It’s official. We are now living in an alternative reality. Our lives have become a disaster movie. Suddenly Boris is the unlikely actor called upon to flick his wayward fronds as he delivers a surreal message of threat. You wonder how the director cast him for this, his most serious role. Surely, he is more suited to stand-up and farce than dystopian thriller? And yet there he is, delivering his lines with the gravitas of a Laurence Olivier playing Hamlet.
The humdrum buzz of our daily lives seems long distant. I feel nostalgic for a time when I could buy two bottles of milk at once, where I sent my daughter into nursery and I sat in an office with real life people.
A cloud of threat crackles above us – nobody knows when the flash of lightening will fork, or where it will burn. We hear the rumbles of news, moving ever closer each day that passes.
I am minded of a theory from my nursing studies – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need – which starts at the bottom with our most basic needs: food, water, oxygen and moves up through emotional needs to something called self-actualisation. I would say that in our country, in our lifetimes, we have been used to operating higher up the pyramid than most of humanity through the ages. We have been living, not surviving.
Unnervingly now we are being pushed back to our basic needs – food, shelter, health – and forced to question how essential our usual aims are. How ‘key’ our employment is – whether we have the right to ask others to risk their health to look after our children? Is our job important enough? Most people through history and across the globe have focussed on surviving. We have been lulled into the security of striving and thriving to achieve our ambitions.
This equally puts me in mind of other countries, other people even less able to bear the burden of coronavirus. I’m thinking of sub-saharan Africa, the Gaza Strip, the many refugee camps to use global examples. Closer to home I’m thinking of those people who live with the threat of domestic abuse and violence. For them the message of “stay home, stay safe” is a particularly cruel one.
I am also minded of all those who stay mentally well only with the help of their normal routines, connections and self-care. As everyone sheds activities that aren’t immediately vital for life, these activities are bound to fall by the wayside. And the cumulative effect of all these tiny, non-life-threatening sacrifice could push some people towards mental health crisis. It may sound trivial to be panicking about more time with your children, not getting a hair-cut or taking exercise, not meeting friends at the park. But when you are already close to breaking-point these little, “non-essential” events are often the release valve you need to survive.
We know that suicide is the biggest killer of mums in the first year of their babies’ lives. Whilst we are looking out for the elderly and the unwell, we mustn’t forget that this silent vulnerability is there too, and make every effort we can to stay connected and support each other.