Exposing. That’s how the coronavirus pandemic initially felt to me. It exposed my relationships with my husband, with my family but mostly, with myself. The coronavirus has triggered my anxiety about death which played a huge part in my life as a replacement child. Being born into a grieving family, where the death of my baby brother two years earlier caused repercussions that my mother took to her grave, anxiety became as familiar to me as an annoying relative. It was there to stay. With the threat of death once again overshadowing my family’s happiness splashing it with fear at every opportunity, I felt vulnerable and it exposed my anxiety. I responded the only way I know how, keeping active.
So I took to the supermarket before the panic buying and I prepared for the lockdown. That’s the upside of anxiety, it thinks ahead of adversity whether the fear is real or not. I bought seeds and primulas, even though I’ve never grown anything before, or planted primulas. They were an impulse purchase. Call it intuition, they made me feel better. My priority is to protect my family and make them feel safe. As long as that is covered, I relax.
And those seeds literally ground me even though I have more courgettes growing than we can ever eat! Tending to my plants helps me escape reality.
They calm my thoughts, keep me focused and relax my breathing. I’ve learned I am resourceful when I control my thoughts. I’ve chosen to concentrate on what I enjoy rather than tolerate things I have little or no influence. I found a new rhythm doing more of what I love:
- Spending quality time with my family, baking, reading and walking in nature with my dogs.
- I started writing again. I’m in the process of writing my memoir and the distraction has enabled me to focus on my creativity which instantly feeds my soul. Although making it a priority over my family’s needs has been challenging.
- Finally framing new and old photographs. Memories mean more now than ever.
- And of course, gardening.
But keeping this focus as the lockdown has lifted has been especially difficult. The biggest struggle I face is self-care as my anxiety escalates. I am easily distracted. I naturally default to housework like a stereotypical fifties’ housewife and lose all sense of my aspirations, like reading, studying counselling, and writing, which are all necessary to fuel my days and consequently my ability to look after my home and family.
Ultimately, the lockdown has in many ways sharpened my senses and awareness. But so too has my counsellor. Lately, I credit much of my grounding experience to my counsellor who, several years ago, identified the significance in my life of being a replacement child and as such has continued to support me when historical issues resurface, especially during the pandemic crisis, guiding me to find the message and view each challenge from a positive perspective.
Lizette Baker is a writer and Trainee Counsellor. She lives in Devon, England