How To Get Something Positive from Isolation

It doesn’t have to be too difficult

Isolated wooden Cabin
Photo by Tanya Nevidoma on Unsplash

I suppose isolation for me is not so different from my every day, as I don’t get out much anyway, at least not in the Winter. I cannot tolerate the cold. The very word ‘winter’ makes me feel cold.

The only real difference is that I cannot see my family. My daughters came to have a coffee last week – they sat on garden chairs they had brought with them in the garden and we stayed in the kitchen! We managed and it was nice. I’ve spoken to my 5 year old grandson through a window! He’s finding it a bit hard to understand poor little chap.

Thank God for tech, I don’t know what I’d do without it. I wouldn’t be blogging for sure, and it’s something I really enjoy, I have made so many new friends all over the world.

Being housebound makes me feel safer but it doesn’t stop anxiety about the virus. I have to have carers and nurses coming into the house. Although they have personal protection equipment (PPE) I still feel uncomfortable about it.

I can understand how difficult it can be for people with mental health problems as well as for others, like me, with physical difficulties. People who are elderly, alone or isolated within an abusive relationship are going to find it hard to find anything positive in isolation. I am not trying to make light of the situation, or to diminish the reality of others.

I am worried, slightly scared and very uneasy. It’s all so weird. The streets are eerily quiet around my home although there are more joggers than I have ever seen before! Taking our Government’s advice about getting exercise seriously (that’ll be a first). We obviously have no visitors at all. My husband is quietly going stir crazy.

So last week I took a little holiday from blogging. The last time I did so. It was because I was having a crisis of confidence in myself and my writing. This time it was my choice. I actually read a lot which I haven’t done for ages, I tidied up my inbox, which had been sadly neglected. I listened to podcasts and my audiobook which I actually managed to finish, and start another one. No pressure to plan the next blog post.

But actually I did. I had to keep reminding myself that I was on holiday. But the desire to write is so strong, I just had to do it. The difference was time. I had time to think, time to read other blogs, some blogging tips. But I needed to write.

Suddenly I could clearly see that I needed to plan my week properly. I draft my blogs in Evernote. This is a useful app with templates for everything including a weekly planner. It was like an Epiphany (bit dramatic!). Finally I could see how I could organise my week to make sure I was productive.

I get so many e mails from bloggers I follow, and those who follow me (thank you). I like to read their posts and comments, I can learn so much. Last week I realised I spent one whole day just reading e mails. It was great to have the time for it.

What I usually do is read my emails as soon as I switch on my iPad in the morning. That’s been my mistake. It taken up so much time and energy leaving nothing for anything else. So my new plan is to skim through in the mornings to make sure there is nothing that needs dealing with immediately (like, you know, paying the bills!) and flagging the ones I want to read. Then in my new weekly planner I’m going to schedule in reading emails. If it uses up a day so be it. There are 7 days in a week. In isolation they all roll into one anyway!

I have decided that I will post once a week for the moment, which is in itself an improvement. If my planner works I might be able to step up to twice (wow I hear you all cry!). But for now, if I aim for one, it gives me time to do other things as well, like research and so on. I’ve got some ideas floating around in my head- that’s a dangerous place for them to be because they’ll float away before long, never to be seen again!

So, I’ve created an ideas log, again in Evernote. And I write them down. I wrote a post not so long ago about why good notes are essential if you’re a writer. I’m afraid that was a case of do as I say not as I do, despite my good intentions at the time. I’m taking my own advice now.

This is what isolation has meant for me. Because the world has stopped, I’ve felt able to stop and take stock. This seems a bit crass, since I don’t have work and other pressures outside the home, but being disabled comes with its own pressures and daily challenges. Just a little bit of time to organise things can make me feel I have some control over my life.

Be kind to each other.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Why do I think of myself as not normal

And does it really matter?
Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash

I love watching travel and wildlife programmes. I find them quite peaceful and easy to watch, especially before going to sleep. The cinematography is stunning.

They inspire me to want to see these places and things for myself. I am thinking about things I would like to be doing or things I wish I could do. I always think ‘if I was normal I could be doing that’ .

What is this ‘normal’? I spend most of my time writing about how disabled people should not be seen any differently to able-bodied people, about accessibility, about attitudes, and yet, in my private thoughts, I am basically defining myself as not ‘normal’.

I am going to attempt to explore why I do this.

When I had the first symptoms of MS my normality began to be something I didn’t recognise. Suddenly I couldn’t do all my ‘normal’ things. Just getting out of bed in the morning became strange.

Normal life was disrupted. Everything changed. Nothing was ever the same again. And so it has continued.

My ‘normal’ is wheelchair life. I have written about this before, so I won’t go into it again. What I want to do is examine why I think that what I am now is not normal.

This is really a terrible opinion of myself, and goes against the grain in every sense. I would never dream of defining someone else like that. I don’t think about with regard to others.

‘Normal’ defies definition – each person has their own normality. It’s the very misunderstanding of that which causes so much hate and prejudice in this world. We mutter and gossip about the lady in the house down the road because she dresses weirdly and has 20 cats. We look at people and define them as ‘different’ because they don’t fit our ‘normal’

Everyone’s normality is different. It belongs to them. It is their own. And we do not have the right to judge people in those terms. In fact, my personal belief is that we don’t have the right to judge people at all, but that’s because I’m a live and let live kind of person (if someone is inflicting harm because to them that is normal behaviour then that is a different story).

So why, in my private thoughts do I think of myself as not normal? I think the answer lies in my own mental processes. I know that there is no coming to terms with a big life-changing event, whatever that may be, but you can learn acceptance.

After 15 years I really thought I had achieved acceptance of my condition and what is in effect a new way of life. But am I kidding myself? To think that I might be living a lie, and that somewhere deep down I may not be being true to myself is horrifying.

Sometimes I have found myself saying out loud ‘oh I used to do that when I was alive’ ……. what the hell is all that about. I believe that I have mentally drawn a line between before and after. Between life and……….what. Not a ‘normal’ life clearly.

Given that these thoughts come to me totally unbidden, almost automatically with no warning, I’m not really sure how to tackle this weirdness. The mental process by which I have drawn this line must be so deep it’s impossible for me to control.

Does it really matter?

As I’ve pondered this question in my mind, over time, my thoughts are that perhaps, for me, no, it doesn’t matter very much. I cannot believe that I am the only disabled person, particularly when, like me, they have an unimagined new ‘normality’ after an active life.

People who develop chronic illness and those who have had accidents, whatever, must contemplate their life limitations deep down. How do other disabled people feel about themselves in their private thoughts?

Up to now these have been my private thoughts, but I decided to write about them because I wanted to see how it would feel to let them out. Now that I have, I can see that, for me, it actually doesn’t really matter. I refuse to be haunted or daunted by thoughts that have the ability to impact my mental health

If I don’t dwell on it they are fleeting regrets, if I think about it too long, which sometimes happens it’s just a sadness. Everybody, disabled or not, have thoughts that cause them fleeting regret or sadness, that is perfectly normal.

The trick is, when my thoughts go down the path of ‘I will never get to do that now’, is to let it pass by without lingering. It’s when you linger on those thoughts that they can lodge in your mind and cause real anxiety and distress. That’s something I, for one, am anxious to avoid.

Photo by picjumbo.com from Pexels

Writing a blog is my grown-up project

And it means a lot to me
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Talent comes from originality which has a special manner of thinking of seeing of understanding and of judging.

Guy de Maupassant, Pierre et Jean

I recently read some blogging tips. The advice was ‘start with a small project’. It made me think.

What is a small project? Does it mean writing a short blog. Or writing a blog and doing some small scale marketing for it. Or maybe something else, like organising all the rubbish that you collect and putting it in some sort of order.

When I was young, I loved projects. We did them at school. I remember doing one on the cocoa bean and how it gets turned into chocolate. I wrote to Cadbury’s and asked for any information they could give me and they sent me loads of interesting stuff.

I collected information about hotels I stayed in with my parents (they were great travellers- we went all over Europe, by car, quite unusual in the 60’s), and when I got home I would write projects on them all. I drew pictures, stuck things in, I was really creative.

I suppose they were small projects. At the time, to me as a child, they seemed like big projects, and I loved them. I enjoyed organising things in a scrapbook or folder. I wrote commentary on all the information I had collected and I wrote about our travels.

When I think back now, as a child I was quite imaginative. I loved reading and at the age of nine, would walk the short distance to our local library. I would browse for ages and would always go home with three or four books.

I would write stories, which my mother would read and would tell me I had a great imagination. When you are a child, it seems you are uninhibited by all the self consciousness that suddenly takes over your life when you become a teenager.

I certainly felt like that. Suddenly, I could no longer write stories, do projects and I had no inclination to do it. My teenage years were not happy ones. I was uncomfortable in my own skin and learned to live inside myself.

I am still fairly introverted. I have never been happy in a crowd. I never really liked parties, preferring one-to-one, or a small group of people I was completely comfortable with. I was probably a bit of a dork!

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Even after I was married I remained uncomfortable in large groups, and preferred the company of my family and close friends. Age has taught me that the number of close friends you have is fairly small. But they are the ones that stay with you through thick and thin.

Becoming disabled has reinforced this. My close friends are still there, supporting me, bringing cake (that’s how well they know me) and humour to my life.

So I’m happy being an introvert.

I started a project – this blog. I suppose it was a small project to begin with, but it now looms large in my life. I don’t claim to have great talent but I always wanted to write, and I always imagined living in a cottage by the sea and writing to my hearts content.

Well, life didn’t quite go that way, but I’m writing. I love it. I couldn’t live without it. It’s given me a purpose in my limited life. I don’t get to publish as often as I would like, life intervenes. But I don’t plan to give up on this anytime soon.

So, please keep reading. This is one project I’m happy to share.

Photo by Muhammad Haikal Sjukri on Unsplash