25/04/2020 It must be the weekend

It’s 7:30 am on a Saturday morning, I have been up about 30 minutes, after another fitful sleep. The dog was pleased to see me get up, until I fed her and now she has moved on to laying near her treat cupboard in the vain hope that biscuit may suddenly appear. I initially put the TV on for the news headlines, after about 5 minutes of wittering that did not resemble anything remotely news I put BBC Radio 6 Music, in anticipation of the Radcliffe and Maconie show at 8 am (the highlight of my weekend, is reading the paper and listening to Rad Mac). When I put the radio on Dragonball Durag was playing, now if you read yesterday’s blog you will know that, that very song was playing yesterday morning. Baxter Dury is now on the radio being interviewed (Baxter is one of my favourite artists, and the son of the late great Ian Dury)so I am a happy bunny as they finish the interview and play Miami. This is almost a perfect Saturday morning, if it wasn’t for the pain in my chest.

I have done my breathing exercises this morning, as recommended by the Occupational Health Nurse yesterday as part of my rehabilitation programme. They encourage me to breathe more deeply, they as you would expect made me cough. I cough anyway, so I am hoping they will get my lungs moving more effectively and these headaches will go away. Once I am dressed I will take the dog for a walk as part of my regime. I now go for 2 short walks of about 200 metres to start with. When I am writing this I am telling myself that I was doing more than that last week! Then I remember how breathless I constantly felt and how bad those headaches were. All I was doing last week and the week before was trying to carry on regardless. The Nurse yesterday told me to allow myself to be ill. Something that a lot of people have been saying recently, but I didn’t hear them.

Anyway this has taken me 40 minutes to write and Rad Mac has started on the radio, so stay home, stay safe and have a pleasant weekend.

24/04/2020 Morning Notes

Dragonball Durag by Thundercat is playing on the radio, my head is gently throbbing, as I sit on my sofa in my front room in locked down suburbia. The sun shines in through the partially obscured window. Obscured with the curtain to stop the sun shining in my eyes. The occasional dog walker goes past the window, I imagine I will see a few joggers in a minute, they generally pass every 5 minutes between the hours of 8am and 7pm. Later there will be the family walking parties with children on scooters or bikes. They all still look lost and slightly confused and nervous. We are all still trying to practice these new rules not quite sure whether they will become the new normal or being a passing fade.

 I have noticed on social media and the TV that the social distancing rule (which is not really a rule, but just a suggestion) is being followed less and less. A month in and we are beginning to drift from what was prescribed to old habits. People are starting to go out more, according to The Times yesterday traffic is increasing on the roads and some businesses are beginning to open up. This is what happens when leadership is unclear, when we are not reminded to continue to practice new habits, our old habits creep in. Some people will exercise personal leadership and notice that old habits are creeping back and remind themselves that they have a new habit now. The problem is that if the reason for the new habit is not clear then we are all less inclined to stick to the new habit. Well we all get told the reason for social distancing and avoiding unnecessary travel, and yet we still find it difficult to achieve, or some of us do. What we have a problem with is purpose. The purpose of the restrictions we all completely understand and accept, however for many of us it is at odds with our view of how the world works and ultimately our own purpose. Modern society values, wealth, social status, and social connection. We have been brought up exposed to these values, many of us accept these as our own, some of us don’t, but still accept that these values are important to all of us. The current situation in the short term is at odds with these values. This maybe an explanation for why there is this clamour to return to normal as soon as possible to return the status quo, to stabilise the economies of the world. We all need to earn money, to maintain our physiological and safety needs as Maslow put it, to provide shelter and sustenance. Also maintaining status and having a social network are vital to existence. This is in the short-term, the problem is however, that if we ignore the devastating impact this virus could have on our species, then we put the long term security of our species at risk, just to ensure that we can keep our status and wealth. 

During the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic cities in the US that stayed locked down longer and protected their populations recovered economically much quicker than those that opened up earlier who suffered a far worse second wave of the virus. 

I suppose we have a choice of having a short-term view and risk a devastating prolonged pandemic that kills many millions of people, and may well destroy our much loved modern society or keep disciplined take the substantial short term pain, to maintain as near as possible society to what we have now.

23/04/2020 I thought I would continue to share with you.

I said yesterday I would not write anything again until I had something positive to say. Well I do have something positive to say…. Thank you!

The messages of support I got yesterday lifted my spirits. I was overwhelmed by the kindness ad generosity of spirit expressed by strangers and friends a like. So thank you all so much.

Today is a better day because you made it better when I read your messages this morning and last night.

I do not feel as ill today, no doubt because I have done sod all. I have watched a couple of rubbish films on the TV, read a bit of my book and had a nap. I am now sat in the garden, listening to the birds chatter, and various people in the area doing DIY (I can hear drills and hammers in the background). I have brought my book out in the hope I might get some reading done, but I am finding it hard to concentrate (this is taking me ages to write).

My cough is not as troubling today and I have not been overly breathless. I am breathing as deeply as normal and my lungs hurt still. I still have a dull ache in my head and I feel so tired. I felt quite dizzy earlier and when I filled the dishwasher earlier I felt nauseated again. So walking more than a few hundred yards or standing for more than 5 minutes is still unpleasant, not impossible just unpleasant.

Ben is up in his room practicing a Vialetters song by playing along to one of their recordings. It is wonderful to hear. It is such a shame that they are not able to play live at the moment (in case you didn’t know my eldest son Ben is the bass player in Vialetters who play a lot in Hull, their music is on Spotify, Apple Music and the likes). In the next bedroom I can hear Jack is just starting to play his guitar. Jack is in a band too called Speak Easy, they had just started playing and booking gigs and then the pandemic happened. During the lock down they have started playing together and creating some music, that they have put on Sound cloud.

I love music and I am so pleased that they have both discovered their love for music, and both create music.

I may feel physically rubbish but my spirits have been lifted today by the kindness of others and the talent of my sons.

Stay in, stay safe and see or speak to you all soon.

22/04/20 Back to square one

I didn’t write an update yesterday, and today’s is going to be very short. Yesterday my symptoms came back with a vengeance. I went to work but did not last long. I felt a little off first thing but thought it was just morning grogginess. After a couple of hours I was quite breathless, had waves of nausea, and felt dizzy. I went home, the cough then started and just got worse and worse throughout the day. At one point I felt as bad as I have ever felt.

Today I have coughed felt dizzy and have been extremely tired. Today is day 28! It has been a month! I am sorry I cannot think of anything positive to say today. My lungs hurt and I am thoroughly fed up.

I am not going to write any blog updates for a bit until I have something more positive to say.

Stay in, stay safe.

20/04/2020 Today was a good day.

I have had symptoms now for nearly a month. Today I barely noticed them. I had a headache, and was breathless from time to time, but I was so busy doing what I love that they paled into insignificance.

Today we went out to talk to staff and give them hand cream, lip balm, and other goodies donated by companies and individuals ( all using appropriate social distancing). So we talked to them about what they are experiencing at work and outside of work. It was lovely putting a smile on people’s faces. At last I feel like I am making a difference. Tomorrow I will start making up resource boxes for teams, wards and departments, as we recognise not everyone can leave their department but also need some space to rest and receive those gifts given in appreciation of all their hardwork.

One member of staff said to to me that it was lovely know we are there for them to talk to and that people care for them. I felt so privileged today, that I could do something that made a small difference to a small group of people. I feel like I got my mojo back today. If I am honest I was a little overwhelmed last week, and I was experiencing quite a lot of fatigue. Obviously I am going to keep an eye on my symptoms, I have after all I have felt better before, only to feel rubbish the next day. I will take it easy tomorrow (I promise mum). I am however really looking forward to going to work tomorrow, that is the first time since getting ill that I have not worried about being up to it.

Oh and the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the cherry blossom is blooming.

Stay safe, stay in and remember by staying home you are doing your bit.

19/04/2020 26 days since my symptoms began

Today I had planned to be running in the Hull 10K, along with thousands of other people. Instead I have cut the grass. I think I was probably as knackered after cutting the grass as I would have been had I run the 10K.

Yesterday I felt nearly normal, well today I cannot say that, the cough is back today, and so is the headache, especially after the grass cutting. Saying that I feel so much better than I did a few weeks ago. I suppose I am just impatient and want to be back to normal. So I am reminding myself again today to listen to my body and take it easy. After putting the chicken in the oven I have sat in front of the TV watching Bridge Over The River Kwai. That took me back to my childhood of watching the Sunday matinee film on BBC1 after lunch, it was always a war film or a western. It was nice to spend a moment reminiscing about my childhood.

Even though it did wear me out, being outside cutting the grass was glorious. When I wasn’t making a racket with the lawnmower it was wonderful to hear the birds singing so loudly, now there is so little traffic noise. Being in the moment and appreciating what around you is so important. The news and social media can dominate our lives at the moment and today I have found myself shouting at the computer and TV today. So just simply spending time in the garden or looking out of the window and seeing the sunshine is so important.

I am trying not to be overly optimistic or pessimistic. Both states of mind take us away from the here and now and projects us into a future that is very uncertain. If we spend too much time there we are less likely to be able to influence it. If however we spend time in the present we are able to make a difference now which will influence our future. Staying healthy and spending more time at home than anywhere else is making a difference for the here and now and for all our futures. If you get the urge to go and buy something from the shops, whether that is a bottle of wine or some treats, ask yourself is it worth putting your own or someone else’s future at risk. A cheeky trip to the shop on a daily basis is not cheeky at all, it is selfish and irresponsible. Try to go shopping at least once a week, and only make supplementary trips in an emergency. Staying at home for many of us is quite possibly the most important activity you will do in your life.

Make a difference, stay home, stay safe. See you all tomorrow

18/04/2020 I have done absolutely nothing today.

I woke up this morning at my usual weekend time of 7 am, and I felt quite well. I had no headache, no pain in my chest, no cough, and no breathlessness. Now I have been here before so I did not want to count my chickens. But it was quite a welcome relief, I was getting quite fed up. Thursday night I said I felt really unwell, and at one point I had a complete meltdown, I was so fed up. Yesterday was better, but I was still really tired, and had moments when I was breathless and felt rubbish. So I will take today. I am just beginning to feel tired, and my chest is a little tight, but nothing like previous days.

So I am determined that I am going to continue to feel like this, therefore apart from taking the dog out I have done nothing but sit on the sofa and watch TV. This afternoon I have watched highlights of the 1990 FA cup semi-finals on BBC1 and then an episode of Spooks on the iPlayer. Then I spent about 30 minutes shouting at the TV during the government’s daily update. Then I have just watched the news and shed a tear hearing about those we have lost and watching the story of Alice a Nurse working in ICU, she is a credit to all of us, and I salute her and all of my nursing colleagues who continue to give incredible care in really difficult conditions.

I was going to cook tea but I cannot be bothered so we are having a takeaway. I am hoping that is it now, but I have been here before, so I am being cautious. Tomorrow I might cut the grass, but I want to be firing on all cylinders at work next week. I felt that there were moments last week when I was not fully present, and I have so much to do next week, that needs me to be on form. So I am going to take it easy tomorrow and be on my game Monday morning.

I have not got a huge amount to say today. I have noticed my irritation levels with politicians and journalists is rising so I must be feeling better. I have to keep reminding myself to be generous but I am not noticing a huge amount of accountability at the moment from our leaders, and a distinct lack of challenge from our mainstream media. Anyway I have a rule not to discuss politics on my blog so I will leave it there.

Stay safe and I will update you tomorrow

17/04/2020 Just in case you were wondering it’s Friday

I missed yesterday, I was too tired and too fed up.

Today is a better day. I have been at work on both days, and both days were spent in the staff drop-ins. Yesterday I felt quite ill. There were times yesterday when I felt really ill and other moments when I felt quite positive. I think in hindsight I pushed myself too hard. I forced myself to be more positive and outgoing than I really felt. When I got home I ran out of energy. My mood was really low and physically I was done in. When I went to bed I was worried that I was getting worse again, and I did wonder if I would end up in hospital. My heart rate was up, I was breathing fast, and I was covered in sweet. My mind was racing and had to count my breathes (my go to mindfulness technique) my breathing started to slow and I managed to get to sleep for a few hours. I woke up after about 4 hours with a headache and a painful chest. My sleep was fitful after that and I still felt terrible.

My alarm went off at 6am and I lay there for a few minutes summing up my courage and energy to get out of bed. I mentally stole myself, pulled myself together and went into autopilot to get ready. I concentrated on the tasks at hand rather than worrying about what I was going to feel like today and what I felt like last night. I got dressed and breathlessly ate my breakfast. I took my time going to the bus stop, and I eased myself into the day, methodically collecting what I needed for our drop-in. Each time I felt ill I took a moment noticed what I was feeling and gave myself a bit of time to recover. I tried to spend as much of the day as possible in the moment and responding to my physical response.

I still feel ill, I still have a painful chest, but I do not feel exhausted as I did yesterday. Yesterday I was not paying attention to myself, today I did.

This virus is teaching me how to be more mindful and how to care for myself. I am great at helping other people learn to care for themselves, I don’t think I was ever that good at doing it for myself. This week I am learning how to show myself some care purely by necessity. My lesson of the day was to be more mindful and really pay attention to what is happening within me and give myself some space and time to recover. I think the most important thing I am learning though is to stop comparing my experience with others and not to expect more from myself than is possible. As Brene Brown would say; “You are enough Matthew.”

Just a short one again today, stay safe and I will catch you all tomorrow.

15/04/2020 I feel like the new boy

I have been into work today, my second attempt at returning to work. I was really nervous last night as I was last week.

I feel like the new boy. So much as changed in the 3 weeks I have been off. It has been 4 weeks since I did my proper job. Just before I went off sick I was manning the staff advice line in HR. Then I was off for 2 weeks and returned to work last as part of staff support. I then went back off sick and have now returned to staff support, among other things manning the staff support drop-ins and preparing a variety of other support initiatives. This is all brand new to me and it feels as if everyone else has got the hang of it whilst I have been away. They all seem to understand the rules for zoom and social distancing and it just feels really strange.

The bus journey in was strange and felt awkward with everyone nervously negotiating their way off the bus. As there is hardly any traffic the bus stops at a lot more stops to get the timings right. Everywhere was so quiet until we got to the hospital and at 7:45 it was a hive of activity with loads of people coming to work and tired night shift workers leaving work. It was hard work negotiating my way around everyone milling around without encroaching into their 2 metre exclusion zones. Eventually I got to the block where my office is and after a typical polite English exchange of “after you”, “no after you”, I reached the sanctuary of my office. I was breathless, flustered and a little emotional. I labelled my lunch and milk and put it in our communal fridge.

When I got back to my office I was greeted by one of my old nursing colleagues who is a specialist nurse and has an office on the same corridor as me. I have known her for over 20 years and had to resist the urge to give her a hug, something that pre-virus was my default greeting for old colleagues. She asked how I was and was genuinely concerned and we discussed our parents and how difficult it is for them at the moment, and how sad the whole situation is. I then got down to my new way of working, which in some ways was very similar like checking in with people that had been on our leadership programmes giving them useful information and checking that they are OK. Sometimes a genuine inquiry of concern even by email can be much appreciated when you are working hard. I then got onto to preparing support that we will offer in addition to drop-ins for staff. I checked in with my colleagues that were in today which was lovely, and we planned out work for the rest of the day.

Just before lunch it hit my like a brick wall. The chest pain and breathlessness was back followed by the headache and the cough. It was a reminder to slow my pace down and take it easy. I still had stuff to do. I slowed down got that done and then came home, to ensure I have enough energy to face tomorrow.

So I am now sat on the sofa, taking my time writing this. I needed to write this, it helps me sort out my thoughts and make sense of my emotions. I used to just write my blog once a week, but there is so much going on right now I need to put something down every day. Every time I start writing I always stare at the screen wondering what I am going to write about, and wonder if I will have enough to write about. Everyday so far for 3 weeks I have managed to write something. It is now one of, if not the most important thing I do to care for myself.

Why do I share my thoughts with everybody? It helps me to share what I write, it motivates me to write, and some people like what I write and it helps them. The thought that what I write helps people, helps me. When I first started writing a blog 3 years ago, about 2 people would read it and one of them was my wife the other was my mum. I am a bit braver now and share it a bit wider. I still don’t get huge numbers of readers but it is in the hundreds everyday. If a few people take something from it then I happy. More importantly though is that I get a huge amount from writing a blog especially when I feel as rubbish as I do at the moment. So if you are reading this thank you.

If you feel like there it too much going on and life is just too overwhelming try keeping a journal. Writing it down may help you make sense of what is going on in your head. You don’t have to share it, just writing it will sometimes be enough. Give it a go, and let me know how it goes. If you are feeling brave start a blog. Everyone on word press are lovely and really supportive of fellow bloggers.

Stay safe, and maybe see you tomorrow.

14/04/2020 Back at work

I went back to work today, albeit baby steps and working from home. Although I have had plenty to do work on much of the staff support we are offering at the hospital.

It was a little daunting at first as I had a faltering start last week. Obviously it was fine, and it was great to speak to my colleagues via zoom and start to be useful again. I am going in for the rest of the week and will be manning the staff drop ins on Thursday and Friday, then I will feel truly useful making a difference and supporting the amazing staff in our hospitals, who are all working so hard to keep us all safe, both clinical and non-clinical.

I have worked in the NHS all my adult life and I am so happy to be getting back to my other family after being away from them for 3 weeks.

I was thinking this morning about what I had written about yesterday, about being kind towards all of the people around us. Many of us are spending more time with our families than we are used to. We can often be less kind to our families than we should. We can be uncivil with those we love, as they will forgive us more than those that no us less. I can often be short with Lisa and my boys. It is so important that we pause and remember they are like us and are experiencing the same emotions as we are and need patience and support as much as we do. So when you feel that irritation or red mist forming take a breath, and tell yourself they are trying their best, just like you are, and it is just as new for them as it is for you. You love them and they love you so let them know even when they are getting on your nerves.

Like everything I suggest it takes practice. Sometimes you will react, but just notice when you do, apologise when you do react, and make amends.

I have written this on my phone and I am quite tired after a day at work so I hope it makes sense.

Stay safe

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