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One of the biggest affects the pandemic had on me was how I viewed my friendships. I have always loved being with friends, going out and chatting but with so much of that taken away I became a bit of a recluse.

I could have phoned friends more, joined zoom calls but I didn't. I wasn't used to video calls then and I felt really self-consious. A lovely friend had such a fab idea of having a dinner party together on a video call and I just couldn't do it. She is one of my oldest friends with no judgement or worries but it was too much...

I had become so safe and content in my tiny family bubble that I didn't want to venture back out into the crazy, big world...

So how did I move forwards? I went outside, a lot!! With family, and then friends. I started talking to friends on video calls with the kids so it was kinda manic and didn't feel as if it was just me on the screen and staring at myself, which is just weird! I mean in what kind of a meeting or chat do you stare at yourself whilst talking?! I soon learnt to make myself small but I'm still there, up in the corner, watching me be me. And where do you look? At you? At their eyes as you would if you were in person or staring into the camera which is just a black hole and not very inviting to look into for hours on end!?!

I really did not enjoy those first calls but the kids were amazing. They so didn't care and would chat to anyone, look anywhere and they were just so natural that I needed to chill out and be like them.

I decided to set up challenges to help others and also help me. I went live on Facebook and cringed hearing my voice back but did it anyway!!

I found the new way of communicating so hard as I missed going out for a glass of wine with a friend, going to the theatre, a meal and being together, but that had gone and I didnt know how to replace it...

So what is happening now? Well I am starting to go out again and looking forward to planning time together. I am going to the pub tonight with friends and to a friends house for a meal, on Saturday for a couples night. Rich and I haven't done that in years!! I'm really excited but there is a part if me that feels tired and would quite happily stay in!! I am refusing to listen to the hermit in me who would read and play games with the kids instead!!

I wanted to share how I felt, how I still do feel to show you are not alone. We have been through such a strange couple of years and it is still having an impact on our mental health. I am one determined person so when I really don't feel like something I know I will go anyway as I know it will make me feel better. If I don't focus on how easy it is to stay in, I can find myself out and buzzing again with my friends.

I love my friends and how patient they have been with me coming back to them after being somewhat distant. It's good to feel friendship again, and to be honest I had got so used to not having it at times, I hadn't realised I missed it...

So don't hide away, it's time to shine bright with others again...

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