggle and a juggle this week as we try to figure out a new routine of working (mostly from home, but sometimes having to go into work), my husband not being able to work and looking after our 7 year old daughter at home. No one is allowed to go out other than for work or essentials. I have felt panic about the approaching virus, hearing more and more people who have it, panic about not being able to get some basic things like milk and bread, and medical supplies, realising that we were so used to being able to get just what we want whenever we want and taking this for granted.
This week the weather has helped with the home schooling. My daughter has done some school work, also painted rainbows to put on the front of the house for people walking past to spot, built a den in the back garden, planted seeds, done a variety of arts and crafts etc as well as skateboarding, riding bikes and playing out in the garden.
Work for me has been really hard. I work for the NHS part of the week and on Tuesday I had to go into work but it felt weird going out, and driving past shops which are usually open, now all closed up for who knows how long. They are not deemed essential. I didn’t really want to be out of the house, but had to. At the same time it also felt quite nice to go for a drive in the sunshine without too many cars on the road. There have been many times this week where things have been bitter and sweet at the same time.
I am part of a few social networks full of people who are having to isolate themselves from society for 12 weeks because they are vulnerable. Some of them talk of boredom, some of new found hobbies and activities, some of them have really been enjoying the outdoors of their gardens this week and have found ways to rest and relax. Its been nice to hear about what they are doing but hard when your stress levels are pretty high and you feel you are running yourself ragged with little time to spare. I know there are many many others who are having things so much tougher at the moment.
Working from home is good because it feels safe. You are with your family close by. Sometimes they are distracting but it is nice to have them near. But you don’t have that 45minute drive home “downtime” to put the stresses of the day behind you and free your mind of whatever has occupied you. You walk downstairs and you are mum, needed to do something or look after someone. Tonight it felt good to end my working week. Tomorrow I am home – schooler/ teacher for my daughter.
At 8pm tonight people all over the country came out of their homes and clapped and cheered to encourage all of the NHS and keyworkers who are keeping this country running and looking after us all. It was amazing: you could hear cheers all around, on the horizon and near by, and various fireworks being set off as well. We exchanged some cheers and whoops with nearby people in their gardens – we couldn’t see them but we knew they were there. We whooped and they copied and answered us back. It was a strange kind of connection when we aren’t allowed to be physically connected. It made me immensely proud to work for the NHS as well as scared and worried for those people who really are on the frontline, putting themselves at risk for each of us everyday. They must have families, loved ones who they worry about and yet can’t be connected to as well. They must know the risks they face and yet still do it. They are such dedicated, amazing human beings that they deserve a clap and a cheer every hour of every day. It feels like our whole future really depends on them now.
Thank you for reading this post! There’ll be another part of the series out soon but until then bye for now!
Amelia Grace a.k.a Amelia in Hull