Walking each other home?


 I used to have a list of places I really wanted to visit.Like the Himalaya, Canada and the Rockies, and I would also dream of returning to Orkney, France, Italy, Switzerland, to our balcony looking at the Rila mountains and so on and so on. Perhaps the whole family could tour together and then take a villa to reflect and recover. I was rarely short of ideas, more commonly just short of cash! And I would of course be walking in the hills, through wildflowers and diving into cool wild waters to be refreshed until the sun dipped and we were also cool enough to eat. In those times I was unencumbered by pain, disability and fatigue. My body was symmetrical at lease, more rounded than I was ever happy with but didn’t let me down too often. Did I take these times for granted? Perhaps but I always felt gratitude that my life had allowed me to explore more of the world than my parents generation did. And I didn’t expect it to change as soon as it did. I’m from the baby boomer generation who thought things would get even better for our children. 

What did we know? I have a Masters in Public Health so maybe I should have been more open to possibility of the pandemic in our lifetime but no, I ignored that like so many other warnings our generation ignored. 

When the virus spread its deadly path accross the globe I was fascinated, reading everything i could to understand its impact on us. And then the fear crept in. It tilted my equilibrium until it was hard to hold on to my own well worn coping strategies. I had many many dreams about working as a nurse in a dystopian world that was no longer predictable. And then I would realise that I was in my wheelchair…..

The strange thing is, I didn’t even waken then. I know there is part of me still waiting to wake up.

 But if it hadn’t been real what wisdom would now be lost? That introverts didn’t mind lockdown? Or that people would feel the need to hoard loo roll in some distorted relationship with poo? That people would start the pandemic applauding the healthcare teams but then get angry with them for not making it all go away. Maybe we would never realise that there is another way to organise work, at least for some or know that there would come a time when we would yearn to see our families, even the ones that usually drove us crazy. Would we understand fully the difference touch makes and that a hug from a loved one would trigger such depth of emotions? Would we realise that the pandemic induced combination of serious illness, fear, loss, separation and loneliness would create a tsunami of mental health issues that we are totally ill equipped to respond to. A public mental health crisis affecting all age groups was previously unknown. A medical model of addressing mental health in an individual is powerless in the face of societal change and deep seated inequalities. It’s overwhelming and part of me wants to hide away again, hide from the broken and powerless, in a world of Netflix and books, grasping on to such low expectations it’s impossible to be disappointed. But hiding takes energy, energy I want to use differently. And hiding from reality doesn’t facilitate good health. 

I know I’m not alone in my mental health challenges and yet I’ve struggled to be open about them.  I’ve found writing hard, meditation equally so. Working however has been a solace, an investment in the outside world and a way to help others. But there is risk in work being the answer, some of it maybe- but not all. So I’m redirecting my sails to find a better way through this coming storm, however it manifests. 

My middle name is Love ( a surname from the past ). I’ve always been a bit embarrassed by it  because of the teasing it triggered as a child. As I’m just a few months away from collecting my pension and I think now I need to fully embrace the gift of my middle name. So from now on you can call me……..No!.. not love, just Audrey or even Auds as some of my family do. And I instead will give thanks for the reminder of the central role that love needs to play in my (our)  life. I know we can’t really love until we love ourselves and that’s life’s journey. In a pivotal point of this pandemic I am looking back and forward to remind myself in this moment of what a precious journey life is.


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