There’s a beautiful cover photo of a wonderful family here, but so many details are missing until you open the book.

Okay - moment of truth. Hands up if you have struggled with the second-wave lockdown in a completely different way than the first. The dark days coupled with the gloomy weather have cast a shadow; making it that much harder to see the light at the end of this very long tunnel. I look in the mirror, I look around, I look back. I hang my head. I look around again. I feel a sense of guilt rush over me. I think to myself, “on paper I have a home, a job, 4 lovely children and my husband. But look a little deeper and you will see that, though these are all true, they fail to paint the whole picture.”
There’s a beautiful cover photo of a wonderful family here, but so many details are missing until you open the book. Here’s what that pretty picture hides: It hides a mum with anxiety who doesn't feel like she is good enough. It hides a mum terrified to leave the house for fear of catching this awful virus that has already taken friends and family. A mum who wonders what her childrens mental health will look like after this. A mum who cries everyday at the isolation and lack of support she has right now. It hides a mum who worries that her childrens education has been forever hindered by her attempts to home school. A mum who is fearful that she will lose her job if they see she is struggling. A mum who is working to complete extended courses so that, when this is eventually over, she can use her skills to further her career. A mum who feels like she is broken. That beautiful, colourful cover photo doesn’t just feature a mother hiding behind a smile. It hides a 9-year-old who cries herself to sleep at night. A beautiful, bright-spirited young girl so desperate to see her friends and rediscover a sense of normality. It hides a 13-year-old whose fear is evident everytime he hears someone cough. It hides a 14-year-old who is scared she will fail her GCSEs and cries because she doesn't understand. It hides an 18-year-old worried that, if he falls off-track at all, it could mean no University this year. It hides a father going off to work terrified he will bring the virus home. Or his fear of being off work, and unable to pay the bills this month. I feel guilty for feeling this way because we’re constantly reassured with “it could always be worse”.

This is always true - but toxic positivity is something we all need to consider as well. If staying positive is your thing, and it helps you get through - that’s amazing, and you should have the freedom to fill your social media with positive accounts that reinforce that for you. Likewise, if you’re struggling to see the bright side and you just want someone to acknowledge your pain and feel validated and seen, you should have the freedom to voice those feelings without being made to feel guilty. We’re all human. We all struggle. We are resilient and capable of amazing things - but life will always be a series of ups and downs’ highs and lows. It’s much easier to cope when you can openly express all of the emotions on the spectrum rather than only voice the good ones and internalise the bad. Recently, I saw a quote on Facebook that said: “We are not all in the same boat. We are in the same storm. Some have yachts, some have canoes and some are drowning. Just be kind and help where you can.” How true is that? Some days you may be able to offer help to someone else who is drowning but other days - you might be the one who’s drowning. Give yourself space to feel that way - it’s valid. You’re not broken; you’re human. Keep taking care of yourself, even when you’re exhausted. Make yourself a priority.

Notice the tension you’re holding in your body, breathe, and let it go. A helpful way to deal with anxiety and inner-turmoil that I’ve found is the 4-7-8 breathing technique: 

  • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a mental count of four. 
  •  Hold your breath for a count of seven. 
  •  Exhale through your mouth, slowly, to a count of eight. 
  •  Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three times for a total of four breaths.

Despite all of this I know that when I’m older and my grandchildren ask what was it like during the pandemic, I will say we played a lot. We made silly videos for the internet. We learned how to bake. We made a backyard cinema and stayed up late looking at the stars. We clapped with our neighbours and cheered for the front line workers risking their lives day in and day out. We realised that above all we had each other. But I also won’t shy away from the hardships, the mental impact it had on the world, and the resilience we consistently showed as human beings. 'We may not have it all together, but together we have it all’ - Unknown‘

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