Are you awake?
It’s August already, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Who would have predicted these recent times. These times of isolation, fear, uncertainty and our lives changed for ever. A time that will divide the past from the future. Much of our restrictions in Scotland are now lifted but it would hard to describe it as normal. And what does that mean, that word, normal? Is it simply that good or bad, it’s familiar, a predictable rhythm over the year? Or is it that it doesn’t trigger a stress reaction anymore and however grim, it’s the new reality and we recognise it. So much so that many of us reach quickly for a mask or resist busy places and avoid public transport. The trajectory of normal has shifted again and we look to the winter with suspicion.
Having lived through four cancer diagnosis and one of a benign spinal growth leading to severe pain and disability, I absolutely recognise the resilience of human beings and how we can adjust to the previously unthinkable. It does have an impact but we tend to keep going in the face of even life changing impacts. It’s a deep yearning for survival, even one with a future so different. We are reminded of life’s preciousness alongside recognising the vulnerability of what we once never questioned.
Many of the stages of diagnosis, treatment and recovery during the pandemic has reminded me of cancer diagnoses and their impact. What I had previously experienced as an individual was now visible across populations. Denial, shock, fear, relief, anger- on repeat- for so many of us. The long term sequele are not simply physical but also emotional and social. There is so much evidence that surviving a diagnosis like cancer does not stop being impactful with a clear scan or a course of radiotherapy. And looking at the impact of COVID-19 we see widespread mental health issues, as well as the short and long COVID effects on physical health and social circumstance. From my experience the full impact doesn’t affect me until the crisis passes. So the timing is not even logical, just as it passes I find the reality almost overwhelming.
I have spoken before about turning to Maggies, the charity for people affected by cancer, after being treated for cancer. This has taught me the value of being with peers and built my self care through meditation and writing for example. So many charities offer support related to cancer but could any of their models be scaled up to population levels realistically? For a post pandemic population made sick by the pandemic and its management and isolation we will need societal responses. Striving for income equality, affordable homes and access to real food seems to me to be part of this. As developing self compassion, immune system support, a more nutritious diet, listening without judgment, practicing gratitude, building on social connections and communities will all need to be part of our recovery.
And with skilled leadership and a shared dream this is possible. Communities, organisations, schools, universities, public bodies will all need to play a part in a shared vision for a healthy future. It’s so important that we don’t miss this awakening in our society of the need for change that of course didn’t only start with the pandemic. If we carry on as before we have an unhealthy population struggling with a challenging future. To do something needs wise and courageous leadership at community, local and national level and a population hungry for change that’s very different from our current offer. Each of us must accept that we too can make a difference, one person,one community at a times and in time our leaders will follow.
After all what are we waiting for; for things to be normal, because honestly they won’t be. The sooner we get that, the better. And that’s not even factoring in climate change……a whole other epoch changing factor. Are we all awake yet????