Summer is over – hurray!

By Dr Christine O’Malley - 13th Sep 2022 | 106 views

summer

In a hectic post-Covid world, there is a lot to be said for the value of slowing down.

Usually I hate the whole ‘back to school’ phenomenon. I like summer to linger as far into autumn as possible. Not just the weather and the long days, but also the freedom from schedules. This year is different. I’m happy to feel autumn in the air, see the leaves change colour; I’m yearning for boring days then evenings by the fire. This summer has simply been too demanding. Post-Covid, there’s been such a lot going on – all those catch-up events! We missed them so much over the last two years, but then they all came together. It’s been frantic and I’m not used to it. 

Meanwhile, it was not the summer we were expecting on Lough Derg, as travel opened up. Whether in June when it was cold, or August in the heatwave, Dromineer harbour was remarkably empty. All those boats bought during lockdown summers were left idle, as all of Ireland headed to the airport. It was a surprise after two busy Covid summers on the lake. 

Suddenly I had four different events and three flights abroad over a few weeks. Trying to remember what to wear for a black-tie dinner – dress, shoes, handbag, and (OMG) make-up. Trying to remember how to pack a bag for a family get-together in Scotland, for Annie’s postponed graduation in Cardiff. What to do with the car, the dog, the cat? How to lock up the house? Being in a crowd of people and making conversation was so exhausting – it’s given me some insight into how introverts feel about social events. After two years mostly alone, it’s all such an effort. 

Of course, every airport trip came with extra frissons of uncertainty. Yes, I will be travelling – if I don’t get Covid; if my flight isn’t cancelled; if I get through security in time. What about luggage – can I sneak my too large bag past the Ryanair staff and onto the plane? A neighbour is still waiting for her checked-in suitcase to arrive after three months; it’s in a warehouse somewhere. 

After the grim certainties of lockdown times, freedom has been quite difficult. And everything seemed to be supercharged emotionally. When things go wrong, it all comes at a higher price. 

Several events were disrupted by Covid. My sister-in-law missed a graduation, my sister missed a birthday dinner. I went sailing on a lovely old boat near the Isle of Skye. Of eight people, one tested positive and had to cancel, two were recovering, but still fatigued, two more developed Covid symptoms during the trip so it came to an abrupt end. They had all escaped up to this. 

It’s great to have a social life again, but I’m so out of practice and it all became too much for me. I couldn’t relax by day, was lying awake at night with palpitations, wondering if I needed to see a cardiologist, afraid I might need to go to hospital. I was generally stressing about stuff and seriously considering withdrawing from activities that I usually find fulfilling. To cap it all, I worried about Dobby, my 10-year-old dog. He seemed well and happy, but there were clumps of blonde fur on my kitchen floor. 

Around this time, a friend said I wasn’t the only one who was bothered and the problem was that “Jupiter is in retrograde”. It seemed to make more sense than any other explanation. 

Eventually, it dawned on me that I wasn’t breathing properly, I was holding my breath. I self-diagnosed my problem as anxiety. Most reluctantly, I acknowledged that my symptoms were being fuelled by tea and coffee, a problem I’ve had before. I restarted yoga exercises, reminded myself to breathe in, breathe out. I sang songs while walking the dog. I went cold turkey from tea and coffee – that was hard. I spent a lot of time Googling caffeine withdrawal symptoms. But it worked, I calmed myself down. 

Nothing changed around me, but I was back to myself. I was able to breathe, able to think and no longer waking at night. I stopped worrying about Dobby too, when I spotted some sheep’s wool had been dumped in the field behind my house and was blowing in the open door. 

I know this winter is not going to be easy; we are not exempt from world affairs in Dromineer. My neighbours are hosting Ukrainian families. The “honesty box” at the farmgate up the road is gone. All those delicious organic eggs, vegetables, and jam, which sustained us through lockdown months have finished. War in Ukraine has made it too expensive to continue. 

But for now, bring on the quiet days of autumn! 

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The Medical Independent 6th October 2022

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