I’ve had Covid

By ‘For Men To Talk’ founder Luke Newman

Covid sucks! There I’ve said it. For the last 18 months, the world has been completely changed for every single person on this great big onion (thank you Marvin Kaye!).

Over that time, I have tried to keep to the restrictions that the government have implemented. I’ve kept my distance from people, I’ve worn masks in supermarkets and worked from home, when allowed.

However, somehow in October 2021, my throat was sore and I felt run down. I took a lateral flow test. It was positive. I wasn’t surprised, my wife had tested positive a few days before and even keeping a distance away from her, I still caught it.

Almost immediately, even at 7.30am after a good night sleep, I was shattered. I wanted to sleep. But instead of going to bed, even at the age of 40, I wanted to go back to my youth, so I brought a single duvet downstairs and started watching junk TV. It’s just amazing how I went back thirty years in a split second.

Heartbreakingly, when I do feel ill, all I want is my Mum. I wished the football duvet, which is my sons, had changed back to my Postman Pat one and at lunch time, I wanted Heinz Tomato Soup with breaded soldiers with a lemonade flavoured soda stream drink. After 16 years since she passed, I still miss her everyday. If possible, even more so when I’m feeling poorly.

Finally at 3pm, my eyes simply couldn’t stay open anymore and I took myself off to bed. I didn’t wake up until 8am the following morning. I hadn’t done that in years.

It felt like heavy flu, something I’ve had before. I was still tired with a headache and sore throat. I could deal with that. But the lack of taste and smell was new, something that I’ve never experienced previously. I didn’t like it. I couldn’t smell any cooking or taste my favourite Pepsi Max. I couldn’t even smell my shower gel or deodorant. It took days for my smell and taste to return.

I thought that isolation for 10 days would be hard. But due to the lockdowns we have had, I didn’t miss going out of the house at all. The only guilt I had was not being able to take my children to school, or football practice or even attend the ‘For Men To Talk’ physical meeting. I never want to let anyone down.

But for all my complaints, I find myself very fortunate that my symptoms weren’t worse. I didn’t have a high fever or consistent cough. But more than that, I wasn’t hospitalised to be looked after by our amazing NHS doctors and nurses or even lose my life, something that thousands and thousands of people in the UK have. 

I’m thankful that I have been double vaccinated. For any criticism that the UK government has received during the coronavirus pandemic, the vaccine programme has been a remarkable success. If I, like the millions of people that haven’t had a vaccine as yet, caught covid without the vaccine, my illness could have been a lot worse and I could have been one of those horrible statistics. 

Working Together at Christmas

This blog has been rewritten three times in light of the governments changes throughout December and therefore many of us may find Christmas difficult this year, for lots of different reasons.

It might be that you usually enjoy the festive period with loving family and friends, but in these unprecedented times, face-to-face celebration dinners on Christmas Day will not happen in 2020.

It also means that if you found Christmas tough in the past, this year might feel no different, or it may feel harder than previous ones.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last twelve months, this year, everything, and I do mean everything, has been effected by a coronavirus called COVID-19.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory and intestinal illnesses in humans and animals. Seven different types have been found in people, including those responsible for the SARS, MERS and now COVID-19 epidemics.

Since December 2019, the world has been battling COVID-19, a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan, China, following reports of serious pneumonia.

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • A high temperature. You feel hot to touch on your chest or back.
  • A new, continuous cough. Coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in twenty-four hours.
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. Noticing you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Many people who contract coronavirus do so with minor symptoms. They have to self-isolate at home for two weeks and that stops the spread.

Those people are helping the more vulnerable people with health conditions. Those are the people that if catch the COVID-19 virus, can be deadly. People currently being treated for cancer, severe lung condition (such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma), serious heart condition, kidney disease and women are pregnant need to be protected.

On 19 December, which was also our founder Luke’s 40th birthday, the UK prime-minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed that a new strain has been found and transmits more easily than the previous variant. He then announced that a planned relaxation of restrictions would be cancelled for large parts of south-east and eastern England and cut to just Christmas Day for the rest of England.

Of coarse this brings a whole lot of distress for millions of people who want to be surrounded by loved ones during the festive season. But for those people with a mental health illness, it can be even tougher.

Christmas is a time for celebration, but for many it is a time to reflect. It is a time when you miss family and friends that have passed, so you want to surround those that remain in your life. These new restrictions will stop that.

With the loss of so many jobs and potential for many more in the coming months, money may also feel tighter than usual this year. The anxiety and worries in affording presents and food could make it more intense. So the question you need to ask this year is, do your children need half of the toys from Smyths or do you really need to buy a present for all of your nieces and nephews?

The key this year is communication. Talk to your family and friends.

Be honest and tell your family that you have to focus on paying your bills, you can’t afford to buy for all. Don’t feel forced into buying gifts just because you think it’s the thing you should do. We shouldn’t be forced to get into debt to have a wonderful time of the year.

Splashing out on computers, bikes, the latest console or smart phone for your kids this Christmas when you can’t afford it, could lead into further heartbreak and worries in the coming months.

Talk to the children, tell them that Santa has had a very tough year working through the pandemic and he has decided this year that it is all about the magic and the joy. If they don’t receive all the presents they have written on their Christmas list, it doesn’t mean that they misbehaved this year, it means Santa is just working on a budget. Praise your child’s behaviour and explain to them that it is not the quantity of gifts that they receive that makes Christmas so special.

Maybe it’s time to rediscover what Christmas is actually about. It’s being a loving family and supporting each other.

Although we know sitting next to one another, full after too much turkey, wearing a paper hat received from a cracker is magical, unfortunately for this year we may not have that. So let’s use the technology available to communicate.

Landline, mobile, text, email, social media, WhatsApp, Zoom Video Conferencing are just a number of ways to keep in touch with loved ones. We know that it’s not ideal, but for this Christmas, just keep talking and let one another know that we aren’t alone. Let’s do this together, not apart.