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Reflections a year on: The road from isolation to freedom

Well today I am celebrating my blogaversary, a year since I wrote my first blog! Wow, where has that year gone? It simultaneously feels like it has whizzed by and also feels like so long ago.

I’ll admit that looking back, deciding to write a blog and start a private counselling practice during a worldwide pandemic was an interesting choice in timing. I reflect now on how it could have gone fantastically wrong. However, at the time it felt like the completely natural

next step on my journey. In a time which has seen so much isolation, blogging has given me a sense of connection to an unknown and unseen audience. I have been able to brain dump my thoughts and experience about topics which are close to my heart and put them out into the world, where (I hope) they have resonated with a few people. I have received lovely comments of encouragement, thanks and even some re-shares and these little interactions and connections have felt like luminescent strands tethering me to humanity.

I recall when I wrote my first blog, feeling anxious. We were in the depths of Covid-19 and I, like others were wondering what was in store for all those we loved, when we would be able to hug and meet in ways which didn’t require a maths degree to equate numbers and distances and how to make 2 loo rolls last 6 weeks! Many were furloughed and unsure about the future – some still are. Others continued to work tirelessly as keyworkers, keeping society afloat by meeting the needs of individuals and communities, and have felt the weight and exhaustion of this personally. Some people went above and beyond, raising awareness and money for causes and communities and supporting those who needs were exacerbated the impacts of isolated living. Mental health figures have rocketed, as peoples support networks have been ruptured, coping strategies have been removed due to venue closures and access to mental health services has been a struggle to services not having the funding to support the huge numbers of people who felt able to say “I’m struggling, I need help”.

For many, the numerous lockdowns have been unbearable. Untold numbers of people have had to endure days and nights trapped in spaces with people who perpetuate violence and threats. Predators have taken advantage of the social isolation of the vulnerable in both physical, sexual and technological means. The number of scammers and hoax callers has reached new highs at a time when people have been at their lowest. And yet we have endured.

For me, like so many others, lockdown was an opportunity to reflect and appraise where I was at. I was confronted with a lot of my ‘should’ messages – I should make use of time by doing for more for others, by taking up some new fitness regime, miss all the social contact, ignore when I am struggling as so many have it worse off than me… lockdown gave me a chance to look at these, without the influence of others expectations and I was able to explore what was important to me and for me – yes I would like to do more for others but in a way that fulfils me not depletes me. I accepted that I DO NOT like running and that it was ok to say this, instead I explored different activities and finally settled on the fact that I like walking and Zumba, sorry Joe Wickes, I admire your dedication but HiT workouts are simply not for me! I came to acknowledge and accept my introversion – I like being on my own and doing my own thing and I made the choice not to feel guilty about it. Finally, I read some great books and came to realise that there is actually not a numeric limit to how much suffering there can be in the world and that everyone’s suffering is significant because it is there’s – no comparisons or hierarchies are needed.

And now, just as the past 16 months have been experienced in a million different ways by a million different people, we are now in the midst of ‘Freedom Day’. For many, this is a long-awaited time where life can ‘return to normal’ (I’m still not sure what that means) where they can do whatever they want with whoever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want without having to make complex plans months in advance to schedule and book things in. It is a cause for celebration where connections are re-established. Wahey, happy days, yes?

Well, whilst the prospect of freedom is welcomed by many, I am aware of others who may have enjoyed the distance from expectation, stigma and judgement that social distancing brought and so the idea of all this returning, is filling some with trepidation. Then there are others, who feel pressured by the commencing of Freedom Day on July 19th to get out there and meet up with as many people as possible because they ‘shouldn’t’ miss the opportunity to connect after so long of not being able to, for these people, re-connecting is both something to look forward to and something which leads to the neglect of their own individual wants and needs (I’m tired, I’m anxious, I don’t feel like it today) to meet societal expectation – “what do you mean you aren’t coming? You haven’t seen us in a year, surely you want to?”

So, a year on from my first blog so much has happened – for me personally, for those I know and love and for society and the world as a whole. I have witnessed humanity at its best and at its worst. I have seen such kindness and compassion for each other, whilst others prey on vulnerabilities to better their own cause. I have seen the extent to which people have put themselves out for strangers enduring long hours, physical exhaustion and less than comfortable circumstances whilst others disregard these efforts or rules to satisfy their own

individual needs. Covid-19 has brought out the absolute best and worst in us and as I sit here contemplating how to sign off, I hope that the things we have learnt individually and collectively are not forgotten in the midst of regaining our freedom to make choices in how we act and interact. If the last year and a half has taught us anything, it is that underneath the colour of our skin, our nationality, our ethnicity, our sexuality and disabilities, socio-economic status or power, educational background or family status - we are all the same underneath, we have all been vulnerable to the effects of a virus that does not discriminate and in that indiscriminate nature it has been felt across the whole world – imagine what we could accomplish if the human race was to be so indiscriminate with kindness, compassion and acceptance.

Take Care

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