Tracy Piggott

We were at home, with our nearest and dearest and it felt great…. for a while.""

Tracy Piggott is a former jockey and broadcaster, as well as the daughter of legendary jockey Lester Piggott. One year on from sharing her initial thoughts on the pandemic, she is back again to share her thoughts on both her own personal life and the overall mood of the nation.

I cannot believe it is a year and a bit since I wrote my last piece about lockdown and its impact. At that time, we were in a very strange, naive and ignorant place. Many of us, including myself, believed lockdown would entail a few months of hardship and restrictions and by June or July, we would be free of the virus and everything would go back to normal.

How wrong I was!

I remember people found themselves in a near euphoric state. We suddenly began to take up new hobbies, bake sourdough and banana bread. Our gardens never looked better and the weather was so kind, it lifted us into a strange but glorious state of mind that allowed us to suddenly appreciate the simple and most special things in life. Gone was the daily commute, the stress and anguish and pressure. We were at home, with our nearest and dearest and it felt great…. for a while.

In the meantime, frontline staff were battling the pandemic, working inhuman hours, desperately trying to save lives and keep going under almost war-like circumstances. Care home workers witnessed the most horrific scenes, seeing things they were never trained for, sometimes several times a day, with people dying in front of them, begging for their hand to be held, and pleading to see their loved ones. What must the fallout of that experience be? The trauma and stress that lingers amongst those wonderful healthcare staff who have endured so much pain and emotion.

In the meantime, we waited each day for the report on numbers of cases and deaths, still happy in our bubble, imagining that it was a short-term break from normality and soon, the pubs, restaurants and shops would be bustling with people again.

How wrong we were.

"I remember the sense of gratitude and appreciation for those simple acts, those perfect moments"

I watched as the tone started to change in the media. The ‘happy clappy’ attitude of the light hearted morning and afternoon shows started to wane, and the applause each evening for the frontline workers in the UK began to peter out. The reality of what lay ahead began to dawn, slowly but surely.

A reprieve in the summer was an opportunity to relish and appreciate our beautiful country. The rugged gorgeousness of Kerry and the wild and wonderful uniqueness of Clare Island with its perfect, cool waters where I bathed each morning before anyone was around, followed by fishing, chatting, meeting locals and visitors, eating the best fish and just being.

I remember the sense of gratitude and appreciation for those simple acts, those perfect moments. The sea, the colour of the sky, the birds and wild flowers. I would lie back and just stare up at the magnitude and expanse of the blue sky with hardly a puff of a cloud or a whisper of breeze.

Then of course, it was all over and we were back to another lockdown!

This latest lockdown has been the hardest for me personally, although we are blessed where we live in the countryside with plenty of space to walk and breathe, surrounded by our dogs and a few horses in the field. I found myself really struggling in the lead up to Christmas, and knowing what was likely coming down the track.

I live with my 13-year-old daughter and as a single parent, our relationship is incredibly close, but also understandably intense. I found my moods becoming more erratic, and my irritability levels going through the roof. Sometimes I could not understand what was happening. I would fly off the handle at the smallest thing, had panic attacks and chest palpitations; I even went to have my heart checked out. I really thought there was something very wrong.

My daughter was coming to that phase in a young girl’s life where her hormones were racing, her body changing and of course her moods were erratic too! Home schooling and the inability to meet up with her friends was taking its toll. Things were really tough for us both and I was very concerned.

"We can get our lives back and actually really relish and enjoy this next chapter of our lives"

Through a scheduled Zoom appointment with my wonderful gynaecologist Nikki Kroon, I learned I was hitting the menopause, and that all this was quite normal. In fact, there were many more things I could have been experiencing.

As I read up on the various symptoms of the menopause and other women’s stories, it all made sense. So many of those strange behaviours and feelings were exactly what I was experiencing. The relief was huge. I had the opportunity to discuss it and realise there is help and support available, and the chance to regain my sanity and quality of life with just a few small changes.

It really proved to me that as women of a certain age, there are options, and we do not just have to ‘put up with it’. We can get our lives back and actually really relish and enjoy this next chapter of our lives. The menopause should be celebrated rather than dreaded and endured. There is so much help out there, and I am so very grateful I found that help and accepted it.

Still, the menopause can be a taboo subject. Thankfully more and more women are having the conversation. I really hope that conversation gets louder and more widely heard.

"We as humans thrive on company, human contact and communication with those we love"

So here we are, another birthday with no restaurants or shops open. I am 56 this year, but I approach it with wonder and excitement. I actually really like this stage of my life.

The situation surely has to get better soon. We as humans thrive on company, human contact and communication with those we love. I pray we get that back soon, before it is too late.

I have said from the start, I believed that the mental health fallout from this pandemic will far outweigh the pandemic itself. The pressure on the HSE will be just as huge, and possibly more so. And please do not get me started on domestic abuse, just one of the many abuses perpetrated on (mostly) women during this time. That is for another day.

So, what have I learnt so far, I ask myself? It is pretty simple really. All those things we ‘suddenly’ noticed and really appreciated during the first lockdown were always there, always available to us. Love, nature, kindness, time to really be present. And to just embrace and enjoy the now. Because at the end of the day, NOW is all we have.

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