Special leave in lockdown, Pt.1

Keeping some notes even though I’m not working

I last weeknoted on the 25 April, that was the end of S9, a series that ended up being 15 episodes instead of my usual 10. Those notes are here:

https://link.medium.com/UrmSRjqdu6

I felt like I needed to take stock and I intended to rest.

I thought that not weeknoting would take some of the ‘pressure’ off. I was feeling quite burned out with work and I didn’t want to write about it. So I decided to stop writing, do some thinking, and take a couple of days off ahead of the long weekend.

But I very quickly felt a pull back to writing. I felt like I still needed something to help me make sense of things, and things were coming at me pretty fast. My other half had a call to say that his operation was back on and would happen within days. He was due to have it back in March, but it was (understandably) cancelled. So. While this isn’t a blog about Covid, it’s obviously a blog about Covid. How could it not be?

There are layers to this thing that is happening right now. Privilege, circumstance, emotion, grief and anxiety. Situations that would be tough at the best of times, made tougher. Happiness tempered with guilt. Remorse for people who cannot be happy right now.

Layers of difficulties, all different, some greater and some lesser, but despite the size, those layers build up.

Some of my layers: I was already working a testing working pattern in a role, no longer new to me but also, new enough. A temporary promotion with a fixed time to achieve. Juggling childcare with my husband, (someone who was also shielding due to illness). Struggling to entertain an autistic child, not having any moment to myself, and feeling paranoid about going out. Missing family and friends. Sleeping badly. Drinking and eating slightly more than usual.

If those are the layers they are thin t-shirts and jumpers but they become bulky the more you put on. This added another layer, a puffer jacket on top. It’s hot, and I can’t do up this zip.

He would have his operation, and (due to Covid) I wouldn’t be able to visit.

Initially, I worried about work. How would I get everything done while also solo parenting? I tried to figure it out, but government guidance prevents me from getting childcare. So I had no choice but to request 2 weeks of “special leave”. I’m lucky that my employer has a special leave policy, I’m extremely lucky that my team agreed to it without any question.

But it felt strange to ask for it. I have learned self-sufficiency above everything else; to muddle through, to make things work. For heaven’s sake don’t ask for help.

But I realised in this situation that I could not possibly make it work. I had to let things go.

So writing has been calling to me. Telling me to get these things out, to record them, to investigate them. So I’m starting this daily diary, to keep track, remember, and record my experiences. They’re nothing like what some others are going through, I know many people out there are grieving. I’m sorry, I send you all my love. I can only record what is mine.

A quote that reads “And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have. Good and bad.” Stephen Chbosky. Made by Quotesbychristie on Instagram.

Day 1: Sunday 10 May

I’ve had several days off. Wednesday and Thursday for Little Man’s birthday. Friday was VE Day bank holiday. Saturday was really sunny. I took my paints outside and did some painting while listening to podcasts.

Today is different. For a start, it is raining. We are stuck inside and all bored. Having nothing to do means your brain has space for anxiety and worry. The day seems to be stretching out and time seems to have slowed. Stephen potters about packing his hospital bag.

At 8pm I give up and go to bed.

Day 2: Monday 11 May

I’m not on special leave yet, so I worked this morning and try to get everything tied up. In fact, I spent the entire morning on calls and got nothing done, even the thing I specifically said I’d do, which is now hanging over me.

Stephen started taking his preparatory medications this afternoon and can’t eat anything. He is miserable, and I feel bad for eating dinner. An early night because of an early start.

Day 3: Tuesday 12 May

A bad night’s’ sleep for both of us. The in-laws arrive at 5.55am to take him to the hospital. We say a tearful goodbye.

By 7.30am the in-laws made it back from the hospital and pop in for a cup of tea while I ate breakfast. I was worried about what the neighbours would think as this isn’t strictly allowed, so I sent a preemptive text to the neighbourhood WhatsApp explaining the situation and asking anyone to speak to me if they’re worried.

I spent the day waiting for news. I feel very still, almost numb. I lie in our hammock with my little boy, barely moving for about an hour. I message my family WhatsApp and ask if I should have heard by now. I clean the sink. Maaaaan, our sink was gross.

About 3.30pm the surgeon called to tell me it went ok and I then I have to wait until after 6pm to speak to him. Typically nobody on the ward picks up the phone until 6.45pm. I finally spoke to him and he sounded very tired but ok.

In the evening I had a call with friends, and went about 11.30, late for me. I turned off the “Do Not Disturb” on my phone, just in case.

Day 4: Wednesday 13 May

I slept ok with no calls or messages, but woke up with terrible neck and shoulder pain. Is it stress? Little man is up at 5am, this isn’t unusual but it’s on the earlier side of usual.

We had a lazy morning. I spoke to my other half and he seems a little better and happier which is promising. My mum called earlier and I told her I don’t know what to do with the day and she reminded me that I can go out. I’m slightly shocked that I needed reminding…

So we both went for a walk on the common. Not the easiest when you have a child who doesn’t know the meaning of social distancing. It wasn’t too busy, but he stroked a dog and I got really paranoid about it. Mostly though it looks like people are being sensible and considerate which is reassuring.

We came home and had a relaxed afternoon. I baked (and ate) chocolate cookies. Now I’m in bed watching The Repair shop and Sewing Bee while writing this.

Day 5: Thursday 14 May

Little man woke at 6am today, which is great, progress on yesterday. I gave him cartoons on my phone which bought me a little extra time in bed, but I fell asleep and woke up to find he’d wandered downstairs and stolen all of the remaining raspberries from the fridge.

We had to wait for a delivery which thankfully arrived at 11am. We decorated pizzas for lunch.

The other half was very quiet today after a few texts this morning. I don’t want to wake him if he’s sleeping but I’ve spent a lot of the day worrying about him.

After lunch we go back to the common for another walk. No dog stroking today. The little man started giggling hysterically on the way to the common when we looked at some paintings in a gallery. He thought the cherries were hilarious. I sent the video to my husband but he didn’t reply.

While little man was in the bath I tried to call but his phone was off so I called the bedside phone (at extortionate cost!) and he FaceTimed me back. He was tired, in pain, uncomfortable and sad as they have to treat a complication.

Being away from him is awful. Not being able to give him a hug or be a voice to help calm him when he’s worried feels horrible. I’ve been trying to carry on, with little man, and push aside the thoughts of how anxious I would be if it were me. I would hate it. I know now that he hates it, and there’s nothing I can do.

I spent the rest of the evening worrying about him, and crying. We spoke again and he sounded a little better, but I’m still really sad that I can’t be with him. I ordered fish and chips for tea but didn’t eat any. I have a stress headache in the middle of my forehead and I desperately need to go to bed.

I’m writing this and thinking about how to finish it. I can’t finish it here, but it’s too long to carry on.

Maybe if I publish now I can start Pt 2 on a lighter note with some better news? Fingers crossed.

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