Surrogacy part 14…

After the miscarriage we decided as a team to continue trying again straight away. I knew I would find it emotionally hard whenever I tried again so thought putting off tries would only make it harder. So we tried again and this time I had a very different mental attitude towards it, obviously I still wanted it to work and did everything the same as last time but the biggest difference was that I switched off from thinking about it every day and instead almost pretended there wasn’t a possibility that I was pregnant in order to protect myself.

Then, about a week later I started getting exactly the same pregnancy symptoms as last time that couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. That’s when the anxiety kicked in quite badly and I kept having flashbacks of the miscarriage, I couldn’t bare the idea of using the toilet for fear of history repeating itself and I felt scared. Me being me, I pushed these thoughts aside as much as possible and decided that if I were pregnant, I would just try and focus on me time instead of the pregnancy until 8 weeks when the risk of miscarriage significantly drops.

When I took the first pregnancy test I had specifically waited until day 9/10 to give myself the best chance of getting an accurate result and I remember being incredibly anxious as I felt sure it would be positive and I knew this would scare me and lead to weeks of horrendous anxiety for fear of another miscarriage whilst also being aware that stress can contribute to a miscarriage so it felt like a vicious circle.

I was that anxious that I couldn’t look at the test myself but it was negative and so I spent the next 24 hours in a heightened state of anxiety wondering if the dates were wrong because of the miscarriage affecting my cycle or not being pregnant but I couldn’t see this being the case because of the unmistakable symptoms.

This went on for 4 days until I finally started my period very unexpectedly as I normally can tell but, on this occasion, it took me by surprise. More so because of my symptoms which certainly were not PMS symptoms which added to the confusion.

In a way I was relieved because I had been so anxious and just wanted to know one way or another. However, I was also anxious because I knew it meant going through this again at least one more time and realistically a few times and it felt so painful. I contemplated taking a little break or just working on coping strategies as I couldn’t see the trauma disappearing.

I went into this journey 100% dedicated to helping create a family and once I put my mind to something I stick to it regardless of the consequences.

The days leading up to finding out I wasn’t pregnant were incredibly difficult and very emotional. I wanted to protect Ali & Andrew from this but did end up telling them I was finding it hard and as always, they checked in on me regularly to make sure I was ok but if it were not for my partner, I don’t know how I would have got through those days.

She helped me come up with coping strategies and what helped me through was giving myself a full timed schedule to keep my mind occupied as well as her love and support. I was incredibly productive that weekend I have to say!

….I am sat here not even sure how to say this, so I am just going to say it….

I spent a few days in pieces, feeling incredibly guilty that I was even contemplating this, the thought of upsetting or hurting anyone does not sit well with me at all nor does putting myself first.

I lost sleep, I cried lots, I worried, I felt scared…I wanted someone to tell me what the right decision was.

I reached out to friends in case they thought I was making a mistake, but I was surprised that everyone’s response was along the lines of… for once I need to put myself first.

So…one of the hardest and heart-breaking decisions I have had to make and the most painful conversation I have ever had was ending my surrogacy journey.

How I managed to hold it together during the conversation I will never know. I had prepared myself as much as possible and spoken with SUK and I made sure I did what I could to protect myself and I made sure I wasn’t on my own.

It is safe to say that after the conversation ended, I sobbed like a baby.

However, as hard as it was and still is, (I feel as though I am grieving for many reasons) I know it was the right decision for me at this time.

I am not turning my back on surrogacy and still want to be involved in the surrogacy world especially as a counsellor and it is something that I may come back to at a later date but right now I need to focus on me and my family as well as recovering properly from the miscarriage physically and emotionally.

Although this journey has ended, I have lots of amazing memories and have made some great friends.

NHS

So last week I had surgery to sort out my jaw and remove my impacted wisdom tooth. I struggled with the idea of having general anaesthetic more than the surgery itself and bad duck had a field day! I spoke to various people about anaesthetic including my best friend who’s a nurse and everyone reassured me that it is perfectly safe and that there’s nothing to worry about. I understood the logic yet still found myself doing the worst thing possible, googling. It mostly reassured me but as with anything on the internet you can always find something negative!

In the end I decided to post on a social media group dedicated to mental health as I thought that they may be able to ease my mind a little without judging my illogical thoughts. Everyone that replied, posted words of encouragement as well as tips to help with the anxiety and I was very touched by everyone’s messages.

In the days leading up to the surgery I tried to keep myself distracted and made sure I had everything I needed for when I got back home. However, the day before my operation I started getting my knickers in a twist and the anxiety took over with my mind catastrophising that I wouldn’t wake up from the anaesthetic.

Its safe to say that I didn’t get much sleep the night before and come the morning I was rather emotional. It certainly helped having my mum’s friend drive me to the hospital rather than my mum as I managed to hold it together with her and even went into the hospital quite happily.

As much as I didn’t want the surgery, I also wanted it over and done with so that I could be free from the pain caused by the tooth and my jaw and so that I could focus on Christmas!!

As I went to check in, I could already feel my eyes watering, but the tears quickly turned into laughter when I recognised the nurse who I saw for my pre-op who had been amazing. She had a fantastic sense of humour as well as being very reassuring and in her sarcastic way informed me, I was stuck with her for the day! She had remembered me and how anxious I was and so didn’t bat an eyelid when she took my obs yet again my heart rate was through the roof!!

On a positive note, there were only 3 of us waiting for surgery but unfortunately the other two patients were only 16 and so of course they were both going to have surgery before me. When I went to speak to the anaesthetist, she was so calm, informative, and reassuring and definitely had a human touch to her which not all healthcare professionals have. The surgeon had less of the human touch and decided to inform me that they might not even be able to take my tooth out and that I may need to have another operation to put a plate in my mouth…. not really what I needed to hear with my anxiety already through the roof!

As I sat waiting to go in, I tried to distract myself by messaging friends and watching comedies whilst doing the finger breathing exercise that had been recommended to me.

2 ½ hours later the lovely nurse came to get me and took me through to get ready for surgery. I’d already prepared myself for the sexy outfit they make you wear – a gown with an open back and stockings!

As I sat waiting on the trolley I started to get worked up and sent soppy messages to my Mum who made me laugh through the tears as she told me to focus on her ‘nursing’ once I was home. My Mum is a big softy and very loving but when it comes to dishing out sympathy or cooking well let’s just say it’s much to be desired!! But I wouldn’t change her for the world!

I have often struggled with asking for things or saying how I feel and although I have got a lot better at this it’s still something I find hard at times, but I worked up the courage to ask the nurse if she would stay with my until I was asleep, and she did. To be fair, the anaesthetist was very reassuring when I went into theatre and so was her assistant although they both seemed a little startled when I got hooked up to the monitors but once again the nurse informed them that my heart rate is going to be that high due to my anxiety and thankfully, they listened to her.

So, as I lay there holding the nurses hand we talked about New Zealand and her time living in the Caribbean and all I remember was feeling lightheaded once I’d been given some strong pain relief and being told they were giving me the anaesthetic and that’s it.

Next thing I knew I heard someone say my name and there I was in the recovery room! At that moment I didn’t care if the surgery had been successful but more that I had woken up, so it was the icing on the cake when I was told that the surgery went better than expected and I was shown the epic tooth they’d taken out with roots bigger than the tooth!

I am incredibly grateful to the staff, they were so caring, reassuring, calm, human…faultless really. I know that it’s their job, but I truly felt that they were all amazing and that they went above and beyond, particularly when it came to my anxiety.

After hearing about all the selfish and ignorant people in the news recently, it was a breath of fresh air to be reminded that there are still some genuine and good-hearted people in this world!

Spinning plates…

So not long ago I had a mini wobble which I wasn’t expecting. I’d been plodding along feeling stronger than ever and enjoying all my new ventures. Then out of the blue (or so it felt) I started not sleeping well and feeling frustrated that I didn’t know what was causing me to be such a toss pot!

Nothing bad had happened and nothing had really changed, yet my body was trying to tell me something wasn’t quite right. Then a little bit of anxiety started to creep back which is certainly NOT what I wanted so I knew something had to be done.

It’s funny isn’t it how it is all too easy to not practice self-care as much when we are feeling fine even though we know full well that it is something that we should keep up all the time. Self-care is something I have struggled with for years, but I felt that I had got better at this, yet I hadn’t been practising breathing techniques, mindfulness, or relaxation techniques for quite some time. Right down to making the time to have a bath or not be constantly working my way through the never ending ‘To do’ list is a rarity.

When these feelings came over me, I was determined not to let the anxiety take over again, so I decided to do a ‘brain dump’ and write down everything that was on my mind and highlight things that I could control and those that I could not. I managed this and even wrote down how to deal with all of these things.

I think I have a habit of building things up in my head and still being afraid to speak up or deal with what’s on my mind which is something that I am working on. Then I fall out with myself for getting myself in a pickle when 9 times out of 10 there’s no need! I think a lot of it still comes from fear…fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown.

Writing everything down (even though most of it was positive) made me aware of how much I actually had on my mind which made me realise and appreciate the reason I wasn’t feeling as sparkly as usual. I had had a lot of changes in the past few weeks, a big one being my eldest daughter starting school and getting used to the school runs as well as starting my counselling placement where I already see the maximum number of clients allowed whilst training.

When I told my Mum how I was feeling, I remember saying to her, ‘Don’t say anything!’, I knew that she would comment on how many plates I am spinning at the minute. And yes, she is right. I am spinning quite a few plates at the moment, however, it’s not necessarily the number of plates that is the problem. I feel that I need to be able to get rid of the less pleasant plates to be able to handle the rest of the plates without collapsing in a heap!!

I think what tipped me over the edge to feel this way was when I was informed that my energy provider had gone bust and everything, I read seemed to suggest that my bills would suddenly go through the roof and that there’s nothing I can do about it. With money already being tight and Universal Credit being reduced from this month this is the last thing I needed. What threw me more was not having any control over who my new provider would be or how much I would be told my new bills would be. I hardly use the heating as it is but now, I feel as though I can’t turn it on at all!

On top of that, I felt frustrated that the financial pressure is increasing when I still have another 10 months of my counselling course to go. I had a fleeting moment of wondering if I was being selfish by finishing my course when I could stop and try and get a full-time job, yet I know I am doing the course not only for myself but also to have a career that will fit around my girls and will hopefully allow me to earn a good living.

On top of that, I also have another plate spinning that has been in the back of my mind for the past couple of months, which will be very good when the time comes but right now is adding to the stress.

Of course, I am aware that being stressed is not conducive to getting pregnant which adds to the pressure! I’m not sure what plates if any I can stop spinning right now so I suppose all I can do is try and make time for more self-care and take the time to allow myself to let my hair down and enjoy myself.

I’m hoping to have go and stay with a friend for a few days soon which I am really looking forward to and feel it will do me the world of good! Hopefully this will recharge my batteries which will help me deal with all the plate spinning!

Ideas to soothe anxiety

With everything that has gone on in the last year and our lives mainly revolving around screens and social media, it is more important than ever to take care of our mental health.

I have found in the past that sometimes anxiety or low moods can creep up on us unexpectedly and it can be easier said than done to get out of these moods. A bit like everything, prevention is better than the cure (not that there is a magic cure for mental health), therefore there are things that we would benefit from doing on a daily basis to build up our resilience and fill our ‘toolbox’ so that if or when we have a wobble we are better equipped and hopefully these wobbles won’t be as intense or last as long.

Little things we can do to take care of our mental health include different breathing techniques and relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation. I have to admit that I don’t keep up with these techniques as when I feel ok, I forget the need or don’t necessarily feel it’s necessary, but it is.

Scientists have proven that breathing techniques reduce stress levels, lower your heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce depression to name a few.

Breathing techniques can easily be done anytime, anywhere, and even just spending a few minutes a day will be beneficial.

Mindful breathing simply involves us becoming aware of our breathing and focusing on it which usually slows breathing down and makes you feel more relaxed.

One technique that I like to use when I am feeling anxious or at bedtime is the 4, 7, 8 method. It is very simple, all you have to do is breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then breathe out for 8 seconds and repeat as many times as you feel necessary. I find that concentrating on my breathing and counting stops my brain from wandering and I do find it relaxing.

Another thing we can incorporate into our daily lives is journaling which has also been proven to lower blood pressure and heart rate. It could be as simple as writing down anxious thoughts and feelings which means you are no longer carrying them solely in your head or writing down things that you are grateful for each day.

Positive affirmations have several benefits including the ability to program your mind into believing these repeated statements – just like when we tell ourselves negative things repeatedly which then become engrained into our belief system, we can change this by repeatedly telling ourselves positive things. One example of this could be if someone believes that they are too sensitive about what others say about them (therefore creating low self-esteem and social anxiety), this could be rephrased into the following positive affirmation…

‘I feel empowered and confident as I let go of external criticism.’

The more you can say positive affirmations to yourself out loud or in your head the quicker it will become part of our belief system. You could write down your positive affirmation and place it somewhere that you will regularly see such as on your phone, laptop, by the kettle, on a mirror etc.

Other things that can help ease anxiety include snuggling up with a blanket, stroking a pet or a cuddly toy (you’re never too old to have a cuddly toy!), having a massage or giving yourself a massage (this could be a simple hand massage or foot massage) and using a relaxing massage oil such as one with essential oils. Having something soothing to fidget with such as playing with a piece of blutack or some playdough. I’m a fan of Mohdoh aromatherapy playdough which comes in a variety of different scents, but you could quite easily make your own playdough and add a couple of drops of essential oil.

Although it may not sound very relaxing, if you are feeling particularly anxious and are feeling hot and bothered, splashing your face with cold water or ‘relaxing’ with a cold flannel over your eyes is said to be effective.

One thing that I do pretty much all the time, but I’ve never really thought about it until I read about it is wearing sunglasses. Apparently wearing sunglasses can help to keep us going when feeling anxious as anxiety is often heightened by the environment we are in such as a crowded area. By wearing a pair of sunglasses, it can create a barrier without actually affecting your ability to function in these situations.

Homemade Natural Play Dough - Don't Mess with Mama | Homemade playdough,  Diy for kids, Playdough recipe

Six Different Types of Grounding Exercises for Anxiety & Intense Emotions —  The Growlery

Mental Health

This is something that is very close to my heart as over the years I have suffered with anxiety and panic attacks. My first experience of anxiety and panic attacks was when I was 9 years old, and I struggled on and off for most of my childhood. My experience of help and support was a very bad one and looking back this lack of support has definitely had a major impact on my life.

I was put on a high dosage of beta blockers and paroxetine from the age of 12 and stayed on them until I was 28 years old. When I wanted to come off them, I sort advice from my GP, and I was shocked by what they suggested. One GP told me to just stop taking them cold and another one told me to take my medication on alternative days increasing to only every 3 days and so on until I wasn’t taking it anymore. Although I am not medically trained, I would never ever advise anyone to suddenly stop taking prescribed medication. Even the later suggestion in my opinion was not appropriate for someone who had been on this medication for 16 years and on such a high dose.

In the end it was down to me to work out a safe way of coming off the medication with the least impact possible. With a lot of research, I found that the body was unlikely to notice a decrease of 5% per week but that it can take around 6 weeks for your body to register any change in dosage. So, I sat and calculated how I could do this – to begin with I was on 280mg per week so to reduce this by 5% would take me to 266mg per week. The closest I could get to this was by taking 40mg 3 times per week and 35mg 4 times per week, therefore totalling 260mg per week. Then keeping to this for 6 weeks before reducing the weeks total by another 5%. It took a lot of calculating and it took a long time to safely come off the medication, but it did work for me.

As I said earlier, I did ask my GP for advice as everyone should do but despite speaking to 2 different GP’s neither were able to help in a way that wouldn’t cause serious withdrawal. I did attempt what the 2nd GP said of taking my medication every other day and then every 3 days etc and ended up having a complete breakdown which could have ended very badly.

Aside from the lack of professional support, the main hurdle was once I got down to 5mg per week as this was the lowest dose available in tablet form. It may not sound like a lot to be in your system, but I was anxious about going from 5mg per week to 0mg per week after coming so far and with it taking nearly 2 years to get to this point, I didn’t want it to all be in vain.

So, I went to my GP and asked for their advice (despite my previous experiences) and this time I was told that they could put me on a different medication that was available in lower doses but they’d need to hospitalise me for this or tough as although my medication was available in liquid format (therefore making it possible to take a very small dosage) that it was too expensive for the NHS so they weren’t prepared to prescribe it for me!!

If I had the voice I do now I would have stayed put, stating my argument that one prescription would have probably lasted me until I came off it altogether and that the other alternative is that I could end up in hospital which would cost the NHS a lot more than one prescription but instead I left feeling deflated. So, I fumbled through by cutting tablets in ½ to begin with before coming off them altogether hoping that I would be ok – fortunately, I was.

I really hope that things have improved since but from what I have heard through other peoples experiences it still appears to be very hit and miss as to the support available. I have heard of so many cases where people have turned to their GP for support almost at the point of crisis but not quite in which case, they walk away being told to self-refer for NHS counselling or CBT which consists of an average of 6 sessions and a waiting list of who knows how many weeks.

Therefore, when I knew I needed counselling after leaving the domestic abuse, I knew that I would need more than 6 sessions as well as needing someone who would be able to offer the right support. Knowing this, despite the cost involved, I made the decision to find a private counsellor and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. She has had such a positive impact on my life – life changing, and I will be eternally grateful for everything she has done. I wish I had known her years ago!

I now have a fantastic GP who is very understanding of my situation and of mental health and she has been very supportive throughout. However, I have also seen another GP on one occasion who got fixated on my heart rate, which was high, despite me trying to explain that I suffer with white coat syndrome and that whenever I am at the doctors or hospital my heart rate goes through the roof. They weren’t interested in the reason I was there to see them but instead wanted me to go to A&E because of how fast my heart rate was – which as you can imagine just sent me into further panic mode!

I was shocked when I discovered that my counselling tutor has such a strong opinion of medication for mental health problems. Don’t get me wrong, I still think she’s an incredible tutor, but I was disappointed by this. She believes that people on medication are not willing to work on their issues as medication treats symptoms but does not address its causes. Whilst I acknowledge that medication does not address the roots of mental health, I believe that medication is a personal choice and one that is discussed with your GP.

In my experience, if it wasn’t for medication then I would not have been in the right place to work on myself. Some of my peers felt the same as myself but I found it concerning that others agreed with my tutor.

My counsellor suggested that sometimes we need scaffolding to help us which can be of varying degrees and differ in what we class as scaffolding, so for me my scaffolding consists of medication, counselling, self help techniques such as exercise, meditation, visualisation, breathing techniques and surrounding myself with people who care about me.

I would hate for anyone to feel judged for whatever scaffolding they need to get by and would never judge a client who came to me who was on medication for anxiety, depression, or any other mental health problem.

I feel that it is a shame that in 2021 there is still a stigma around mental health, particularly with men and that there is still a huge lack of support and resources available.

I am passionate about working with young people with mental health problems to try and provide them with the tools necessary to live their lives to the full without struggling with the debilitating effects of anxiety, depression etc.

Therefore, alongside the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, I will continue to campaign for every school in the UK to have access to a counsellor.

I’m a big fan of self-care and think that this is something everyone should make time for, no matter how little. There are some useful pointers in this self-care starter kit – Download A Self-Care Starter Kit From The Blurt Foundation (blurtitout.org)

 

Lockdown part 3….Week 11

This week has whizzed by and has felt a bit strange. I get the impression that people some people are feeling in limbo due to lockdown. Some people have expressed how liberated they feel now they are back at work and the commute which they used to begrudge they now love because they have a valid reason to be driving somewhere! Others have commented on how nice it is to see people for real rather than virtually.

However, we are still very limited with what we can and cannot do…in 8 days’ time on 29th March we will see easing on social contact restrictions, so in time for most schools breaking up for the Easter holidays, outdoor gatherings, including those in private gardens, can go ahead of either six people or two households. Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts and open-air swimming pools can also reopen.

This date also makes the end of the ‘stay at home’ order, though many restrictions will remain in place.

I know that the past few months have been hard on people who aren’t able to see any friends or family and have only been able to meet up with one other person outside for a walk or more recently to sit on a bench with a drink however that’s not as pleasant when its cold and rainy which has predominantly been the case recently. So, to be able to know that in just over a weeks’ time we can sit in someone’s garden will make a pleasant change and with the weather starting to improve this will no doubt be something many of us will look forward to.

This Tuesday (23rd) is National Day of Reflection…looking back over the past year it has certainly been a year nobody will forget, and one people will talk about for generations to come. I remember thinking when I first read about Covid in China thinking that it would never come to the UK, then when it did, and we went into our first national lockdown I thought that it would have all disappeared by the end of that lockdown. Never in a million years did imagine that I would have to wear a face mask to go out and about doing everyday things or that hand gel would be come part of our everyday lives.

For someone who suffers with health anxiety I am impressed that I have coped so well and that I don’t feel panicky leaving the house. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel particularly comfortable going to supermarkets or being in crowded places at the moment and therefore I do avoid them, however, this is more to do with the fact that I want to help stop the spread of Covid-19. Hopefully in time things will improve but for now Covid has taken the edge off perusing around a shop and instead I go round quickly and move on if there are people hovering around. I certainly won’t be queuing up to go into the shops when they hopefully open in April.

I hope that people can reflect on this past year and realise how well they have coped and adapted to a situation we have never experienced before and that we have got through this. This is a massive achievement. The past year has proved challenging for most people in one way or another and will no doubt have caused added stress, anxiety, or depression. I hope that you can find ways to be kind to yourself, no matter how that may be.

I also want to remind people to check in on friends, family and loved ones as you never know how they are coping or feeling. I have found in my experience that people tend to assume people are busy and therefore don’t want to disturb them but it’s always worth dropping someone a message just to say hi or that you are thinking of them.

When people ask me how I am, I have a tendency to always say that I am fine – I rarely answer differently unless I say I am ok…regardless of how I am feeling. I think this is because I have the impression that there isn’t necessarily meaning in the question and that it is just something that is said in passing…’hi, how are you?’ and most people respond with a short answer such as, ‘I’m good thanks’ and then that ends the conversation. I am also quite a private person and don’t like to burden people so I wouldn’t want to say if I wasn’t ok.

Someone shared with me an acronym for ‘fine’ which I found hilarious but true…I have added a picture of the acronym at the end of the blog!

…..

I was given a gift of a beautiful, framed poem this week called ‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou. I had never heard that poem or of Maya Angelou before, but the poem is beautiful and empowering. I was told that the poem made them think of everything that I have been through and how strong I am. I watched a clip of Maya reciting the poem and it made me smile with her use of facial expressions and actions. What a powerful, wise, and incredibly inspiring woman she was! I feel inspired by her and wonder if there is a small part of me that feels I could be a little bit like her.

Post Lockdown…

When I think of life after lockdown, I feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Excitement to do the little things we used to take for granted such as seeing friends and family, hugs, going to shops and cafes, days out…

But also, anxiety…what will life look like? Will I feel comfortable going into shops, restaurants, cinemas, or any crowded places?

I guess everyone will react differently when lockdown ends and the most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself and accept that however you are feeling is ok. If you are desperate to hop on the first plane to sunnier climates that’s fine, but if you are someone who wants to take baby steps back into life as we knew it or as close as we are going to get, then that’s also fine.

We have all been through something completely new and unexpected, so all we can do is cope the best we can without judgement and without putting expectations on ourselves.

Maybe you are dreading meeting up with people for fear of what the conversation may entail…maybe you’re worried that people will say that during lockdown they became fluent in a language, learnt how to play an instrument, set up a new business, became an avid painter etc. However, whether you did any of these things or not we have all achieved something – we have all survived lockdown!

I know it’s irrational, but the sense we should be achieving something new, creates anxiety which isn’t helped by social media posts claiming things such as if we haven’t acquired 100,000 YouTube subscribers, learned Mandarin or trained to run a marathon, that we “didn’t lack time, we lacked discipline”.

Yet, when have we ever had a time in our lives as adults when we’ve felt it’s ok to live in pyjamas, have naps, enjoy duvet days, eat takeaway 2 days on the trot or allow ourselves to weep for no reason?!

The world we live in, (particularly in the UK) has become so pressured and fast paced yet one of the few advantages of lockdown is that hopefully some of us have learned that it’s ok to press the pause button and not do anything. I think for a lot of people it’s been a time of reassessing life in terms of careers, hobbies, relationships, self-discovery or re-affirming what’s most important to us.

For anyone who is worried about life post lockdown, take your time, and start small. It could be something as little as finally feeling you have an excuse to wear something other than loungewear, meeting up with a friend for a picnic or going for a drive without worrying if it’s a necessary trip. Try and notice the little things, so for me, I love the sea and whenever life feels overwhelming that’s where I like to go. Visualisation helps but it doesn’t replace being there so the first chance I get that’s where I will be going. I’ll smell the sea air, listen to the crashing waves and the seagulls and feel the sand between my toes. All these things I find very calming and it doesn’t need to be hot and sunny to enjoy it either!

Remember that when all this started, we would never have imagined spending the best part of a year at home, with schools and shops closed, and not being able to visit family or friends. Yet, we’ve already adapted to this major change in our lives. I think we deserve a massive pat on the back for that!

Right now, there are still so many unknowns about when or how lockdown will end. For me, a way I am trying to cope is by not making solid plans yet as I feel this may lead to disappointment. I know that as soon as I can, I will be going to see friends and family and enjoying day trips. I try to take each day as it comes and keep myself busy.

I know my girls have definitely helped me get through this and they are an inspiration. They’ve taken everything on the chin and gone with the flow despite missing friends, family and not being able to go places.

I am surprised at how well I’ve coped (don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my moments), particularly as I suffer with health anxiety and at the start of the pandemic, I was a lot more stressed about it than I am now. I suppose in a way I have learned to live with it in a way that works for me.

……When I picture the end of lockdown, I imagine herds of wildebeest being released into the wild!! I also think of the scene in Love Actually where they filmed everyone greeting loved ones at Heathrow Airport…no doubt there will be lots of hugs, tears, love, kisses and passion!