Welcome to the first article in which I am directly addressing the current situation (if you are reading this in the future, go web search the 2020 Coronavirus, I’m writing this in the middle of it) lets just say we are living in interesting times.
So how has Covid 19 AKA Coronavirus affected life for me and those around Bear Essentials?
The short answer is a lot. But since when have I ever gone with the short answer? So here’s the long one. I’m splitting this into two questions, the first is how Covid has impacted life for me and mine, the second is how it’s impacted Bear Essentials.
Covid 19 & Me
To talk about the effects of the “new normal” we first need to understand the “normal” we started from, which in this case isn’t exactly simple. So we are going to start with a little introduction to how I manage to do what I do every day, or rather how I did.
To do this I am using an excerpt from a piece I was writing on living with my illness before the pandemic hit.
My condition is one that is both episodic and largely without fixed or predictable timings. I can experience any number of episodes of paralysis in a day, and at any time. Think about that for a moment, just how do I go anywhere or do anything when I could become entirely helpless at any time?
Enter Heather. Heather is my Personal Assistant, ooooh a PA…. how swish! Best to get the inevitable cracks out of the way early in my experience.
Heather isn’t the kind of PA you see on TV shows, fulfilling the needs and wants of an executive at a moments notice and seamlessly organising schedules, taking calls and answering emails (actually she does do some of this, but it’s not as glamorous as it sounds).
What Heather’s actual role consists of is enabling me in everyday life, a huge game changer for me. She does this through a combination of skills and hard work, and with a set of carefully chosen tools. Let me introduce you to “The Bag”
This bag is on or around me or whomever is with me at all times, it’s not light and it can be a pain in the arse, but it’s essential to my life. It contains kit necessary to ensure my safety and wellbeing should I have an episode. I’ll take you for a quick tour…
Warm Blanket: Pretty obvious really but very needed as it can get cold when you can’t move for a prolonged period.
Pillow/Head Support: Because you do not want to live with the results of lying with an unsupported neck in a poor position for 3 hours, trust me I know this for a fact.
Slide Mat: Low friction material that if I am on when I am paralysed allows me to be dragged along the floor for the safety and/or convenience of others. Having a Bear stuck in your doorway can limit access!
Medication: I take painkillers daily to alleviate the constant aches and occasional bruises or pulled muscles that my episodes can leave me with. Also needed in case I fall and hurt myself.
Urine Bottle: Ah yes the fun bit! Like all humans I need to pee, and if I am paralysed at the time this is pretty much essential. Not the best part of Heathers job by the way.
Disposable Gloves, Wipes, Cloth etc: For reasons I hope I don’t need to explain.
This little kit is one that I genuinely would struggle to cope without. Just having it with me creates a degree of confidence that allows me to get out of the house, and I am not kidding about this. For the first year or so of learning to live with my illness I really pretty much didn’t go anywhere, or really do anything.
As an aside it would probably make sense to address the concept of privacy in day to day life and why I have had to learn to live without it. So I am not a massively social creature by nature, I enjoy people’s company at times but I also revel in solitude. Nowadays I have to adapt to a different world, let’s play the imagine game.
Imagine you cannot lock a door, not even when you are in the bath, shower or even on the throne. Imagine you must always have someone within earshot to ensure you have help when you need it. Going to a meeting? Someone is right there with you. Sitting to write for a few hours? The coffee shop needs an extra seat for your minder. Staying somewhere overnight? A shared or connecting room and someone along for the ride is essential. Stressed and thinking screw it I will head out and go for a day long hike and disconnect for a while, yeah… not happening.
How is all this sitting with you? Uncomfortable? Don’t worry I would be genuinely surprised if you weren’t. It’s bordering on hell at first, I had real issues with the idea of having to adjust my entire view on life.
A lot of this may sound awful, may even come across as a little woe is me. But believe me after 4 years it’s a long way from that, add some perspective and you realise that it’s actually a good thing. Without all of the above I would be all at sea, all day, every day. Like learning to live your life with a wheelchair or a prosthetic it’s all about seeing the benefit over the price.
The C Factor
So what’s changed with Covid 19? Well everything.
Because I suffer from a number of autoimmune conditions, and my wife Em is also immunocompromised, we have had to adopt a very careful approach to the pandemic. We are in the all too common position that we are at heightened risk, but do not fulfil the criteria for full shielding (Marvel S.H.I.E.L.D. Protocol jokes are a must here!). But early in the events we chose to isolate and take the best advice we could from those around us, which amounts to staying in and limiting contact risk at all times.
So we closed the doors. Heather was able to remain on the payroll as a key worker, but the decision was made to observe strict social distancing and isolation, she no longer comes into the house for work. As a result Em has taken on all her work as a full time carer for me until the crisis passes. Given how hard we had to work to get to where we were B.C. (Before Covid) you can imagine this has been a hard adjustment for everyone concerned.
Nowadays The Bag sits idle in my home office (to be fair Covid 19 has spurred me to actually get said home office decorated and usable). Heather looks after our external needs, collecting orders for food, fixing missing products from online shopping orders, and collecting prescriptions. She also represents the only human we regularly see in person, at a safe distance. She remains essential to life and is risking her own well being for us, so if after all this you see her out with me, remember please that this lady like so many risked her own life (yes really) to ensure I and my family were safe. Maybe offer her a thank you, I know I will never be able to do so adequately.
It’s been a battle but we are on an even keel and staying safe. But yeah Covid 19 hit us where it hurts.
Covid 19 & Bear Essentials
So here we get to the pandemic and Bear Essentials. I am not going to sugarcoat this one, Covid 19 probably could not have hit at a worse time for us in some ways. We had been in some pretty productive discussions about training contracts and events, and were looking at being able to make some small moves toward actual monetisation, and then the storm arrived.
We are however a lot more fortunate than many, in that since nothing had actually taken off we were still living on benefits which are so far unaffected by all this. So we at least have some financial stability.
Still the effects are there, if you are reading this and it’s before May 23rd 2020 please check out this link and purchase your pack to take part in a virtual coffee tasting we are partnering up with Cloudgate Coffee for, it’s a pretty interesting concept and a bargain for coffee and kit to boot!
Also if you have ever wondered about offering a little financial support for this site, now would be an amazing time for us to pick up a few monthly donations to keep the lights on through all this you can find out how at the bottom of this article.
A Last Message
So that’s it, Covid 19 and my world. Before I sign off though I want to offer some food for thought.
Whether you are reading this in the middle of the pandemic or weeks, months or even years after please take some time to reflect on the lessons we are learning from all this.
Acknowledge the courage and dedication of those key workers who keep the world running around us.
Marvel at the immense support and freedom that our modern technology gives us in all this. Seriously take a moment to imagine living through these kinds of restrictions without your phone, tablet or computer. Oh and remember that some have actually had to do exactly that.
Remember how much you valued the contact and support of your friends and family in these times. Maybe let the level of value spill over into the future.
Above all, remember those who we lost. The tens, hundreds of thousands of lives lost globally to this nightmare.
About Bear Essentials Coffee
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Thanks, – Bear