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Stepping out....(Covid-19 Response)

Bert and I started to do life together. Days became slightly easier with him by my side. I was able to explore going out and about again. The one aspect of my PTSD that I hate is that I am scared of the dark. For some reason, my head is scared and following the incident during the fireworks night, I had not been able to step out in the dark again. In time Bert and I managed to do this together. First of all by stepping out of the front door. Next steps walking out of the driveway and standing in the street. The next step walking to the end of the street and back again, and lastly by walking with a friend to the park in the dark albeit briefly. This has taken me so much time to be able to do, but Bert had managed to keep by my side to ensure I feel safe. My head screams at me 'danger danger'. No matter what situation there is, I feel unsafe. The Job that I missed so much created this fear in me.

However, I was determined for it to not continue my life held by this fear. Some days are still really hard. During Winter it was particularly tough when nights were getting darker earlier, so this reduced my walks with Bert significantly as I just couldn't face it.

Following my EMDR sessions, I was unable to take Bert with me as he couldn't sit still for an hour and a half whilst undergoing treatment, so afterwards I would literally hobble afterwards in the dark to the car! Bit difficult when you want to run but have one leg that no longer performs as much as you want it too!

This third session was different - a good session, which surprised me considering the last two sessions I had! I walked out feeling proud. I walked out feeling almost invincible again! But I was quickly bumped back down to earth when Covid-19 hit the UK. It scared the living daylights out of me! I will be honest, I wanted to run and hide.

People were dying and to me it felt apocalyptic and that I couldn't understand why everyone was in danger. BUT I realised that the community also needed support. AOK Community (Solent) became my proud moment turned beast as I realised that AOK needed to step up in a crisis. But How could I do this when I felt so emotionally tired. I was in amongst a battle I felt was up and down, and that although the community needed AOK, I needed to hide! To me it felt real, like the end of the world. Yes over dramatising again in my head, but that's the reality of PTSD. You cannot see sense in the face of danger. What might be considered fairly normal to someone, is certainly not this for someone who carries this illness day in day out.

That night I had thought about the session more and more. The more I thought about it, I felt like the girl in the boat, I wanted to be strong like her. It gave me a new sense of release. It gave me focus and purpose to enable me to step up during this crisis. I was a scared individual but felt empowered by the picture. So I started planning.....contingency planning in case of a problem in the community. Using my PTSD and over catastrophizing to it's best advantage. Knowing that people would be possibly going hungry. Seeking out a new found confidence in myself but surrounded by so much fear at the same time.

I wrote out a plan and sent it to councils to say my concerns and to advise what we had planned. From that moment, mutual aid for the area commenced. I tried to confidently say to the community that we had them, but I feared at the same time. People have this image of me as being a strong person, but half the time I am just winging it!

I sought volunteers to come and support the initiative whilst wanting the ground to swallow me up and to hide at home. People came in their droves to donate to the hub and to give their time to helping others. How I thought I would feed the community with a few bags of pasta I really don't know! But the food and the people came!

The existing food bank continued on, so we offered our support for deliveries, however it became apparent that what was needed in the community wasn't what they were offering. So we continued to feed the elderly and those with underlying conditions. Then the foodbank closed it's doors and panic ensued for me. Where on earth would people get their food from now??

Contact was made and we offered more support, however the decision was final. In a state of panic I called the head of council and requested support. That we needed space and food. People were calling in requesting help every minute of the day, late into the evenings. I was exhausted and I know my colleagues were getting that way too. The minute we woke up, the phone would be off the hook. Two weeks of this and enough was enough. We had to take the foodbank food. This was then organized and taken to a hangar.

The community then really stepped up, my anxiety heightening. Keeping it together to be that girl in the boat. Convincing myself that the right people would come. I was scared. I will be very honest and felt that this was on my head if this went wrong. BUT it didn't. There were times I was so tired throughout from having nightmares overnight, but I persevered to stay as strong as I could. At times I felt ill. That is not being a martyr but when you accept all responsibility at the top of a charity and leading a mutual aid response, it is ALOT of pressure.

As time went on this year, it settled into a routine. So many people to thank with huge gratitude for the understanding of my illness, their patience with me as difficult decisions had to be made. I fell in the water a few times during the year but those people in the back leant in and dragged me back out of the water to stand there again. Forever thankful that this turned out ok. From the outside looking in I was the girl in the boat. Strong, resilient Kerry, but inside I was very scared! Scared of failing, scared of making the wrong decision, but you know what it didn't matter because surrounding that girl in the boat is alot of people that stepped up when it mattered. That is community!

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