I’ve always tried to air on the chipper side of doom when it comes to getting through coronavirus times. Recently, though, I’ve felt my resilience levels well and truly waterboarded. It turns out that COVID-19 is a right prick for taking what might have been an ordinarily stressful situation, whacking the temperature up to inferno, and causing it to boil and splatter all over your lovely clean hob.

My mental limits were already pinched back in November, with the presence of builders in our home whom I can only describe as pure arseholes. I won’t bore you with the details, but their “easy two-day job, love” soon became a month of turning our house into a building site. The workmen spent that time tinkering with the job at random intervals, much like a wayward husband might begrudgingly complete a home improvement project that he wished he’d never started. Our home became the builders’ stomping ground, which isn’t ideal during the best of circumstances let alone with an effing killer virus zipping around. I began living day-to-day crowbarred into our living room, which resembled a hoarder’s grotto and involved changing the nappies of a bewildered five-month-old under our prematurely erected Christmas tree. That smug, flashy, gloating-with-unwavering-happiness Christmas tree.

I was already teetering on the edge of what my fatigued mind could take when, two-thirds of the way through builder-gate, our garage was burgled – not once but twice in the space of a fortnight. In ordinary times, I’ve got a pretty good grip on my coping mechanisms and a bit of distance from a situation is usually the perfect antidote to put things into perspective. But, alas, COVID-19 has thwarted our usual defence strategies.

The first of our break-ins was just another stress on top of everything else. However, when the perpetrators returned to make off with what they hadn’t managed to pilfer the first time, my already delicate mental health disintegrated. I spent the festive period with a knot of anxiety right in the depths of my innards which seemed to tighten as the unrelenting winter darkness set in.

Image by Hayley-Jane SimsThe mere crack of a twig was enough to cause me to sit bolt upright, and I had no plan other than to keep listening harder. I tortured myself over the origin of the noise, even though it was probably just my imagination. Up until this point, our lovely little home had been the safest of havens in the middle of this mad time, particularly for our new family unit. Suddenly, not so much. Stress wrapped in a suffocating bow of COVID-19 restrictions can cause you to feel incredibly trapped, especially when you’re newly in charge of a tiny human relying on you to keep them safe.

It’s clear that there’s no escaping the ‘rona. Even through the process of avoiding it, no matter how well you play by the rules, it’ll find a way to flip your board at some point. In the depths of a punishing January, it felt like everyone was fighting to keep things upright. But in a strange way, having felt so low, it’s reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one finding the storm a right bitch to ride. And, of course, bloody hell, others have got it far worse.

Having made it out of the other side of December with no further derailments (and the delightful closure of shoving those damn Christmas decorations back into the depths of the loft), the cloud has started to lift. As the days stretch out and the light creeps in, a little bit of hope has started to creep back into my consciousness. My NHS worker wife received her vaccination, as did my NHS worker brother. Hopefully, others won’t be too far behind and, if there’s ever something to give you hope, the other day I saw some daffodils muscling their way up through the wintered grass.

Spring is coming.

By Hayley-Jane Sims