Birthday rollercoaster

It’s Laura’s birthday the day we speak, the 7th May, and she’s planning a chilled day with the family. Not that she can really do much else, she tells me, being in the middle of the UK lockdown.

The way Laura pronounces the words ‘music’ and ‘avenue’ remind me of my Mum, and I have flashbacks of being a teenager. We reminisce about when we met at secondary school, horrified that it was 28 years ago, but generally happy that we’re in our thirties, past the angst-ridden teenage years and the learning-about-life twenties.

Laura’s worked from home during lockdown to start with, but recently has been going back to work one day a week in the Dermatology outpatients department of the local hospital. Limited as to what she can do at home, two people are needed in the office-on a rota-every day to answer the phones and keep the department running.

“I get anxiety of going into a hospital, even though outpatients is closed and we’re in a wing away from the main part of the hospital, but I like getting up and out the house. I feel more needed, and appreciated, when I’m in the office, working at home is a bit isolating; out of sight, out of mind.”

I ask her how she’s been doing in general.

“There’s been a couple of times where I’ve had a little breakdown, when Mahli [her son] had been playing up. Normally I can handle it, but this time I just ended up bursting into tears. You think you’re OK dealing with it, but it’s all that pent up emotion; all of a sudden it just hits you.”

“I’m fine during the day when working, but when you finish work, you can’t do anything. I’m still sat at home. I’ll eat tea and then I’m just going to sit here for another six hours. It got me really down, and I didn’t get dressed or anything last Friday,” she looks at me and shrugs, “no point.”

She continues the story, telling me she was dressed in a Thanos dressing gown (something out of the Avengers apparently, navy and purple) she’d bought her husband, when he told her a builder was coming round to have a look at their garden. “Well let me know when he’s coming round,” she told her husband, “because I look like a massive grape.” We both laugh.

“I burst out laughing, and then immediately burst into tears, and Marc [her husband] couldn’t tell whether I was laughing or crying. I told him, ‘I’m crying, I’m so bored, I don’t want people to see me like this’, and sloped off back to the bedroom and it kind of just hit me again. A couple of hours later I was alright.”

“Knowing that I can’t see someone makes me worse, it makes me more worked up. Speaking to them accentuates the fact that I can’t see them, which affects me. I tend to avoid situations where I know I’m probably going to be upset or something’s going to make me cry. So I’d rather avoid it and not bother. I only speak to Mum once a week, but when we do it’s for a long time. I’m quite happy in my own little bubble though, I didn’t do much anyway, so I don’t know why I’m so pissed off,” she laughs.

She’s missing going out and dancing, letting her hair down and not having to worry about anything. “I’m not really drinking at home, but if I do, I’m on the alcopops,” I laugh out loud and ask her why, “I don’t know. Every time I go to the Engine Shed,” she says, referring to a music venue in Lincoln, “they have alcopops, and I’ve not had a bad night there yet. So I thought if I have alcopops at home, then, you know,” she says with a shrug, “I’m going to have a good time. No hangover. I have two at home though and it goes straight to my head and I need a cup of tea,” she laughs.

She mentions homeschooling and I ask her how the kids are getting on.

“It’s more troublesome with Mahli, but Jacey just gets on with it. I actually really enjoy helping her with her homework,” she looks at me, “secondary school homework is awesome; you don’t realise it at the time, but it’s actually awesome, I’m really enjoying English,” she laughs, and I remember us pissing around in English lessons as teenagers, “she had to write a short 250 word story, it was really bloody good. We still haven’t had a response from the English teacher and I’m getting really mad. I might have to email as the parent and say, ‘can you tell me how I did’? I put a lot of work into that,” she laughs, “my last bit of homework went on the wall, I’m getting a collection.”

Laura completed a counselling home-study course recently, and signed up to another course about understanding mental health problems. She smiles, “quite ironic given the current situation,” and tells me how it’s all to help increase skills for possible future career options.

“It’s supposed to be completed in July, but I’m just feeling overwhelmed. I’m struggling to spend all day working and then all night studying; I’m absolutely sick to death of sitting at that desk in front of a computer, as well as feeling guilt that I’m not as involved with the kids when I’m at home as I should be. Then there’s guilt that I’m not doing as much in general as I should be. I signed Mahli [her son] up for a sign language course that we could do together; I’ve not even looked at it.”

We laugh about ‘lockdown learning’, and she tells me she’s not beating herself up.

It is what it is.

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