Light at the End of the Tunnel

Christmas is going to be different in 2020 but as a 2nd wave of coronavirus recedes and we enter a new tier system, one of the first things you notice is how much earlier people have been putting up their decorations. It’s been a horrible year for so many and for those who believe the pandemic was a huge Government conspiracy, take time to consider the 60,000 unnecessary deaths that occurred in the UK alone and what it feels like for millions of mourners across the globe who lost loved ones. So whatever we can do to inject a little cheer and love into this world, we should embrace it.

With a vaccine around the corner, finally there is hope. This must come as a great comfort to those who are shielding, such as the elderly but with Christmas around the corner we need to be there for each other like never before.

Writing Update

For the past two months I have been editing my book like crazy and love how it’s all coming together. I struggled with the first half for over a year but during the first lockdown, it finally began to take shape. I am days from finishing it now, and about to write the epilogue, before handing it over to an editor.

But in my last post, I also pledged to include a tribute to Graham Lovell, a local resident whose stories gave me much inspiration. I am pleased to say last weekend I wrote that tribute, a process that evoked heartache, more so when I saw Dan’s tribute on YouTube, snapshots of a friendship which lasted 23 years. It is a beautiful film and very moving, it captures the person Graham was, so I hope he won’t mind me sharing it.

Invisible Illness

With the impact the pandemic has had on mental health, it seems ever more important to recognise it. It can strike at any time, sometimes with devastating consequences. Anxiety, depression, insomnia, paranoia and panic attacks are things I have known in my own life and I feel blessed to have conquered them, through mindful practices such as positive thinking, keeping busy, creative hobbies (especially writing) and have the support of my loving husband and family.

There are people in our world who carry terrible sadness inside, but it is not always obvious until it is too late; a reason to keep in touch with each other, especially in these strange times. We might not be able to meet face to face, but we can still call each other, network on social media, Face time or zoom. Yes, it feels a bit weird and there was a time when I couldn’t imagine life would ever get back to normal, but at least there is hope. I would like think we will come out of this a more compassionate species and that somewhere, at the end of a very dark tunnel, a glimmer of light shines at the end.

Stories that tackle mental health issues

To end the year, I’d like to include some favourite books and as an avid reader have ploughed through some excellent novels but I especially want to concentrate on those that tackle mental health issues.

The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable
Deals with family bereavement, self-blame, depression and guilt.

Beast by Matt Wesolvski
Deals with the exploitation of vulnerable people with complex metal health issues

Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell
Tenant Lisa finds a hidden suicide note. The story is who wrote it and why?

I Found You by Lisa Jewell
A man is discovered sat on a remote beach in a fugue state. Deals with trauma.

The Secret by KL Slater
A story of how the burden of adult conflict and secrets can affect a child.

Sunset on Bognor Beach 2020

HAVE A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS.
SEE YOU IN 2021 WHERE HOPEFULLY I WILL BE PUBLISHING NEWS OF MY FIRST PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER.

First Month of Lockdown

Trying to Stay Positive

21.4.2020 As Coronavirus spins its deadly web around the globe, I am sat here wondering how some people are handling the different world we live in.

Confined to our homes for a month now, I have tried to look on the bright side, but there are days when the situation feels eerie. Watching the news is heartbreaking when you consider the tragedy of losing loved ones. But for those of us who are surviving (fingers crossed), maybe we should think about how we can turn this situation to our advantage. I’ve seen lots of good vibes across the media, so I decided to use this post to share my own experiences.

Aubretia growing on a flint wall in Sussex

Seeing the world through new eyes

We’ve had a spate of sunny days, almost fated to draw us out, when we know we should stay indoors. But even on a solitary walk, there is time to observe your natural surroundings. On occasions I see something I never taken much notice of before. It could be the trees coming into leaf, the incredible diverse range of colours found in the beach pebbles, cloud formations or the movement of birds in the sky. I’ve been wowed by some of the photos I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter too, which just shows we have the same basal instincts when it comes to appreciating what is under our noses. Maybe this is a good sign. That we have taken our planet for granted for too long.

Sun shining through the trees in west park

Adjusting shopping habits

The panic buying and stockpiling I described in my last post will be forever embossed on my brain. What a nightmare, queuing at 7am to get loo rolls. But with social distancing laws resolutely in place now, I try to restrict this to once a week which is not a bad thing (I used to shop too often). Nowadays I am inspired to plan ahead, check cupboards for ingredients, keep the freezer well stocked and only go out when I need stuff. At least the shelves are better stocked. Given the potential of the virus spreading though, the thought of being in a supermarket fills me with dread. I don’t mind queuing 2m apart and one tip I’d like to share is to have an audiobook on your phone. Shuffling slowly forwards, it not only kills time but I’m getting through more good books than ever before.

Protecting yourself

Fingers crossed I have thus far avoided anything nasty, by sanitising my hands as soon as I leave the store before touching keys or door handles. Same when I’m home, then rubbing all plastic and glass containers with anti-bacterial wipes before putting them away (my sister’s tip but I think lots of people do this now). COVID-19 can survive on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours! I have also taken to wearing a mask now. My next door neighbour started her own embroidery business but with an excess of fabrics, makes very nice masks for just £6 each. Check her designs out on Instagram.

Cooking

I am loving seeing people’s culinary masterpieces on social media. Isn’t it great to go back to baking your own bread, while others get creative with lush cakes and cookies? I don’t think we’ve had a single ready meal since lockdown and I am enjoying looking up new recipes (see my Pinterest board) and spending more time in the kitchen. I never had the time before and it feels like a luxury. In fact my freezer is getting so chock-a-block full of home-cooked meals I might end up  shopping even less soon!

Time for Communication and Contemplation

We have time. So much time. Time to connect with people we haven’t contacted for months, write letters, phone each other up, Facetime, cherish the joy of communication like never before. Peter and I miss our walking group terribly but use our weekends to sort the garden out, plant seeds and we even started painting our office, something we procrastinated about for too long. But while it’s nice to keep busy, I find time to relax. Last week I enjoyed a zoom Yoga class, thanks to my friend Angela. But in moments of anxiety try creative visualisation. Another good friend, Penny Burns, has expansive knowledge in this field and I have been helping her with her blog, as well as promoting her videos on YouTube. These combine deep breathing with meditation techniques, designed to reduce stress and improve well-being.

Sun on the sea used in a creative visualisation video

Reliving good memories

Getting things organised has been high on my list of priorities and looking at my i-pad, I was staggered by how many photos were on it. No wonder the storage is almost full! So I have been looking through them and deleting some, leaving only the best. It’s actually turned into another therapeutic exercise. My tablet was a joint 50th birthday present from Peter and family, and since 2014, I have taken hundreds of pics, some almost identical, others not worth saving. It’s been fun revisiting those years, from family celebrations to trips out and holidays. A living memoir of life’s highlights, reminding me how much I have to be thankful for. I recommend this as a good antidote on days when you’re feeling blue.

So what are others up to during lockdown?

I get lots of inspiration from hearing what others have been up to – from taking up a new hobby to posting lovely photos and videos, bringing some cheer to our troubled lives. Dan Jones has inspired me by posting his wellbeing walks on YouTube for others to enjoy. I even attempted a movie of my own, a recording on the beach where the sound of the waves lapping on the shore was quite soothing.

https://www.facebook.com/helen.christmas.7/videos/2940573542646414/

At the same time, I’ve been blown away by stories in the media.

Praise to 90-year-old Margaret Payne, climbing a mountain on her stairs to help raise money for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. She aims to scale the equivalent of a Scottish Highland mountain with 282 trips up the stairs in her home.

And who could miss the accomplishments of Captain Tom Moore? Tom’s 100th Birthday Walk is a lion-hearted gesture to raise funds for the NHS, a man who served as an officer in World War II and whose selfless acts of bravery make him a hero.

So that’s my list done. Don’t know how long we’ll be in Lockdown but it could be months yet so keep the ideas flowing… I’ll be posting again soon.