Well that was a turbulent week!
This week my relationship with COVID-19 crossed from an impassioned professional response to one of personal worry as my mother began to show signs of, and has since been confirmed as having COVID-19.
Having already felt that it had taken over my professional life and restricted my daily life (to a manageable extent), what I failed to prepare for was the impact it would inevitably have on a family member and the emotional toll that would take.
As someone who lost one parent in their teens I have always been very aware of the mortality of my remaining parent- my mother. As the strongest, most independent person I know it is hard to put into words the crippling agony I feel seeing her struggling to walk, to feed herself, to even speak on the phone due to the incapacitating tiredness that has consumed her over the past week.
And it is only now that I truly understand the emotional impact of the barrier created by this disease. As my sisters and I galvanized, we we’re forced to work from afar trying to plan and spread out phone calls to make room for rest time, organise food drops and ensure she is taking her medication; all while watching with a feeling of helplessness as the woman who has always been our brightest beacon of strength is reduced to tears on the other end of a whatsapp call, unable to comfort her, unable reach out to her in a way she had done for us throughout our lives, unable to physically be there while every natural instinct is begging you to rush there immediately. Its frustrating. Its heart-breaking and worrisome, but for anyone who may be about to face a similar situation, the only bit of advice I can give is not to panic.
When you’re left with a feeling of helplessness that is being exacerbated by very powerful emotions the only way you will be able to find order and take the necessary action is through logical thinking. And for me the immediate place to turn to for that logic was the guidance. What does it say to do? What does it say to look for? Who does it say to call and when does it say to call them? And yes of course I have my biases being a public servant that is helping deliver these messages and guidelines , but it is only as someone who has had to put them to use that I truly understand the comfort they provide. (See also the Welsh gov guidance).
The guidance becomes the voice of reason, the navigator that determines the course of action and most importantly the provider of reassurance that you are doing all that you can to support the person you care about in what is an unfair but necessary situation.
And that’s not to say it wasn’t without its challenges. My mother is a typical welsh mam, indestructible and will always find some sort of chore to do. As noble and adorable as that is, it does make it hard to tell how well she is managing the situation, playing down the pain, deciding that at the peak of tiredness she still needs to strip the beds and change the sheets (but then failing to find the strength to put them back on). It’s difficult to gauge with the ups and downs, the moment of clarity and the moments where things look like their taking a turn for the worse. But again the best you can do is follow the guidance or seek medical advice when you’re really not sure or worried.
Fortunately she seems to be improving day on day, her appetite is returning, indicated by the fact that she decided to have toffee pudding and custard for breakfast the other morning- this is a woman who never usually dream of doing that and one who has spent the last week barely able to make it through a piece of toast. She seems less confused and not as tired as she has been, so hopefully we’re through the worst, although we will continue to look for signs as we’re certainly not out of the woods yet.
So yes it’s been one hell of a week, coping with the situation at home and working to ensure that vulnerable and minority communities across Wales are also able to access that same level of support I was able to access. Sometime you forget just how much of a difference the work we’re doing can create, we’re used to seeing it in numbers and telling it though other peoples story, but to actually live the experience is something very different. These are the most disruptive and emotionally challenging times we have faced and it’s important that we are all able to access help and support that will get us through safely and I am so proud to be a part of the team that is working to make that happen.
For tips on staying well at home visit the How are you doing? campaign page. It’s full of great advice and guidance to help you stay mentally and physically well and stay connected while you stay at home.
There’s also a great article over on the Heads Up page: A survival guide for the extrovert at home, written by co-founder and Director of UK Policy and Communications an Wales Steve Brooks. It really is a great read and I myself have struggled at home as an extrovert, much preferring the buzz of a busy office than being sat around my dinner table in shorts!
This week on Flatten the Curve podcast we take a look at the media’s role in the COVID-19 outbreak and how they are shaping the publics opinion and understanding of the situation.
Hope you all have a great week;Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay Connected.