I’d like to thank Aimee for inviting me to contribute to this article for I’m NOT Disordered and for the opportunity to share things I’m learning in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
1. I Live a Very Privileged Life
Coronavirus has brought home to me what I already knew, which is that I live a life that is privileged in many ways. I’m fortunate to be in employment, my job is secure, and I’m able to work from home during this crisis. I’ve had to cancel my holiday and I miss meeting friends but I’m fine for groceries and can cover any extra costs and expenses that might come up. Most importantly, I’m able to keep in touch with the most important people in my life. As I said recently in an audio blog, “There are many people in far worse situations than I am. I count myself as very fortunate.”
2. How Interconnected the World Is
I think we’re all learning how interconnected the modern world is. There’s a downside to that, in that it’s meant the virus has spread rapidly within communities and around the world. But there are positives too. I’ve been moved by people’s responses to what’s happening, many of which are using the Internet in creative new ways. Local support networks, Amazon wish list exchanges, online concerts and exercise classes, counselling and therapy appointments using Skype and Zoom, and social media peer support are just some of the examples I’ve come across.
3. Respect and Gratitude
More than almost anything else, the coronavirus outbreak has taught us all how vital many roles are that are not well paid or generally held in high regard. A few days ago I recorded a short audio blog to send my gratitude to shop workers, health workers, carers, and all those on the front line of this epidemic. I recorded it after talking with one of my best friends who was on her way to work on that very front line as a support worker. Later that evening I took part in the UK’s Clap for our Carers where people across the country held “a national applause of thanks for health workers helping in the fight against coronavirus.” Let’s hope that when we emerge from this crisis the courage of those performing these roles is remembered – and rewarded appropriately.
4. The Little Things Are the Big Things
I’ve learned that the things I miss most about the current situation are the little things. Morning visits to my favourite coffee shop on my way into work. My twenty-minute walks to and from the office from the train. Face-to-face conversations. Meeting friends for drinks and a meal. These are all gone for now, and I miss them. But I’m learning to treasure new little things about my life in coronavirus lockdown. I love taking micro-breaks from work and going to the back door to watch the birds at the feeders in the garden. I love the smiles and nods from strangers as we pass each other (at a safe distance) in the supermarket or on the street. And I appreciate my evening walks more, now that I can only leave the house for exercise once a day.
5. I Have a Role to Play
So much of the news and social media are focused on the devastating impact of coronavirus that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. My job in the computer industry classes me as a key worker, helping deliver essential public services at a time of unprecedented need. It’s important work but far back from the front line. I keep feeling I ought to be doing more to help. I’m learning, though, that there are things I can do and that I have a role to play. I think it’s a lesson for all of us; not to undervalue what we can do, no matter how big or small it seems in the scale of things.
My best friend Fran and I have nine years’ experience supporting each other despite living 3,000 miles apart. Our book High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder has lots of ideas that are relevant if you’re caring for friends and loved ones at a distance right now, whether mental illness is present or not. We’re keen to share our experience through our blog (www.gumonmyshoe.com) and social media, and love having guest bloggers share their stories on our platform.
Like many of us I’m learning how crucial it is to stay connected when we have to keep physically apart from those we love. I’m taking extra time to contact friends and loved ones using phone and video calls, texts, chat, and even handwritten cards and letters. That might not seem like doing anything big – and I benefit as much as my friends do – but supporting each other now means we’re going to survive these days better and emerge stronger for it. That’s my hope at least, and what I’m working for.
You can follow Marty on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/GumOnMyShoeBook
And read his blog here: www.gumonmyshoe.com
And buy his book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/8283310216