This time last year I was preparing to release my latest steampunk novel, The Department of Curiosities. I was in New Zealand, with my Dearheart, doing Lord of the Rings tours on the North Island, and finishing up at the Oamaru Steampunk Festival, down South. We had a ball. Met Smaug, stayed in a Victorian era house, and met lots of new steampunk friends, and finally met long-term friends face-to-face. We were even convinced to join in the event parade down the main street.
This year, we’d planned to repeat the process, this time in the UK. We had a long list of possible sight-seeing stops: Jack the Ripper tour, 221B Baker Street and other Arthur Conan Doyle highlights, maybe even a few Doctor Who or Harry Potter stop offs. (And lots of research stuff for future books.)
I’d already lamented that Big Ben would still be closed for tours, and we didn’t have time to get to Edinburgh to see Real Mary Kings Close, but we’d managed to eek enough time to visit a friend who is a Professor at Dunham University. The whirlwind tour would end in Lincoln for the famous Lincoln Asylum steampunk festival. (I’d even started making new outfits!)
And then everything changed.
Until now, I thought I wasn’t too unhealthy. Yes, I have anxiety and PTSD, but I take it one step at a time. Yes, I have allergies (some really inconvenient ones, like dust, bees – but not pollen – yay!) that result in chronic bronchitis.
With the Australian bushfires, my lung health has deteriorated over the past three months. I’ve just recently been diagnosed with sever sleep apnea and organised for a trial CPAP machine and referral to a sleep doctor. I’ve also been referred to a heart specialist, following my last major panic attack and due to the chronic low oxygen levels. (A precaution, I believe.) It’s scary, and annoying, but I could cope. The appointments were made.
Then Covid-19 happened.
You think it’s scary for the healthy 90-something percent? Just witness the panic buying, the brawls over freaking toilet paper (and now seedlings, seed packets, and even chooks!) Imagine how it is for those of us in whatever risk percentage we’ve been allotted. I’m over 50, with serious breathing issues and being investigated to rule out heart issues. I just hope I can get to my appointments before total lock down. Otherwise I could have months before I get a diagnosis, let alone help. It’s kicking off all the anxiety triggers. I’ve had two panic attacks in the past week. And I’m freaking scared.
Healthy, able-bodied people vacuum up items from the store shelves. It seems like anything and everything is scarce. Then you have the dicks who are trying to profiteer from their horde-buying. This leaves people in high risk groups, pensioners and disabled, getting more anxious.
In just the few days since I started this post, so much has changed. My Dearheart has started working from home (thank goodness he still has work). The state borders are closed, non-essential businesses have shut down, and I hold my breath each time I have to venture out for a specialist appointment (which is the only reason I leave the house at the moment).
Covid19 has insisted on hanging around, like that party guest who just won’t get the hint to leave. And the Black Dog keeps lying through his snarling teeth, laughing at me. But I will not let it win.
Never let the Black Dog win.
During these difficult times, I’m writing, creating videos, baking – anything to distract myself – and produce something to ease your anxiety as well. (There’s nothing like books and stories to take us on adventures and meet new friends… safely.)
I’d love to say ‘hug a friend’ at this point. We all need one right now. But that’s not advisable with the current social distancing – now called ‘spatial’ distancing. Instead, stand a minimum 1.5m apart (or Skype/Zoom whatever version) them, stare deep into their eyes , tell them you love them, and appreciate they are alive.
And stay safe everyone.