As the song goes, "neeeiighhbours, everybody needs good neeeigghhbours!" and that's definitely true for me.
For those who don't know, I live in Edinburgh and this week we've been hit by The Beast from the East!! No, this isn't Nessie's lesser-known cousin, it's a particularly bad weather front which has brought very heavy snow across various regions in the UK.
The Beast officially arrived on Wednesday and I was fortunate to be working from home that morning with the afternoon booked off as a rest 1/2 day (trying it out after having full rest days on Wednesdays since last summer to help with my ME). This meant I didn't have to face the nightmare journey home that so many people had, including my brother (5 hours) and colleague (6 hours!) so all was well in Barnetland.
As I was due to be at home on the Wednesday I had booked my usual food delivery from Tesco the week before. I can't manage round the shops myself yet although I have made some progress managing a shop with my mum and the aide of a mobility scooter but busy, noisy environments and tasks requiring lots of physical exertion are still very bad for me so it's not become a regular thing (yet!).
Unsurprisingly Tesco didn't make it on Wednesday and despite the amount of complaints they had online (honestly, their community managers have the patience of a saint!) I completely understood and was quite relieved as I'd have felt bad if someone was out in that weather to bring me things I could do without that day.
That was Wednesday, this is Friday and I've not left the house since Tuesday. Well technically I have been in the back garden to put rubbish out, measure my snow (normal thing to do, honestly) and make one snow angel (I was determined to have a minute of enjoyment in what was a beautiful/ridiculous amount of snow in my garden). I had rearranged my Tesco shop for Saturday and my neighbour M had picked up a couple of pints of milk for me on the Wednesday night (what a star!) so I was fine. I had milk for my porridge, a full bottle of baileys in the cupboard and a freezer full of burgers, pies and veggie sausages. I also had a company who were happy for everyone to work at home if it wasn't safe for us to travel. So that was me, all set up, a pretty view of the snow out the window and a 10 second commute between the kitchen table and the sofa.
But as it got closer to the weekend and my bread was down to two slightly less than fresh slices and half the milk had gone, I now realise I started doing that thing I do when I've got a worry I haven't yet really worked out. I overthought it. What about the food I had, was it enough? Would Tesco make it on Saturday as the car park outside was still covered in deep snow? I knew I wouldn't manage to do anything about it myself and even if they did come, what if they didn't have what I need, and what if Monday came and I couldn't get my car out for work because I couldn't manage? Was I stuck in till the thaw, would Baileys work with porridge, what was I going to do if /when/ if etc etc? It wasn't as manic as this sounds, honestly...I just thought about it more than was necessary, just a little niggle at the back of my mind that I couldn't quite switch off as I didn't have an answer...why didn't I have an answer? Because I couldn't solve this issue myself.
You see, there's only one shop near me I could manage to walk to (unlike when I was well and I could, and did, walk to two or three supermarkets nearby, in fact I'd purposely go to the one furthest away and make a morning of it walking along the canal...changed days!.). Back in 2010 when we had a bad weather spell like this, I took the sledge to the supermarket and stocked up. No chance of that now! The only shop I could get to was still a walk that could really tire me out and there was no guarantee that it would even have anything. I'd heard from others that they had had to try two or three places before finding anything and as I kept reminding myself, I really was okay just now so none of this really mattered yet.
So why was I so worried? Well until about an hour ago I didn't realise that I was to be honest. If anything I thought I was just getting a bit bored being stuck in on my tod and was thinking about things to do but then today a couple of things happened. Firstly, from my high-powered, professional workstation (kitchen table) I could hear the unmistakable sound of snow being shovelled. I looked out and a group of neighbours were out with snow shovels, spades and lots of elbow grease clearing a path for all the cars to get to the main road. It's taken them HOURS and I felt rotten I couldn't help out...and that I didn't even have enough milk to offer them a cuppa while they worked! My neighbour F cleared my doorway and chatted to me for a little bit. She knows about my health so totally understood why I wasn't out doing my bit...but you can't help but feel a bit useless just standing there doing nothing.
The second thing that happened was I received a Facebook connection request from another neighbour's fiancee. I'd only met her briefly once so didn't know her very well but recognised the name. She was getting in touch to see if I needed anything from the shops while they were out. I quickly thanked her and placed my order for the usual staples, milk, eggs and bread. We chatted back and forth a bit and it turned out she didn't even know I had ME...she was just being neighbourly. When I explained, she said she had a friend with ME and understood how challenging things could be. She insisted that I just shout if I needed anything in future and just now, as she handed in eggs, cheese, milk and bread (my favourite loaf as well!) she didn't want any money and made sure I knew I could ask for help any time.
Well somewhere in between the path getting clear, (which means Tesco can get to me, my parents can get to me and I can get out!) and my emergency food parcel delivery arriving I found myself, quite unexpectantly bursting into tears in my kitchen.
Yes, yes I know I can be overly dramatic at times but that's not what this was...honest. It took me a minute or two to work out what I was feeling and why and have come to the conclusion that knowing I couldn't rely on myself, knowing that the options of what I could do myself were very limited I was actually getting quite nervous. I know I have food and I know I was nowhere near starving if Tesco couldn't get to me tomorrow but there's just something about knowing you can't fix something yourself if things goes wrong, that you can't trust your body to have a "good day" when you really need it and you aren't sure what your back up is, that makes things feel a lot worse and makes you feel altogether unsettled.
So, to my neighbours, I thank you. Rest well tonight after all that digging, shovelling and scouring through empty supermarket shelves to scavenge some food. Tonight I can relax and switch off my worried little brain, and not just because I can have as much porridge as I like tomorrow but because I know I have help nearby, that I'm not as alone as ME can sometimes make me feel and that help is nearby if/when I need it.
And to everyone else, remember, it's not just the elderly who need extra help at times like these, the thing with invisible illnesses is you might not even know who needs help so ask, offer and support each other, it really does make a difference, it did to me.