COVID one year on

 

 Facebook had just asked me – What’s on your mind, so i had a think about it…

 

As I flicked through my memories, I realise such much has changed

Its been a long xxcking year and yet, i’m still here

Only eight years ago, Sheffield was covered in snow

The year before I was stuffing my face at the Bay of Bengal

Four years ago, I’d challenged myself to a full day of No SWEARING

But it didn’t last long and by the end of the day I’d past xxcking caring

The year after that, I was complaining of being fat!

 

On this day a year ago COVID was all over the news

I was heading into work only to be sent back home

It’s now 2021

Where the xxck has the last year gone?

 

I could never have predicted what the future had in store

In the early days I felt restricted and conflicted

At first it was strange, being forced to change

Isolated from family and friends

But it was a means to an end

 

We all needed to do our part, even though at times it broke my heart

We were all in a global pandemic, where nobody could hide

And in the blink of an eye another year has passed by

Each lockdown has been hard

I found myself having to dig deeper inside

 

Often the fear of the unknown left me feeling isolated and alone

I would allow myself to wallow for a while consumed with self-pity

But it just wasn’t me AND it certainly wasn’t xxcking pretty

I had to have regular words wi me sen

And reasoned that Instead of moping, I needed to find some better ways of coping

 

I used my time wisely to focus on shit I’d been neglecting to make time for reconnecting

I started by staying away from the TV, which gave me more time to focus on me

I’d take long walks alone to contemplate life – a perfect opportunity to switch off from all the xxxxing strife

 

I picked up my pen and started to write, each new word offered up a new insight

I learned to accept that whilst change can make us feel vulnerable, that change is also inevitable.

This year I have been constantly reminded, that we have two choices in life

We can either bury our heads in the sand or we can make a stand

 

I chose the latter, to take the rough with the smooth

I mean I’ve got xxck all else to do or to lose

For me COVID has been another stark reminder

None of us knows what’s around the corner

 

I hope that one year from now

I’ll have figured life out, some way, somehow

But just for today

I will focus on the here and now

 

Love Tracey

Connecting the Dots: Everything happens for a reason.

Today is a particularly poignant day. It is precisely 16 years since Dad took his last breath. I remember the day as if it was yesterday. Me and my sister found him on the living room floor in his flat, and despite looking like shit, he was in a positive mood. He reached out his hand, asking, “Help me up, I’m going for a pint”. Little did we know that morning that they would be some of his last words and that he only had hours left to live.

Memories of his slow, painful death still haunt me, but the special memories we shared during this sad time have also inspired me to write. Steve Jobs famously said, “You cannot connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking back”, he also goes on to say that “You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. That you have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever”.

I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, this belief has come from the lessons I have learned from connecting the dots from my past. For example

Had it not been for losing my insanity, I would never have found my reality

Had it not been for the time spent in Middlewood Hospital, I would have never learned or understood about mental health, as I do now.

Had it not been for the CPN (community psychiatric nurse), I would never have had the courage nor inclination to go back to education.

Had I not gone to college, I would never meet the teacher who encouraged me to pursue a counselling course.

Had I not done the counselling course, I would have never met the Manager from a day rehabilitation program, who offered me a volunteering job.

Had it not been working in a recovery environment; I would never have understood addiction as I do now.

Had it not been for my addiction, I would never have understood shame and how to break free from it.

Had it not been for my recovery and the things I learned about myself, I would have found it impossible to support Dad during his alcoholism.

Had it not been for Dad’s demands, I would have never turned to journaling to offload my anger and hurt.

Had it not been for Dad, I wouldn’t be writing this today

Had I not been sat waiting to be interviewed by Roni Robinson, I wouldn’t have met the previous guest on his show, writer, Beverly Ward and asked for her business card.

Had it not been for Beverly Ward, I would never have dreamed I’d be signing up for a writing retreat.

A lot of the above didn’t make sense at the time, but I now realise that they all happened for a reason. Only this week, a memory appeared on my Facebook, taking me back to when I was packing to go away on my first ever writing retreat. I remember before heading off, our old man joking, ‘Thal be coming back wearing crocks and be a born-again vegan’. None of that happened, but something did change in me during that weekend away.

It was around the same time; the news was dominated by a deadly virus and government plans for a lockdown. Just being away from all the bullshit and negativity and being around other writers afforded me space and time to seriously consider whether or not I had a book in me. One year on, and now I’m 75,000-words in, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing.

I recently suffered from writer’s block; in fact, I came to a full fucking stop! I’d gotten to a point in my life where events became blurry, and I found myself struggling to connect the dots. I panicked. I freaked out. I even questioned if the memories I had, were even true, did they even happen! I even contemplated throwing the towel in, how I could continue writing if I couldn’t remember the story. I was afraid that I would be cheating the readers out of part of the story, but the truth was scared, and I felt cheated myself, not recalling events.

Some people have said to me ..

‘Why put yourself through it?’

My response is always…

‘Life is sometimes shit! And it is ok to feel shit and it doesn’t last long’

I know that from personal experience, it will pass. It always does, and after a week of tormented thoughts and sleepless nights. Guess what? It did!

And I finally broke through the writer’s block.

I don’t usually advocate dwelling or living in the past. It’s in the past for a reason. But I do see the value in popping back every so often to remind yourself just how far you have come.  Nowadays, I don’t look back and feel ashamed. I can look back and feel grateful for everything in my past, especially the darkest periods.

I couldn’t save Dad from his alcoholism, but hopefully, I can help others in his memory, and I can make sure that his premature death wasn’t in vain. I’m not sure where this is all going, but as Steve says, ‘I just have to trust that the dots will somehow connect.’

Ps . If tha needs inspiring you can check out the rest of Steve Jobs  had to say clicking  here

Rest in Peace, Dad and thank you. Thank you for everything, including the Good the Bad and the Ugly, all my love Tracey x

Try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to receive post as soon as they are written CLICK HERE – I promise i will NEVER send you any spam, i’m not into all that shit, i just like to write!

Writing it out

There have been some days over the past year; I have had to have some serious Words Wi Me Sen to adjust with this shit show called COVID. Confined to home working, being isolated from the usual office/social chat and banter has been replaced with more time to think or, should I say, overthink.

I have found myself absorbing my thoughts rather than being an observer of them and missed not being able to just being able to talk them out with a colleague or a close friend. Ya know all those simple interactions that we all took for granted.

I’ve had to quickly develop some new coping strategies, to help me bounce instead of breaking. So, I thought I would share em with ya.

My struggles with anxiety and self esteem started when I was much younger, I had never considered that I might have suffered from anxiety or that at times I might be depressed. And why would I? shit like that wasn’t talked about then. Some days I felt I might suffocate, I had a voice, but I was too afraid to use it, mainly out of fear of being judged or, even worse, misunderstood. This was further compounded because I could never find the words to articulate my feelings. It was just easier to keep shtum. ‘Put up and shut up’, as the saying goes.

I naively assumed that as I got older, I would grow out of it or might be able to figure out all the shit in my head and that I’d find the words to articulate how it felt, but I was wrong. I used to believe in fairy tales about finding my prince charming, getting a job, having kids, settling down, and living happily ever after. I’ve since figured out that Fairy tales are bullshit, just a tactic, a distraction method used by parents to try to protect their kids from the darker side of being an adult. Which is Fucking hard.

Over the years, with the support from others and a lot of reading and reflection, I have learned to sit with uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, and emotions and trust the future even when it feels uncertain. But I have also learned that I can do something with them too.  I’ve tried different coping strategies over the years, many have served me well, and I’ve learned a lot about myself because of them, but one of the best coping strategies I stumbled upon has been writing.

What innocently started out as a simple journal turned out to be a revelation for me. Writing has become my go-to coping strategy, especially since COVID. It’s an opportunity to reflect. It’s my safe place, where I can share my innermost thoughts, fears and feelings without being judged by the outside world. It took me ages before I shared any of my writing publicly, afraid of the grammar police. Afraid that they would find fault in how I wrote instead of what I was saying – Nowadays, I give less fucks about what the grammar police might have to say…

Learning to Bounce Instead of Breaking – Whenever I’m feeling bad about something or feeling low, I take notice, this is important, I have learned that how I feel about myself has a direct impact on my decision making and my attitude.  Nancy Kline, a hero of mine, says, “The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first’.  So if i am feeling shit I’ll take myself to one side or go for a walk and #Haveawordwimesen away from social media away from all the bullshit and  if that doesn’t work, I will put pen to paper, or turn to the keyboard.

It’s like having my day in Court, call it the Court of Compassion. Sat alone its  like my moment of reckoning, like my very own courtroom, only there isn’t anyone else present, there are no jurors, just me and the computer. Usually, my crimes are worrying about others, things I cannot change, self-criticism or negative self-talk.

In that moment, I am both the Prosecutor and Defence; the Judge is my conscience and intuition.

The Prosecutor always goes first, presenting/pouring out all the negative feelings and thoughts, including evidence to back them up. This part is harsh, but at the same time, it is cathartic, and most of the time, the evidence that is presented are just old limiting beliefs like

• I’m not good enough?
• I can’t do this.
• I don’t know what I’m doing.
• What if I fail?
• What do others think of me?

Trust me, this is NOT an exhaustive list, and it can go on and on

When the Prosecutor has finished, then it’s time for my Defence, who will go through each alleged crime and argue/question if they are old inherited, thoughts and beliefs from my past. She will challenge the Prosecutor and highlight any mitigating circumstances in response to my crimes which might include

• You are good enoughYou are not alone. Everyone’s lives have been turned upside down, and they are feeling the same.
• But you are doing thisand you continue despite all the uncertainly around work.
• Of course, you don’t know what you are doing.-We are all winging it. This is unchartered territory, working from home away from your usual support network.
• So, what if you fail?So, what if you do? You’ve failed before, and you never let a bit of failure stop you before?
• Does it matter what others think of you? Those that know you love you; they are the only one who counts isn’t, including what you think of yourself?

My Judge, my conscience, she is my intuition and sits quietly, taking in all the arguments made before preparing a sentence.

(NOTE) Years before, I had a fucking harsh judge. She was a bitch, and more often than not, the outcome was always guilty. She would have condemned me to a life locked in shame and condemn me to a life of self-sabotage before throwing away the keys. But nowadays, my Judge is a little more compassionate. She understands me, accepts my flaws and always takes these into account before handing down my sentence. In her summoning up, she always reminds me of how far I have come and that everyone has flaws and that nobody is perfect, and that it’s ok not to be ok.

She will often give me probation with conditions to be kinder to myself, to take the time to do the things that make me happy or to undertake an inventory, a gratitude list which helps remind me of all the things I have got in my life, like family and loved ones.

Sometimes this works for a while, there are times when I might breach my probation conditions and find my ass back in court—Having the very same #Havingawordwimesen over again. But I’m ok with that. I came to the realisation years ago that in life, shit happens, life is full of highs and lows, it’s how you deal with it that matters It also helps that I have got a more compassionate Judge who is now on my side.

Sometimes, when I re-read what I’ve written about myself, it’s like reading someone else’s words, and I can’t believe how harsh I had been toward myself.

If you are struggling during these insane times try writing it out, create some space and time to hold your compassion court and see if it works for you.

I have found a couple of GREAT writing exercises for you to try. They are from a lady called Kristin Neff an expert on self-compassion

Exploring self-compassion through writing 

Changing your critical self-talk 

Self-Compassion Journal

 

I dread to think how many words I have written over the past few years; Christ it must be a fucking lot cos I’ve gone through two keyboards after wearing the letters out, but one thing I do know is, every single word was worth it…

 

Remember you might not always write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page, you can’t edit a blank page…

 

Try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to receive post as soon as they are written CLICK HERE – I promise i will NEVER send you any spam, i’m not into all that shit, i just like to write!

Love Fordy