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Isolation at Christmas

BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
edited December 2019 in Guest blogs

My name is Rebecca McAteer. I have Cerebral Palsy, use an electric wheelchair for mobility and need some assistance with most aspects of daily living. I pride myself on being determined to live life to the full. I try to live each day with a smile on my face and want to inspire other people to do the same, irrespective of their individual challenges.

The festive season is synonymous with mince pies, the exchange of gifts and spending time with family and loved ones. One of the greatest pleasures, or so you might think.

Barriers faced at Christmas

When you are disabled, things aren’t so straightforward. Christmas can be very isolating and can cause severe anxiety which sucks life out of the Christmas cheer. These are just some of the thoughts running through my head at this time of year:

  • Will any of my support staff be available to work over Christmas?
  • Should I even bother making plans to celebrate the festivities with my friends?
  • Where and how am I going to find time to spend with my boyfriend?
  • Are any of these Christmas events I’ve been invited to wheelchair accessible?

These types of things are often taken for granted but for thousands of disabled people across the country, this is the reality of Christmas. Answering no to any or all of these questions can have a detrimental impact on their ability to share in the festive fun.

Managing isolation during the festive period

I am fortunate that I can spend Christmas with my parents but for others in similar situations it can be even more isolating. I love Christmas with my family, but it also reminds me of my limitations. My carers are quite rightly spending Christmas with their own families. This makes it hard for me to get out and about. My parents will take me anywhere but who wants to have their style cramped at a friend’s Christmas or New Year’s party when you’re an adult? This can lead to a series of negative thoughts and emotions, oh how I wish I could be back to doing my own thing without relying on my parents!

This can lead to feelings of isolation or sadness for the opportunities I’m missing out on, a form of FOMO I guess.

Everyone dreams of a white Christmas but for wheelchair users snow can be the stuff of nightmares. Even some wheelchair accessible vehicles can’t be driven in adverse weather conditions. Whilst snowy pictures might look good on Christmas cards, the disabled community are often glad when spring comes around.

Reflecting another year

Even though Christmas is seen by many as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ it makes me remember that another year is almost over, leaving me to reflect on the things I haven’t yet managed to achieve. My lack of personal independence can become a debilitating factor and leave me feeling lonely.

For me personally, the build up to Christmas is more exciting than the day itself. I often get caught up in the euphoria of it all, eagerly anticipating what exciting things lay ahead in the new year. Part of me thinks that this is a defence mechanism to forget about the deep-rooted isolation I sometimes experience. It’s important to remember that it’s not just the disabled who can feel isolated at Christmas. The elderly, homeless and those who are sick can often be alone at this time of year with nobody to care for them.

Perhaps as we overindulge this Christmas, we could spare a thought for those less fortunate?

You can read more about Rebecca’s journey on her blog.

Have you ever experienced isolation at Christmas and what are your tips for overcoming it? Let us know in the comments below!



  • April2018momApril2018mom Posts: 2,620Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger
    edited December 2019
    Hello and welcome! 

    What about volunteering? That is a good way to boost confidence and give you a sense of purpose too. When I was eighteen I worked at a food bank for several months including a Christmas Day. It was eye opening for sure and really made me think. Find about local volunteering jobs and opportunities in your area and go from there. 
    Your local church can also reduce loneliness over the festive season! Are you a member of a local church or not? It is a good way of meeting new folk and bursting out of your comfort zone too. Go to a service with a open mind and be positive as well. Or you can assist at events etc from time to time. It is wholly about what suits you really. 
    What are your hobbies and interests? If you are full of beans you might join a local gym. Many community leisure centres also offer exercise classes for disabled people.
    Do you use a care provider? Often they help disabled people over Christmas in many ways. What about your friends? Can they help you survive Christmas? Ask them for help. This article offers more ideas on how to enjoy the festive month and tackle social loneliness https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-cope-when-you-are-alone-at-christmas-3024301

    [Edited by moderator - please be mindful of the advice you give]
  • newbornnewborn Posts: 352Member Pioneering
    You look like a happy couple. Is that Greenwich? I absolutely love the fun of painting your face like that, thank you for making me smile, you must be a lot of fun.
    Thanks too for remembering the other isolated people.  That shows you are kind and imaginative too.  It's  surprising how widespread loneliness is, even if sometimes it's  a bit self inflicted,  because people do torment themselves. 

  • newbornnewborn Posts: 352Member Pioneering
    By the way, loads of people don't have Christmas.  They have different religions or else just don't bother.
  • SeanchaiSeanchai Posts: 204Member Pioneering
    Hi Rebecca.......yep , a very thought provoking yet understanding post. A lovely photo of you and your boyfriend ( i take it it's your boyfriend as you are holding hands 🙂 ) you both look very happy in that photo , he is a lucky man to have such a thoughtful girlfriend.
    Personally , I do not like Christmas , it has travelled to far from its roots and money making is in the mind of many ....others are wondering where the money will come from for their childrens Christmas , even for a decent Christmas dinner . I am so luck to have a living family ( children and grandchildren whom I love to bits) . After losing my job as an engineer when all the factories and foundries and mine 's were closing , Christmas was very hard with three young children ....even though they never asked for anything we tried to give them a good Christmas as money was tight all year round after losing a well paid job . We went into debt to buy presents in for our kids as they asked for nothing all year round , one of the good things was that most families were in the same boat so most families just could not afford big presents but did their best . ....as I said , we went into debt to make it a lively Christmas for the kids ....and we would pay of that dept by the following September/ October ...yep, just in time to go into debt again . 😥 I think most people think along the same lines these days ....sod the cost , sod the expense , we are going to have a good Christmas come what may. I hope we can get away from that spend, spend, spend until we are in debt for a year or more and struggling to repay it . Austerity in the last ten years has hit most ordinary people hard , no jobs, zero hous contracts, foodbanks , clothing banks and charity shops. .some charity shops ( which was there to,raise money for that certain charity by volunteers .but they also have people further up the ladder who get a decent wage from peoples donations. ) some charity shops are selling articles handed in to their shop at a higher price than ordinary shops.  I,m afraid I do not agree with this ...my wife looked at a handbag in a large store ...priced at £20 ...she said she was not paying that for a handbag . Anyway , we were heading to the bus station and saw the exact same bag in the charity shop window...my wife went in and had a look ...it was being sold ( second hand remember ) at £5 more than the big store was selling the handbag . I have noticed this on a number of occasions since. We know it's for a charity but that is daylight robbery I believe .
    I feel so sorry for people who have youg family ...I also feel sorry for the people who have no family . 
    Christmas has completely lost its meaning these days . ...computers , laptops, tablets,  phones TV 's ect ......to name but a few of hundreds and hundreds of pounds that get spent each year on children . This year I told my family not to get me anything for Christmas but instead to give the money to the homeless or spend the money putting food in foodbanks ...they themselves will feel better , I will feel good and the presents I would have got ( to stick in the drawer ....my family are good to us all year round so I don,t want anything at Christmas.....as I said to my children  "what can you get for a man who has everything he needs or wants .People are these day starting to think about the poor and elderly who have very little to have Christmas cheer about .
    I hope everyone has a great christmas but serena thought tomthe people who keep their heads down until all the festivities are over.
    Enjoy Christmas with your family Rebecca xx.
  • GeoarkGeoark Posts: 1,223Community champion Disability Gamechanger
    I think it is a little hard to say that people are starting to think about the poor and elderly, I have been involved with various local community groups over many years and usually surrounded by people whose first thoughts are of others.

    For a number of years I regularly ran activities in my own community over the Christmas period, mainly because the usual venues people went to were shut down. Some were more popular than others. We have usually donated something to food banks no matter how little we had. In recent years at our local shop, at work, but also via our online main shopping. We regularly donate £2.50 weekly which Ocado matches our donation. The difference is their food bank partners tell Ocado what they want and they fulfill the wish list. Last week we donated more understanding that this can be a much busier time.

    Monday evening I had the pleasure to help create 40 hampers for the elderly and others who will struggle with Christmas, in partnership with a local church. As chair I had the privilege to thank all those there, commented on people of different ages (10 - 90+) and the opportunity to explain how much it would mean to some of our residents, especially those who see very few people and can feel particularly lonely over this period, be it through loss of loved ones, age or disability.

    Thanks to the community here, this year my attention has been focused on the issue of loneliness. Something I mentioned was why was it that this time of year it is acceptable for me to smile and say hello to total strangers, but the rest of the year I get looked at like I am either deranged or dangerous. Something I have written about in our January to February newsletter next year. In short that while we complain at the loss of sense of community and not knowing our neighbours; My suggestion to start to change this is to simply acknowledge those we either pass in the block we live in or follow through the the door. Knowing from experience that sooner or later longer conversations will follow at some point. I am hoping it will be the first of six articles this year that will encourage developing a community spirit.

    The main problem though is knowing how to start making a change for those who are housebound and rarely go outside their own homes, especially the elderly. Not wanting to invade their privacy, or even making them feel insecure or anxious. Some have been quite easy to find solutions, an elderly woman in a body frame unable to bend over and unable to find a hairdresser happy to visit her home and do her hair to the family with a severely autistic child where we simply got together some of the prizes and food to take to the family because they are unable to attend.

    While I admire those who can work at the wider community level to create change my own preference is to do 'Big Society' the 'Small Society' way. By this I mean the marvelous works that go on to make a big difference to many people, to those that aim to make a difference to a making a difference to a small number of people, or even the individual, who often miss out on the bigger programs. One thing I have learned is that often the small act can have a huge impact on individual lives, but sadly don't have all the solutions.

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • thespicemanthespiceman Posts: 5,775Community champion Disability Gamechanger
    Hello  @Chloe_Scope    Thank you for sharing this story with the community.

    Pleased to meet you Rebecca. I apologise on behalf of the forum, as a member suggested taking up running. Your in a wheel chair.

    Only every day. I live alone this time of year find it a struggle, mentally and physically. I do understand every day every one looks forward to a year of having enjoyment.

    Your story reminds me that it is not a pleasant time for many including my self.

    One reason I would consider have a plan, make it something you wish to be.

    Simple tips be good to yourself treat yourself. Small treats, rays of sunshine.

    Use a diary make some simple day to day goals.  Make if you can small snacks or meals, if be able to if not ask me happy to advise.

    Have pamper days, bath soaks scented candles, quiet music. Radio on reading.

    Make a list of your skills, abilities, talents. Even stuff like hobbies, interests like to do or wish to.

    Look at ways to self improvement well being. Courses looking at how you are and how that the disability you have. Need to cope, offer some councils. Look on your council website.

    Self confidence, self esteems, wellbeing.

    Think of volunteering could be to do with your disability.

    I have mental health issues so use charities to be volunteering. Reaching out supporting others.

    Your local community volunteering unit can help.

    Be a community champion on here like myself. Be a pleasure to be working with you.

    You have a lot to give.

    Contact the team.

    [email protected]

    I have the following links which I will help you get additional support.


    https://www.salvation army.org.uk.


    They do a lot to support those of community.   Over the Christmas period and have services , information for our community.

    I know it is a difficult time for any one, especially also reliant on support from services.

    Anxiety sets in and it things like using meditation, music finding time to make the day count.

    That is the other aspect of Christmas have a range of things you like to relax and enjoy doing.

    Word puzzles, Word Searches, Arrow words Cross words all good to start in the morning, reading  helps.   

    Not every thing is about the TV, although use the TV to heal, inspire and recover. Find feel good and awesome programmes that can help, guide and give you some education, just some knowledge to be helping.

    We know any thing feel good makes the mind full or endorphins and uplifting.

    I like old films musicals, anything like that.  Strictly a good one.

    Another aspect of coping is to speak on here be supportive of others and they will respond.

    Always happy to be listening, helping.

    Please take care.


  • JenCoJenCo Posts: 30Member Courageous
    Thanks @Chloe_Scope !
    I love this article from Rebecca. I know it's mentioned above but community events have such an impact on loneliness. For those of us not so invested in the popular view of Christmas, what about finding out about Moots (meetings of Pagan and spiritual individuals) to discuss the more traditional aspects of the season like Yule?
    Mostly I just find Christmas overwhelming because I used bulimia as a way of coping with my hearing loss. So, ho ho ho! Merry Bingemas! :( 
    I spent years deliberately isolating myself to avoid it. 
  • BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
    Hi Everyone, 

    Sorry that I’m only commenting back now, I only just found out that my piece has been put on here! First of all I would like to thank @Chloe_Scope for giving me the opertunity to write a guest blog post about such an important issue/topic that can affect us all not just at Christmas. 

    I would also like to say thank you for all the comments, Yes the man in the photo is indeed my boyfriend. :smile: i really do appreciate them all even the ones that suggest things that I cannot do eg running we all have our views and opinions so thank you! I am going to take the time to hopefully reply to you all individually but just wanted to say how greatful I am to each and everyone of you for taking the time to read my post. 

    Merry Christmas to you all if you celebrate at this time of year.
  • JenCoJenCo Posts: 30Member Courageous
    Blessed Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and general light and joy to you and yours!
    Thanks for writing and sharing 
  • BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
    @thespiceman Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post and thank you for your very kind words and support. Let’s all get through this together!
  • BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
    @JenCo, thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog post. I celebrate Christmas but i am also interested in Pagan/spirituality so if you would like to share more of this with me I am very interested in this topic and would appreciate it!
  • BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
    @Geoark Thank you very much for taking the time to read my blog post and for your comments, I agree with everything you said.
  • BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
    @Seanchai Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog post, Yes that is my boyfriend in the picture. Thanks for your kind words about me me also much appreciated! I agree with you that Christmas has lost its true meaning and I love that you want your family to donate to the homeless that is very selfless of you.
  • BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
    @newborn thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog post and for your lovely comments. The picture was taken in the North of England. It was important for me to get across that Isolation can affect everyone at any stage of live or circumstances. I am aware that Christmas is not celebrated by everyone and that their a different religions but i was given a brief of what was required and only had a certain word count. :smile:
  • JenCoJenCo Posts: 30Member Courageous
    Yay! I'm very glad to hear it. I was wondering whether or not to post about Accessibility in parks and woodland because my spirituality is nature-based. Then I wondered if inclusion in spirituality/religion would be more or less interesting... how do you decide what to post about?
  • BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
    @JenCo. I love nature and spirituality I’m just scared of animals lol because I can’t run away I think :lol: do you mean for this guest post or for my blog brightsidebecs? I submitted some work/ideas to @Chloe_Scope and she gave me the wonderful opportunity to write this piece! For my blog i just write what’s on my mind at the time, or if i think its going to help people that read it i will write about it. 
  • BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
    @spiceman I’m interested in working with you could you tell me more about this please?
  • BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
    Same to you and thanks for the lovely comments! :smiley:

    JenCo said:
    Blessed Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and general light and joy to you and yours!
    Thanks for writing and sharing 

  • JenCoJenCo Posts: 30Member Courageous
    @JenCo. I love nature and spirituality I’m just scared of animals lol because I can’t run away I think :lol: do you mean for this guest post or for my blog brightsidebecs? I submitted some work/ideas to @Chloe_Scope and she gave me the wonderful opportunity to write this piece! For my blog i just write what’s on my mind at the time, or if i think its going to help people that read it i will write about it. 
    Honestly, I don't know. I don't write blog posts really eve though I write for other websites for a living :lol:
  • BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
    That’s even better then 😊
  • emmarenshawemmarenshaw Posts: 426Community champion Pioneering
    Great post @Brightsidebecs . Welcome to the community.
  • BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
    @emmarenshaw thanks for taking the time to read my post!
  • thespicemanthespiceman Posts: 5,775Community champion Disability Gamechanger
    edited December 2019
    Hello @Brightsidebecs   Thank you for kind words, thank you for your post and interest in becoming a Community Champion.

    The role of a Community Champion involves the following on the forum.

    Being part of a team answering posts any questions.  From new members or members of our community.

    Going around the forum, website supporting members, being compassionate, have empathy.

    You do not need any particular skills to bring to the forum .

    All you need is to be honest, friendly, kind.  Open approach is I think a good thing to have.

    You will get training from the team need to be aware of those members who are vulnerable need some support. Safe guarding.

    One of the aspects of the forum we have to police it make sure every one abides by the rues. Keep it friendly any problems need to be reported or flag it up.

    Some of the team tag me in or ask my advice. This can happen you do not know everything.  I have done this myself especially complex benefit enquiries.

    Please do not worry about that, is just some members have more knowledge than others.

    Some members have conditions, illness never heard of wish for help, advice you do get a list of reference material to use.

    Organisations, associations, societies or use the web and give them the information.

    Please do not worry the team SCOPE are about ask them as I do .

    You could always tag myself happy to be supportive .

    Send team member PM or email. One other I do is contact the team any one having serious mental health issues can we do a lot more.

    Happy to help.

    If interested [email protected]

    One final point like myself use their disability, illness and experience on the forum.

    Any talents, qualities and abilities often helps. Anything you do for hobbies, interests. places you may have joined clubs, any insights helpful useful information.

    Using any knowledge you may have, I think can be beneficial but not necessary.

    You do need to spend a few hours a week that is all.

    Please I hope that helps you.

    One other a lot of  the Community Champions are friends and supportive of each other.

    Please contact the team be a pleasure to work with you.

    Please take care.


  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Posts: 6,556Administrator Scope community team
    You are more than welcome @Brightsidebecs! It was great to work with you on this. :)
    Online Community Officer
  • Richard_ScopeRichard_Scope Posts: 1,754Administrator Scope community team
    edited December 2019
    Great post @Brightsidebecs
    Great to have you on the community too!
    Specialist Information Officer - Cerebral Palsy
  • BrightsidebecsBrightsidebecs Posts: 30Member Courageous
    Thank you very much, @Richard_Scope :) 
  • lisa1986lisa1986 Posts: 21Member Connected
    I would love to volunteer  in the new year maybe at one of the scope shops I live in camberwell and there is some scope charity shops bit I was thinking of maybe getting involved in other things any other opportunities with scope to volunteer I like being around people
  • thespicemanthespiceman Posts: 5,775Community champion Disability Gamechanger
    Hello @lisa1986   Good to hear this.  Thank you.

    You can do the following contact

    [email protected]

    Send an email or look at Helpline

    0800 800 3333

    Please if I can suggest another opportunity is look at the SCOPE website when you signed up a lot of links.

    Please can I advise another one to volunteer. Is what I do every day.

    Become a community champion on  the forum, if interested tell you a little bit.

    Community Champions are members of the forum who help, support  and advise members.

    I have with you tonight.

    No particular skills needed.

    Honest, kind,. approach, you will get training.

    Any skills, talents abilities or using your own knowledge can be useful.

    Health issues or anything you might wish to use or contribute.

    Main aspect is doing the answering of posts being polite . Offer compassion, empathy sensitivity .

    A few hours a week or much time as you want.

    You get lots of support, advice and information form SCOPE team.

    If you did enrol as a Community Champion. Always here to support you.

    Made new friends, lots of confidence, self esteem, help others like me and you.

    Please contact

    [email protected]

    Please I hope that helps.

  • RooprsRooprs Posts: 12Member Connected
    Great post @Brightsidebecs, and thanks for highlighting such a prevalent problem. 

    I wish I had some insight to help, but actually I'm struggling this year too. I have my own disabilities which are not half as extreme as yours, but I suppose wheelchair-bound is the same all over the UK, and seasonal loneliness hurts no matter who you are. 

    I hope your fears resolve and you have some fun, and whatever you don't manage to get or do, well 99% of it doesn't really matter anyway! 
  • thespicemanthespiceman Posts: 5,775Community champion Disability Gamechanger
    Hello @Rooprs    Please can I ask how can I help.  Mentioned struggling.

    As one  of the community champions.

    Can offer any help, support, advice and friendship.

    Please can I add your not alone. If I can be supportive please ask get in touch.

    See how I can help offer what I can.

    One of the aspects of the role involves finding organisations to support you. 

    Including organisations relevant to your illness, conditions or dsiabilites.

    Information and support groups local to you. If not to hand will search the web.

    If you tell me where you live can be beneficial and useful for your wellbeing.

    Please contact me.  Anytime just tag my username.

    Please take care.


  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Posts: 6,556Administrator Scope community team
    edited December 2019
    Hi @Lisa1985, I hope @thespiceman has been able to give you enough information about volunteering. Here is all of the volunteer information which can be found on the Scope website. If you have any other questions then please do let us know. :)

    Contact us

    Online Community Officer
  • lisa1986lisa1986 Posts: 21Member Connected
    Hi Chloe  Scope thankyou I'll check it out 
  • TopkittenTopkitten Posts: 1,033Member Pioneering
    It's good to see that some still enjoy Xmas, no matter what people think of it's change in function now.

    I have had 2 very bad Xmas's but this year has been good for a number of reasons. Firstly I had a proper Xmas day with my son including a proper Xmas dinner (my first in a decade) which he helped with. As neither of my daughters like to visit me as I am a heavy smoker and because I was housebound for 18 months until recently, this is the first year in a while I have seen them properly.... especially my new granddaughter of 10 months for the first time (I had thought I might never see her). However, I saw my eldest daughter and her 2 children on the Sunday before Xmas and again on the Monday before year and I also got to see my younger daughter and her little girl on the Monday as well. Despite my eldest' fears it seems the younger daughter has taken to being a mum very well which, considering her past of giving up on things when it gets tough, is a little surprising. I never had a doubt though, I brought all my kids up to be practical and honest (though I can't say the honesty took quite as well, lol!)

    The big difference though was accidentally finding a solution to the major pain issue that was making me housebound and while my GP is resisting putting me back on the extra medication I need to be a little mobile I have managed to change my Mobility car and get out a little using old medication left over from when I had to stop using it. It turns out that an elasticated bandage wrapped tightly around the foot and ankle has done major wonders, even though the GP is at a loos to explain why. As usual though I have had to find my own solutions and just wish I had thought of this before I became housebound. I will have to be careful though as I cannot change the bandage every day so I do risk causing blood flow issues to the foot and lower leg.

    So all-in-all it has been a good Xmas and, talking to the GP on the phone, even my doctor can hear the positive aspect in my voice. However, he is so wrapped up in trying to cure a chest infection that is resisting antibiotics, that he isn't giving much thought to what is causing the positivism and i only have a limited supply of the meds needed to get out and about, so can't make any plans as yet.

    Anyway, I waffle on too much as usual. Good for you in doing good things over Xmas, often it only takes a good story to inspire a few more into making the effort.

    Personally I don't care whether people think Xmas is too much about spending and getting. To me it's about family getting together, no matter the reason.

    "I'm on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell" - from Wrong side of heaven by Five Finger Death Punch.
  • pollyanna1052pollyanna1052 Posts: 1,509Member Disability Gamechanger
    Topkitten.....I`m so pleased your Christmas turned out well.
    You  sound much more positive and the problem with your GP/meds will hopefully, right itself in time.

    happy new year lad!

  • gaz1960gaz1960 Posts: 60Member Courageous
    Totally isolated at new year,but best wishes to all on the site for the new year. 
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Posts: 6,556Administrator Scope community team
    Sorry to hear that @gaz1960, best wishes for the new year too. I hope today has been okay. :)
    Online Community Officer
  • gaz1960gaz1960 Posts: 60Member Courageous
    Thanks Chloe. 

    Today was just another Groundhog Day. Same old,same old. Get up at 4am, go to work,work all day by myself,get home at 4pm. Dinner for one!
    Go to bed. 

    Start all over again! 
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Posts: 6,556Administrator Scope community team
    That's a very early start @gaz1960! I hope you can find some chance to relax and break the Groundhog Day cycle.
    Online Community Officer
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