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  • Vanessa Cullen

COVID-19 and Coping With Change 1.0

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

Originally published on LinkedIn and Facebook March 18th 2020.


A few words for those struggling with race cancellations and the general COVID-19 situation...

About 9 weeks ago I was told I needed to stop running or risk permanent nerve damage, due to a new tear in a bulging spinal disc I've had since 2014. An MRI identified that the disc is totally dehydrated and pain management is the only option. Surgery is not possible and it isn't going to miraculously heal. I've not been able to register for any races, had to pull out of the only race I was registered in and put a few FKT/personal adventure plans indefinitely on hold. I've walked almost an average of 100km every week, with a bit of shuffling/jogging thrown in, whilst waiting for further medical advice and staring down the tunnel of wondering if I will ever run much or compete again. I'm too young for this shit... but here I am.


Since I've had a 9 week head start on those of you who are now finding yourselves race-less and goal-less, let me say this... you will now find out why you really run. You will find yourself considering whether you find meaning in competing, festival, community, self-flagellation, wellness, freedom, camaraderie, personal challenges, boasting, bling, the outdoors or just the air on your skin as you move. You will sort the wheat from the chafe of your motivation and values, especially if you are forced to run alone. You will find out who your real friends are (clue - they're the ones who still make time for you when you can't all run or coffee together). You'll come to hold people and simple things precious if you don't hide, but rather open yourself to embracing this challenge in front of you. It will force you to become creative - to make your own fun. It will hurt, but this is a time for exploration (internal and maybe even external) and for personal growth, if you allow it to be.


I've also had a head cold (a couple of weeks ago), and been forced to practice social distancing, as having an immune system compromised by Polycystic Kidney Disease puts me more at risk of serious consequences from contracting COVID-19. As a business owner, committee member and employer I've had to keep up to date with the latest fact-based health and risk advice, have had to have lots of difficult conversations, counter misinformation, counsel others against panic, cancel events, create and enact policy and even update my own 'business continuity plan' (ie. setting out what needs to happen if I am personally taken seriously ill or die - I considered taking up hard drinking as I sat down to face that one).


On Saturday, a COVID-19 related facebook post, in a group I'm part of, ripped me apart with its gross level of misinformation and discrimination, and its inflammatory and panic inducing nature. I already live daily with acutely feeling the fragility and impermanence of life; in all its horror, beauty and wonder. I already know what it's like to lose loved ones to sudden tragedy. I didn't need that post on top of everything else. It is less this virus I'm afraid of and more posts like that - people's reactions - people are what terrify me sometimes. That post was one too many knives. My skinlessness was too raw and my reason could no longer hold back the tide of my emotions. I shattered. I cried a lot. And then I deleted FB off my phone and resolved to only get on here, on my desktop, to write, in the hopes of maybe saying something that might help someone else if they find themselves in a similar situation. It's ok to not always see reason and to not always feel strong.


COVID-19 is hard but this isn't the first super bug to roam the earth and it won't be the last. The people who are panic buying don't need TP - they're anxious, stressed, scared and already traumatised. A 12 pack of toilet rolls has become the surrogate teddy bear for adults who really need a hug (if only that were allowed). Adults fighting the deep impulse to curl up into a fetal position and rock back and forth with the TP in their tight embrace. We're losing our shit because no one has armed our affluent country with the emotional and psychological resources to deal with infectious disease outbreaks. Over generations of relative safety we've forgotten what these times are like. And the bush fires already made us raw.


But panic buying is bad. Try not to do it. Call, message or skype a friend or family member instead. Form a circle of people who all contact each other for support. Get together for online yoga or a coffee over video conferencing. Start a virtual book club. Drop a meal or pot plant off outside the front door of someone in quarantine. Try to be f@%$ing nice to other people if you do go to the shops. Go for a ride, walk or run with a friend, keeping at least 1.5metres apart and yell your conversation at each other. Hug your dog, cat, chicken or pat your turtle (and then sterilise them ;-P). Talk to your kids. Ask everyone (even your own therapist) if they are really ok? Find a nice spot and inhale deeply the sunset or dawn, even if you are alone.

Whether we like it or not we're about to find a new normal. Every element of our day to day structures are being challenged, but this is how history works. We humans are animals. We're not invincible. And in many ways we've lost our way. This situation might force us to pause and maybe even to become a little more mindful; a little more questioning of why and how we do even the smallest of things and tiniest of habits. No one wants anguish to bring about change, but here we find ourselves, and the best it seems we can do is to be there for one another, to keep our heads, be sensible, be fluid and agile and creative in our approach to change.


Reach out to me if you need a chat.


You'll find me roaming alone, working at home, using my elbow to press the buttons at road crossings and wiping down pump packs of hand sanitiser with hand sanitiser :-p


I hope that helped.


Vanessa.


#covid19 #coronavirus #copingwithchange

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