An Old Dance, — just for one
There is no hiding, anyone can get lonely. New parents, children, cared for young people, older people, retired, self employed, bereaved or carers can become chronically lonely and it’s one sure way to become enveloped in a duvet of depression. I have had bouts of loneliness while being a new mum, being a childminder and after a fantastically, spectacular bout of depression. Since then I have become a full time carer, I have sustained myself and avoid loneliness. Until the perfect storm, the same week Mrs May launches her most recent distraction.
Is “ The Minister of Loneliness” a stunt, the ambitions of Jo Cox’s work pasted about but will the work get done? Tracey Crouch will oversee the government’s efforts to tackle “the sad reality of modern life”How will writing new policies help? It is only so sad because the systems and services made to serve the people can no longer afford to listen and be attentive. Social services, children’s services, education and NHS are all difficult places and frustrating for those “on the front line” of care and education and those who receive the service. There is endless enthusiasm but only scraps of funding to bid for. Prolonged engagement, focus groups and exciting new projects are there but services are stretched already, with the best intentions they, can they take any more pressure. It looks like walking a tightrope between cuts and special measures, there is no relief. Services cannot communicate effectively, causing huge gaps for individuals and entire families to fall down, then have to wait 3 to 6 months for a preliminary appointment to decide who needs to throw a ladder down for them. This is how it feels from where I have stood.
Carer life, — take the support
Sometimes I bump into friends and acquaintances that have recently had a baby, snippets of conversation that I can totally relate to, but I have a tween! I’m sure it’s true that parents will always worry, that when he gets older and becomes more independent I’ll still worry. When discussing my personal brand of parent life often hearing “yeah but that’s normal”. For many things behaviours are normal but it’s what happens either side of that behaviour, or the frequency or safety of that behaviour that give it an unrelatable to many edge. Honestly I feel like smashing a normal mellon on their “that’s normals” head, just let me have a moan yeah?.
There are precious few people I can have a real conversation with who get it. It’s frustrating. I don’t have a work colleagues, I get out the house to go shopping and pester those who work in retail, evening socialising has been sparse over the last two years. I see my friends face to face sporadically but thats life, we are all getting on with it. There aren’t coffee mornings or “parent & not neurotypical young people not in mainstream”groups. Actually there might be, but the mental health side of things means that neither of us cope well in that scenario, and I never liked “parent and toddler groups” back in the day anyway. There is however, after school Athena Games Pokemon tournaments, where one other pair of parent and young person meet as often as we can, which isn’t every week but is great.
Social media — hey fren!
Before crashing into a pit of depression and spiraling through my life whilding a big axe, I played in a local roller derby league. I have never witnessed or been part of a community in that way before. Though I can no longer be part of it there are solid relationships formed that I still value today. The axe took out a lot of toxic deadwood, a family that had served as support until it didn’t. So I built a much more nurturing and robust village to help. When I needed them most they were there weekly. Now, less needy we hang out here and there and it’s great,
Being online enables me to present in an accessible way. It also means i can put it away and be mindful and present when needed,at home, a lot. I do side towards addictive personality traits, once had sweet related game and 2 farm games on 4 different devices. Now I have a less one sided relationship, I have different platforms for different roles and requirements, no games. Further into the 30 day yoga challenge, than last year, it comes with a solid online comunity I know I can dip into if I want. Tracking what others are doing with topics like mental health, but not from an NHS professional back ground, for example Steven Thompson has been very engaging and seeks to bring people together to openly discuss experience or mental health and tactics using social media as to its fullest.
Admitting instagram is my favorite is no problem, the simplicity of square grids, images and optional text. When my phone once lunged into the bath as an alarm was going off or the time before, one dived out of my back pocket and into the loo, it was instagram I missed most.
There are a handful of people from across the globe that I have a tiny amount of dialogue with, just an exchange of kind, congratulatory emojis on a post here and there. The monthly horror giff between old friends. Checking out meme life with Dynoboy. A tag in a feminist dinosaur post to old roller derby babes. Seeing cute snaps or random adventures of my cousin and siblings. It’s small but that’s it, it’s the little things.
Using spectrum of social media apps posting illustrations or painting, mental health advocate type stuff, using hashtags to share and find meaningful moments, helping to solidify where I’m coming from, enforcing the foundation of not isolated, worthy as a person feels.
It’s a little bit of respite.
The perfect storm — losing it.
Sunday evening, having that late night mum time, scrolling through posts, tweets and snaps, my phone died. Totally dead, nothing, done. left it on the side and hoped it would still sound the alarm for school. Nope, late for school taxi drama occured. Breath, focus, second taxi booked (so glad I have a landline handset, plugged in and charged) situation managed. I had only a few hours in a day to search for a replacement, what about contents insurance? or buy out contract & upgrade. Much eye roll. Then the sound on my laptop failed. My eyes have rolled so far back in my head they are in danger of detaching. guh ! How can I yoga now?!
We don’t do TV. The evenings are going to be interesting. I can’t find the old radio lead, thank heavens for the constant sounds of urban living, trafic noise peppered with songs of the drunk and upwardly mobile. The grown up I would normally hang out with of an evenings, watching spoopy films and being silly with is away for a week. Luckily I had booked in a dinner with a friend, which helped stave off full isolation.
I manage to get my sim into a phone so I could make calls and texts (who even texts?) but the device was too old to cope with newer apps. I could access a couple through my laptop, but I’m hindered by a long standing difficult relationship with the written word, video helps me access various subjects in my own time. Saving them up to watch daily because I’m awkward like that also I hate when people just start watching video while you’re having a conversation or watching a film or playing a board game. It’s so intrusive.
Managing — just
I endured an app-less week. I read or stared into middle distance here and there. So began a vaguely familiar dance with an old friend I never liked. After a week it had really set in. There are so many micro moments, in jokes, nuanced conversations that happen across a day that, when it was no longer there I floundered. At first I thought I was being silly, a modern phone AND fast internet is a privilege, or is it? It had been a tough week between home and school so I wasn’t pushing either myself or Dynoboy to do anything extra. Pretty sure Friday’s 3 hour depression nap was related. It has been a long time since I have had to do that. It’s not just social media, it’s the type of calendars I keep to maintain the comfort of routine and pattern that contain Dynoboy and in many ways myself, I can be organised and incontrol.
Social media can have a bad rep, it has its pitfalls, trolls, predators, life zapping FOMO abilities but it is a lifeline for many, a vibrant orange ring in a turbid sea of disconnect. Having uninstalled facebook from my phone a long time ago I had forgotten a group, one that definitely saved my life from needless mystery, it was for parents with children like Dinoboy. It helped me to see I wasn’t alone, gave me advice and helped empower me to channel my focus on what mattered. I don’t need the group right now but I know it’s there, as with the online yoga community and roller derby, I know I am worthy and welcome . Getting to feel that way takes some work to get to, but that’s ok. It’s the choice that’s important.
Pockets of community — just in my pocket
Thankfully my youngest sister came to the rescue and handed me my old, old, old phone. It won’t take my sim card but at least I can have some apps, perhaps all and listen to music as long as there is WIFI, no probs, at home, It’s there in my back pocket, a little support when i need it.
There are pockets of excellence , perhaps these skew the average across the UK’s services, but it’s the foundation of these that need to be looked at and formulated into what is basically a product to share between and across services to enable communities to thrive. I suspect it is where there is good linkedin care, communication between social services, NHS and education within county, between cases, within timelines that don’t impede the health and success of the “service user”. Where the services have been able to collect honest feedback and been able to improve one area without neglecting others. That can happen right? It’s not just an imaginary ideal where the lived experience isn’t totally alien to the professionals. Where the professional is supported within a safety net of their own, a sensible workload given and job security, enabling an amount of professional vulnerability and ability to have prolonged human contact in their role with honest dialogue and repore. Imagine that.
I honestly think if the services worked better together and more for the people within them than for targets, the communities needed to help lessen the load of loneliness would form naturally with little need for funding. some one can work an online presence in there too I reckon.
Also lets stop building lots of new houses without community centres, shops or schools.
Good Luck Tracey, here, sketched from instagram & quoted, a sibling, the other 2 are just as savage & inspirational,