Because I’m fine. Charlie Croker style Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional, f-i-n-e, fine. And I don’t think I’m alone.
2020, you’ve been a blinder. Reopening old wounds, postponing weddings, cancelling reunions, and just placing a big old pause on life as we know it. The last week in particular, for whatever reason, was a real blip. Anxiety-fuelled tearfulness, depressive lethargy, crying-over-saying-goodbye-to-my-old-car kind of energy. The straw that broke the little fiesta’s back. So if you, like me, are sitting there a little worse for wear, feeling a tad confused and purposeless, and a just tiny bit panicked about the future, then congrats – here you are living, breathing, feeling despite it all, and I’ll bet you anything we’re in the vast majority.
When in need of desperate comfort, I turn to time-tested therapies; so obviously I spent the run up to lockdown 2.0 re-reading the Harry Potter series. The security in the familiarity got me thinking about old joys (as well as dementors and patronuses) and the simple pleasures that bring a bit of light into these shorter, darker days – seven days a week. So with seven weeks left this year, I’m taking #inspo from Voldemort and his seven horcruxes (but in a far from soul-destroying fashion) to share seven sources of joy that this weekend has brought me:
The classics: Re-watching The Italian Job; heists, car chases and co-ordinated Coopers. Escapism at it’s reality-levelled best
The spectrum sings: Getting lost in an hour of quiet colouring to calm a chattering mind – and Millie Marotta creates the most stunning illustrations
The slice of chocolate cake: Simple pleasure at it’s finest. For the stomach and the soul
The well-worn mat: Turning to yoga is turning to my mat – like a trusty friend, always there. Ready to support the flows and the feels
The modern mystery: Richard Osman is fast becoming a favourite, and his new book, The Thursday Murder Club, is the perfect read even from only a handful of chapters in
The green machine: Our Christmas cactus is popping pink buds, little jewels ready to shine through the winter. When did indoor plants become such a necessity?
The family: My mum and my brother. The greatest sources of hope and support in my life
Gratitude is a force we can all apply; giving thanks is not only an action that broadens our horizons, recharges our mental resilience and lightens our own burdens, but it’s free, freely accessible and freeing. With that in mind, I’m aiming to end this year by restarting my everyday gratefulness exercise to try and keep the dementors at bay, so that when I say I’m fine, I really am. I say thank you, what’s your superpower?
A different – longer, more cathartic, questionably less yogic – kind of story
Emotions are running high and tempers are short. Coronavirus is still in our lives as a somewhat heavier and more mundane presence than during the first lockdown. We’re all sick and tired of restrictions and barriers and being told what we can do and where we can go and when and why. There is so much we can’t control, all for an undeniably valid reason – to control the spread and limit the number of people affected – but there’s still something we can control; how we go about our daily actions, interactions and reactions.
Now it’s safe to say A&E had suited me up with thicker armour to shield from (the largely few and far between) episodes of aggressive impatience one might encounter in any people-facing role. But it turns out this armour, like a muscle, must be exercised regularly in order to be maintained. The day job: strengthening by rehearsal through repeated encounters. Mindfulness: reinforcing with deep measured breath work and grounding. It turns out, being away from A&E for a few months, is enough to allow that shield to rust and weaken.
To the lady in the supermarket, insurmountably angry about queuing to pay, I was the path down which she directed her anger. To that lady, who singled me out from a line of customers (having no issue with the other people ahead and behind me, go figure) to shout at, berate in front of the store, openly declare it was nothing to do with race (an interesting statement), throw dirty looks at across the checkouts, snidely name-call whilst passing by, shout further personal remarks as I left the store; I am truly sorry you’re in such a bad place. I’m sorry for what ever may have happened to you in your day, or even your life, to make you so verbally aggressive toward a complete stranger. I’m sorry you felt it reasonable to channel your personal anger at me, completely unwarranted. I’m sorry you were argumentative and unable to speak to me calmly, with respect, just one human to another, when I attempted to talk. You can’t reason with someone who won’t listen.
I’m more sorry I couldn’t say any of this to you at the time as I had dissolved into tears before forming a logical response. All de-escalation methods left my mind, as never in my life, in a wholly unprovoked situation, have I been made to feel so small and defenceless. I’m frustrated that I could not stick up for myself against your torrent of rage, and embarrassed that I was dumbstruck with the pure shock of being so publicly and unexpectedly attacked.All I could do was leave.
Recently, what with the daily uncertainty we all face, my nerves are shot and my anxiety has found a new lease of life. Not working (whilst having clear benefits) has placed a different sort of mental strain and these days’ once seemingly simple chores, like doing the weekly shop, can be stress-inducing. I’m glad I’ve come away from this extremely unpleasant encounter knowing it’s a reflection of that lady’s personal situation and circumstance – it was never about me, not really. Even then, it’s taken the best part of an evening, a few uncharacteristic bouts of tears and a panic attack to get to this point. It’s certainly knocked my confidence and made me feel a bit more inclined to do an online shop… But I’d hate to think what her actions would have done to someone in a more mentally fragile state. It really is true that you can never know what someone else is going through.
So there’s a story, take from it what you will. Maybe you, like me, need to devote more time to polishing your protective suit of armour (see the latter half of Sam Levenson’s words below). Maybe you need to check your temper and decide if the situation really warrants your reaction. Maybe you’ll have a think about what you could/would/should do as a bystander to such situations. But really, as we’re in this together for the long haul, we all just need to remember to take a moment, take a breath, and be kind.
“For attractive lips, speak words of kindness
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”
In a time of coronavirus, too many people are facing an unexpectedly lonely and sudden Fathers’ Day without their parents. Newly bereaved and navigating the previously undisturbed waters of grief. So here’s my two cents:
I wish you would know that your loss is unique. No one has ever had a relationship with their father quite like yours, and no one will fully understand the true depths of your sorrow. This is an inexplicable gift. It will make your memories all the more bittersweet and creates an eternal bond that, time and time again, will allow you to be reminded of him day to day in the most simple of ways
I wish you would know that grief is elusive. Some days it screams in your face, some days you carry it quietly in your pocket – and on others it makes you feel like you are going completely crazy. Like, out of your mind, crying in the supermarket, did-i-just-hear-his-voice-on-the-phone crazy. It is draining. Your reactions are honest reflections of your emotions. Allow yourself this space and be forgiving
I wish you would know that life can seem really unfair. Actually, a lot of the time it is unfair. Like a Lemony Snicket saga. I won’t patronise you and say that everything happens for a reason, because it’s an impossible task to even entertain the thought of a reason good enough. Acknowledge that you feel this way – your feelings are so valid
I wish you would know that guilt is natural, but self-compassion is integral
I wish you would know that your friends will show up. Not all of them – some you probably won’t see ever again – but the ones that matter will be by your side. They’ll silently sit next to you while you sob; ensure you’re fed and watered when you’ve consumed only tea and biscuits for the past week; and allow your loved ones to live in their glowing stories, eyes shining bright. Keep them close and hold them tight
I wish you would know that your sleep cycle is about to get real messed up. Flitting from insomnia to lie-ins to restless nights, it’s probably not going to help how you process this new way of life. Give it time as sleep disruption can be normal during the grieving process, but don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel it’s affecting your daily life and mood. Prioritise your rest and recuperation, and find what works for you
I wish you would know that the sun still rises. Even though you can’t comprehend how the world could possibly keep spinning through your loss, your life will go on. And you will achieve so much. So much. For every morbid thought I’ve had in the past, I never believed I would have the emotional capacity to cope with the loss of a parent. Surely, I would simply implode. But here I am, living breathing proof. Not because I am special, no, but because I am human. Two steps forward, one step back and we’ll get there; day by day by day
“what is stronger
than the human heart
which shatters over and over
and still lives”
– rupi kaur
I wish you would know that milestones never really become easier. But you’ll find your own way to commemorate your loved one and to hold space for yourself on those days. Maybe it’s writing a letter you won’t send, maybe it’s a quiet moment of reflection, maybe it’s surrounding yourself with family and friends, with joy and laughter. Maybe it’s starting the silliest, quirkiest tradition that no one else would ever understand. For me, Fathers’ Day means jam doughnuts for breakfast. Heated under the grill until the sugar starts to burn and the jam is dangerously hot. Nostalgia tastes good
I wish you would know that you deserve happiness. Despite the at times overbearing sadness and despair, you are emphatically worthy of respite and contentment. Guilt-free, blissful, sun-shining happiness. Allow yourself to soak up the beams and feel the warmth
I haven’t posted direct content about #BlackLivesMatter on social media just yet as… I didn’t know exactly what to say. Reposting an image shows solidarity but it somehow seems disingenuous if that’s all I’m doing. So I’ve taken the past couple of weeks to make a start at reviewing my own preconceived beliefs and, as the phrase goes, check my privilege. Stopping to listen and learn before adding my voice to the mix.
If, like me, you don’t know where to begin, I’d highly recommend picking up “Why I’m No Longer Taking to White People About Race”. I first heard about this through @OurSharedShelf two years ago and I am ashamed for not reading it sooner. If you were to judge a book by its cover you could assume it is controversial and provocative – but far from it, it talks about the honest truth. From the first chapter alone I have learnt more about Black history in the UK than was ever touched upon in my 13 years of full time education. It’s overwhelming to realise just how much has been hidden away and labelled as forgotten. The narrative delves into the foundations of how we have ended up with the world in which we live – how the system has developed to allow for white privilege and that this seeps into all aspects of our social systems. It is an insidious issue with significant effects of unequal opportunity and life outcomes, and we’ve simply become too used to it.
As an ardent feminist, this book has made me realise this movement is not in any way more immune to the effect of unfair race relations. It’s made me question what it means to be a feminist. Five days ago I would have passionately stated that feminism demanded equality, but now I realise that is the easy way out. That’s okay; we learn, we reflect, and we move forwards. The following excerpt evokes a hugely emotive response and describes the basis of my new understanding far more eloquently than I could:
“It’s clear that equality doesn’t quite cut it. Asking for a sliver of disproportional power is too polite a request. I don’t want to be included. Instead, I want to question who created the standard in the first place. After a lifetime of embodying difference, I have no desire to be equal. I want to deconstruct the structural power of a system that marked me out as different. I don’t wish to be assimilated into the status quo. I want to be liberated from all negative assumptions that my characteristics bring. The onus is not on me to change. Instead, it’s the world around me.
Equality is fine as a transitional demand, but it’s dishonest not to recognise it for what it is – the easy route. There is a difference between saying ‘we want to be included’ and saying ‘we want to reconstruct your exclusive system’. The former is more readily accepted into the mainstream.”
The Feminism Question, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
As a British South Asian woman I could easily fall into the trap of believing I’m pretty woke to the issue of systemic racism – and that’s true to a certain extent but overwhelmingly naïve in others. When it comes to advocating for Black Lives, we as a South Asian community have a lot to think about. We shy away from discussion but racist views are present within our culture and conversations. On family trips to Sri Lanka when I was little, probably no older than 10 years old, I’d ask to buy “Fair & Lovely” cream, so I could whiten my skin. I’d often been told how cute I looked was I was younger, verbatim “like a little white child”, and I wanted to transform my skin back to what I thought it “should” look like. It wasn’t thought of as much of an issue at the time; it was a widely bought product, all the girls were using it, everyone knew to stay out of the sun. Except for my dad who questioned me – “but why?”. Why did I want to change the colour of my skin? And that was the first time I realised I wasn’t above the peer pressure to conform. Pressure, in part from society’s portrayal of acceptable beauty standards, but more significantly from my own community’s prejudices. Why were we scared of having dark skin? What made it wrong? Undesirable? But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We need to change this.
And then there’s the guilt. Which isn’t unexpected, but isn’t exactly helpful. As Reni Eddo-Lodge asserts, “wallowing in despair would not get us anywhere”. The past weeks have reopened the conversation of race. It’s not new; it’s an occurrence that happens every so often when the persecution of POC is brought to the forefront of our minds through another callous act, but it’s another chance for us to talk. There’s no definitive end point to racism, at least not in our lifetimes, but it’s more than that – we desperately need to talk, to learn from the past and understand how we got to this point in order to change our actions moving forwards. In the last week I’ve had open and honest discussions with friends and colleagues, which has been refreshing and insightful – and scary. How is advocating for the persecuted a fear-inducing and seemingly rebellious notion? When you spend your life worrying about the implications of these conversations, worrying how your viewpoint will be received, it can be easier to stay silent. But this isn’t about easy. If you feel as passionately about challenging racist constructs, if your heart could burst from your chest with emotion, then you’re part of the movement. I implore you; have those conversations, educate yourself, speak your truth, and listen. If it’s uncomfortable, it’s probably worthwhile.
But in all seriousness, I want to talk about social distancing. The world is a peculiar place at the moment, where toilet roll can be bartered for hand san, fist bumps are the new hello, and just about everyone’s an expert… on everything. With that in mind, I feel it’s my place and duty as a doctor to promote public health advice within the scope I’m qualified (#tb to that ClinEp BSc – knew it would come in handy some day!). So here we go. Amongst the overwhelming amount of good-natured acts of kindness there has been a low grumble of complaining and at worst straight up defiance of social distancing.
“So what is social distancing?” Wikipedia tells us it is “non-pharmecuetical infection control actions intended to stop or slow the spread of contagious disease”. In plain English, it’s something we, as humans, can do through our choices and actions to protect one another. There are many levels to social distancing from enforced quarantine, closure of schools and workplaces, banning large scale public gatherings, self-isolation in the presence of symptoms and, most significantly, preventing the spread of disease through healthy vectors – meaning the young and healthy in our communities who could probably carry the virus whilst exhibiting mild to almost no symptoms.
“So why can’t the older/immuno-compromised/more vulnerable groups self-isolate while the rest of us carry on as normal?” Ok, so. There are many levels to this, some scientific, some purely human. The science is all about flattening the curve (see next paragraph). The more humbling view; since when did we as a human population not care about the vulnerable in our community? Social distancing is a small (and I mean incredibly small) sacrifice to look after the more vulnerable; in each of our circles we all know someone who is more susceptible to contracting the virus, and the health implications for them are far more significant than those for the fit and healthy. It’s the “right” thing to do.
I’ll try to be concise and do the same; the “curve” shows the number of cases that are diagnosed over time. The really steep curve (the one that looks like a sombrero) is what could happen if we continue to go out and about our daily lives as “normal”. The high peak means a high number of diagnosed and unwell patients, including those with complications who will likely require hospitalisation, and a proportion of those will require an intensive care bed. This high number has the potential to overwhelm the healthcare system. So by using social distancing we have a chance to increase the amount of time over which these patients become unwell, ie. flatten the curve. This may not necessarily change the number of patients diagnosed, but by lowering the number unwell at any one time, more people will have a chance to be appropriately managed and the healthcare system has a better chance of withstanding these pressures.
Coronavirus cases with and without protective measures over time
“So what am I supposed to do with all this time at home?” If you’re feeling well in yourself and able to work from home/socially distance yourself, you’ve been given the gift of time! Read that book you’ve not got round to, roll out your yoga mat and get moving, binge watch the Netflix box set you’ve been eyeing up, bake a cake and learn a new recipe, do the DIY you’ve been putting off, catch up with your friends through the wonder of FaceTime… Or better still, if you’re well and able, help out those in your community who could really do with a helping hand at this time; offer to pick up their shopping, post their mail, or simply call them on the phone for a friendly chat.
Recent news sources have likened the impact of Covid-19 on the Italian healthcare system as that of war-like conditions – how crazy is that? This is a chance for us to unite as humans in the face of a common adverse force, and we can get through this by staying grounded and turning panic into preparedness. Plans have been cancelled and there will certainly be more disappointment to come (I’ll be the first to put my hand up to say I’m completely gutted to have saved up all my annual leave to have my holiday cancelled, but what can you do) and it’s only human to feel upset. But honestly, this is an exceptional circumstance and it won’t be forever. Look after yourselves, look after your community – and wash your hands!!!
***As always, follow reliable news sources/Public Health England & Wales/NHS/CDC for updates. For reputable information and myth-busting on social media, sources I personally trust include @drjoshuawolrich @drpunamkrishnan @thefoodmedic ***
Only a few months later than I had hoped, but I’ve finally got round to writing my first post!
The yoga bubble in sunny Andalusia has definitely been popped because I’m back to lectures in Wales – but I’ve returned from my Yoga Teacher Training with a TON of ideas for blog posts! Lots of research and writing to be done, but I thought I’d start off with a little bit about me, my yoga journey so far, and what I’ll be writing on these scripts. I’m a final year Medical student (and newly qualified yoga teacher!) and decided to create this blog as an extension of my Instagram. My captions were getting excessive and ideas growing rapidly, so it was time to get writing on a new platform…
I first started practicing yoga over 2 years ago during my intercalated degree at university. Having a bit of extra free time meant I could try a whole range of new activities, from cross-country to yoga! Long-distance running was not my calling, but I did fall head over heels in love with yoga. It started as a form of exercise that I could truly say I enjoyed, and one that calmed my competitive nature. Then came Instagram; having a wonderful community of friends and teachers on social media meant I had a warm welcome to the online community. It’s been a real source of inspiration and a creative outlet that I continue to use to develop my personal practice.
The really real yoga began when I got introduced to the “wellness” movement, and realised that what had initially been just a hobby could be something more. Both in and alongside medicine, yoga is gathering attention and has a growing evidence base as a practice that can reap a whole host of mental and physical health benefits – and there are other people who believe this too!
I have a vision of yoga playing a role in holistic wellbeing in a really practical, everyday way. I truly believe the strongest benefit is its potential to be accessible by huge numbers of people. It doesn’t need to be necessarily expensive or time consuming, high intensity or active, or even spiritual and zen! It can be exactly what you need it to be, with the potential to address the areas of your life that might need a little more attention; to bring back some balance. I hope to promote the image of yoga, really showing the diversity of styles and spectrum of health benefits. It’s not just about getting stretchy stretchy but making it your own and taking what you want from it; because when it comes to yoga, it really is for everybody and every body. I’m not entirely sure how to get there just yet, but I’ve begun with completing my 200h YTT in order to lay down the foundations!
Joining the conversation, sharing my thoughts and exploring the evidence base is a start and The Yoga Script is the place. So thank you –thankyou- for reading this far! I’ve every intention of using this to create something informative and thought-provoking that I hope you’ll enjoy… so watch this space!