Stay Safe

I’ve probably never had so much to say as I have done over the past year. But I haven’t had the means to express myself. Lockdown has limited conversations – both in real life and virtually – and my ability to write down my thoughts has all but gone. Last weekend I spent much needed time with a wonderful friend, and it was exactly what I needed, not least to help me write again. So, if this gets long, boring, and maudlin you can partly blame her.

There’s no point me rehashing the past six months or so. I couldn’t find the right words during that period and I suspect they would be shrouded in hindsight and navel-gazing if I recapped now. Suffice to say, lockdown has been hard. It has been for everyone; we are in no way unique there. To borrow from Dickens, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”. In many ways, enforced nesting was just what our family needed – and we have reaped the benefits. Little Chick’s attachment to us feels stronger and more secure. Conversely, that has made the tricky times ridiculously hard. The juxtaposition of what we know can be possible and the onslaught of violence, rejection, and dysregulation has been difficult to manage. We have often felt trapped, both literally and figuratively.

We fully appreciate why Little Chick has struggled and, to an extent, understand his behaviour. But living with it is something else. Repeatedly, we remind him that it our responsibility to keep him happy, safe, and well. Safe is a massive word; much bigger than those four little letters. Safety is at the heart of our family. If Little Chick is, or feels, unsafe we all struggle. His safety is paramount.

School has become, or is becoming, a safe place for him, particularly his TA. We were delighted and relieved to learn that he would continue to receive 1:1 support next year and with the same teaching assistant. On the odd occasion I let myself consider it might not happen I was overwhelmed with grief for Little Chick and hopelessness for myself. His brief return (part-time for several weeks) towards the end of the academic year was vital for us all. He needed to know that those people were still happy, safe, and well themselves. And it reminded him that we always come back, in this case to collect him from his school bubble. He will be restarting Reception in September. This was discussed before lockdown, but the consequences of the pandemic confirmed the need. There are concerns that he will have to catch up with his original cohort before starting secondary school, but we would rather deal with that later. Right now, he needs the safety, familiarity, and nurture. And it gives us a few more years to research, learn, and square up for the fight.

In terms of keeping ourselves physically safe, we have been fighting on two fronts. We have had COVID to contend with as well as Little Chick’s attacks. Although Little Chick’s outbursts may seem unprovoked or unexpected, we are starting to recognise when they are more likely to occur and spot the warning signs. Coronavirus is a more stealthy bugger. I was ill in April and suspect I caught the virus. I improved relatively quickly – from an ambulance callout to pottering about again within two weeks – but I’m still not quite right. Lack of sleep and an aching body from Little Chick’s dysregulation haven’t helped. I’m hoping that a return to school and a new normality will help his routine and, in turn, allow me to take better care of myself. I am not the kind of person who can survive on limited sleep, as my family will confirm. It is safer for everyone when I practise self-care.

With the imminent threat of violence, keeping ourselves physically safe has been prioritised. But at the expense of our mental health. I’m sure the Other Mrs Reed Warbler has struggled too, though we have had few opportunities to sit together, uninterrupted, and share (though imminent counselling sessions should help with this). My mental health is not good at the moment. I am confident it will get better; it has before. But it’s a hard slog when it’s not great. For the whole family, not just me. Everything feels like an uphill battle and I feel increasingly less safe. When I suspect I am not in full/enough control of myself I tend to withdraw, to keep others around me safe. But this has the adverse effect of them thinking I am distancing myself from them. This is particularly unhelpful for a five-year-old with attachment difficulties.

Now that I have started writing I could waffle on for ages. But that benefits no one. I needed to put myself out there, overcome my barriers to writing, and reconnect again. I’ve done that. I hope to write again soon and return to regular posts. It helps.

So, for now, please take care of yourselves. And stay safe.