p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"It was 2.47am when Ange first heard the thumping of Chloe's feet against the stairs. She initially thought she had gone downstairs for a drink but once she heard her turn around quickly and run back up then repeat the cycle Ange knew it was her nightly exercise. She lay in bed, listening to the stairs creak periodically as Chloe ran up and down, up and down./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"Ange wasn't sure whether she should confront Chloe about it but she knew that her daughter's anxiety had sky rocketed lately and at least exercise was a healthy outlet for it, if only it wasn't in the middle of the night. Eventually she heard Chloe head into the bathroom and take a shower before collapsing back into bed. She decided in that moment she was going to talk to Chloe about her mental health, to decide whether they needed to take her back to a GP for some extra help. She eventually drifted off into a restless sleep as she played out the different scenarios in her head./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"At 7am Ange rolled over, the morning light creeping in through a gap in the curtains. She winced as the bright light hit her eyes and pulled her from her sleep. As she hauled her body out of bed she heard Chloe moving around the house too, she was surprised she was up already considering it was her first day off. Ange wrapped herself up in her battered old dressing gown and headed down to the kitchen, following the smell of bleach and disinfectant./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"She walked in to Chloe scrubbing the floor on all fours, headphones blaring and lost in her own world. She spotted the disinfectant spray bottle empty, surrounded by cloths and scrubbing brushes. Chloe was working on the kitchen tiles now, scrubbing in between them all with a toothbrush. Ange walked over carefully, tapping her youngest on the shoulder gently - trying not to startle her. Chloe looked up guiltily, then quickly tried to compose herself. She lifted her headphones off her head, attempting not to touch them with her fingertips. "Hey mum, what are you doing up?" Chloe's nose twitched as she finished talking, an instant alert to Ange that her anxiety was high. "Well I was going to ask you the same thing, I heard you up all night and now the early riser? What's going on love?"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"Chloe's eyes widened momentarily, like a scared child, until her guard came back up "Nothing, just though I'd make the most of the day – not often we get time off together so I thought if I got this done we could do something later? Obviously in the house, film day? Or we could bake something – I could teach you how I did those lemon muffins?" the rambling was to cover up her nervousness, Ange knew the signs all too well and Chloe realised that too late, biting her lip to stop her chattering anymore. Ange's facial expression softened instantly, attempting to keep her voice causal and low "or how about we just talk? Catch up?" Chloe visibly stiffened and Ange decided to go straight into it, realising there was no point skirting around the issue now "Come and sit down with me? I'm worried about you sweetheart."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"Chloe's chin lifted slightly, her defensiveness coming out "I am emfine/em, there is nothing wrong with me" Ange raised one eyebrow, holding her hands out at the evidence surrounding them "this isn't nothing. This is next level Chloe. You're up all night, you barely sleep, barely eat. You spend way too much time cleaning the house or scrubbing yourself clean. What's causing this, hey?" There was a tense moment while neither of them spoke but Ange was determined not to back down, she knew Chloe wouldn't be able to stand the silence and would cave first. She soon proved right as Chloe stood up slowly, rinsing her hands before turning back to Ange "I can't help it. Half the time I don't know I am doing it, the other half the thoughts are so intense I can't resist" Ange nodded slowly, moving around Chloe and boiling the kettle to make them some tea – knowing Chloe would open up more if she had something else to focus on./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"After a couple of minutes, they settled onto the sofa, facing each other and nursing their cups of tea. Ange decided to carry on casually, hoping Chloe's bravery hadn't faded/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;""What type of thoughts are you getting?" Chloe's eyes darted around, her fingertips running around the edge of the mug. Ange waited patiently but soon realised there wasn't going to be a response to this question, she tried again gently "you have nothing to be embarrassed about, I just want to help you and I can't help you to break them down if I don't even know what's going on in your head sweetheart." Chloe stared at her pointedly "I'm not embarrassed, I just can't really explain it. Usually with my anxiety I know that if I can think logically, I can reason everything. With this, the worst-case scenario has a pretty strong chance of happening. Remember when it got really bad after Evan? I kept a diary of all my fears and highlighted them – yellow for facts, pink for feelings. It helped me to realised that it was just my anxiety twisting things." Ange interrupted her quickly, not wanting to stop her flow but also wanting to make sure she understood exactly what was being said, "facts and feelings?"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"Chloe swallowed her mouthful of tea, closing her eyes and enjoying the calm that was taking over her "yep, mum didn't reply to my text – im being clingy and needy and now she hates me…pink. That was just a feeling. The fact was that you were in theatre and couldn't answer you phone right away but as soon as you were out you did./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"I'm never going to find anyone who is going to accept me for who I really am, scars and all – pink./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"Evan was the one who was in the wrong, I couldn't control what he did – just my response to it, yellow" Ange nodded quickly, confirming she now understood. Chloe began again "they recommended it at the sarc, said it takes the emotion out of it and helps your brain to change the way it reacts to those types of feelings. Anyway – I tried it again recently./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"'I might contract corona at work' yellow. 'If I get corona I might become really unwell and end up in hospital' yellow. 'Mum is working with people who are presenting with covid symptoms, if she doesn't have the right ppe she might contract covid' yellow."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"Ange cut her off at that point "you're right but you can't control everything, you could go out and get hit by a bus tomorrow – that is a fact too but doesn't mean it is going to happen does it?" Chloe shrugged "just because I know that doesn't change the way my brain reacts to everything. It started when I read about viral overload for healthcare workers. Those who are more exposed to the virus more frequently are likely to become more unwell if they do catch it. So I figured I'd keep the house clean, change my clothes and wash my hands more."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"Ange smiled softly "All good, sensible things to do, I never thought I'd say this though – my house is cleaner than it ever has been thanks to you. There isn't an inch you haven't scrubbed." Chloe nodded eagerly as if Ange just proved her point "Exactly, they started off as normal things. But then it just heightened my anxiety and made me feel worse. I started to get paranoid that I'd missed bits and if I didn't clean it then I'd get sick or worse so would you or Dom."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"Ange reached over, tucking Chloe's hair behind her ears "It's not your job to look after everyone, you have to do what you can – stay healthy both mentally and physically and we will deal with the rest as it comes." Chloe nodded slightly, realising Ange couldn't truly understand the terror she was feeling, nobody could. Ange gestured to Chloe's hands "we can't have this though, you hurting yourself. You just have to let me and Dom know what we can do to help you. Do you think some therapy would help?"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"Chloe's face contorted "No way, firstly with other people going through real problems, real grief at the moment do you think I'm going to waste their time? Secondly I'm not sitting there, talking about it with some stranger – making it into an even bigger deal." Ange held up her hands defensively "ok, ok – it was just a thought. Lot's of people are struggling with this all at the moment, it's totally unprecedented. It's ok not to be ok with it. There is all the counselling through occupational health at work too, you wouldn't have to go to the gp if you didn't want to. We could enquire about it if you change your mind?" Chloe rolled her eyes at her mum's overprotectiveness and finished the last of her tea, plonking her empty mug on the coffee table beside her. She snuggled down under her blanket and let her body relax, realising how much she ached. She zoned out and closed her eyes, allowing herself to get some much needed rest./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;"Ange felt the silence around her and glanced over checking on Chloe, she saw her laying there relaxing- she could tell she wasn't asleep by her breathing but knew she was deep in thought. As she watched her, she saw her hands fidgeting under the blanket, Ange quickly lifted it off and saw Chloe's nails digging into the back of her hand, niggling away at a piece of dry skin "CHLOE!". The younger girl startled, instantly aware of her surroundings "It's just so emitchy, /emit's driving me mad" Ange grimaced sympathetically "I know but the more you scratch it the worse it's going to be. You've got to do something to keep your hands busy." As Chloe went to protest Ange quickly added "Something that emisn't /emcleaning!" Chloe wiggled her eyebrows "I know! Colouring!" Ange stared blankly "Colouring?" "Yes! Adult colouring! It's some to be so therapeutic. It'll keep my hands and brain busy. I'm going to check it out on amazon. I can get some colouring pens and pencils too," She lifted her laptop, quickly logging on and searching through all the different types "shall I get you some?!" Ange rolled her eyes playfully "I think I can live without it, you enjoy though!"/p