Eight weeks into my shielding life, I was told by my endocrinologist, and then my GP, that they’d looked at my case and didn’t think I needed to be taking such strict precautions. In fact, my GP’s words were, “You can be a normal person now.”
I’ve never been one for acting normal. In fact, in the house I grew up in, ‘normal’ was treated like a swear word. But hearing those words was so weirdly exciting!
After the phone call with my GP (who we affectionately refer to as Dr Sass because he got me into hospital before with a very stern and sassy letter that shocked the receptionists in A&E!) I joined my evening virtual yoga class and, while I was stretching and moving, I had so many feelings rushing through my head. I found it hard to concentrate on the deep breathing patterns because I was so excited!
At one point I felt ever so slightly angry that I’d had to shield for this long, when really my GP didn’t think it was necessary. But then I realised I’d been right to do so - after all, the NHS told me to, and I’ll always listen to the NHS.
I was as safe and secure as I could possibly have been for those very weird and lonely eight weeks, and I wouldn’t take them back.
The next emotion that took hold, as the yoga class ended and I laid back on my mat for the final 10 minutes of relaxation and contemplation, was relief. I actually found myself crying - the tears slid sideways down my cheeks and into my ears, which was very uncomfortable, but made me laugh like an absolute loon.
I was suddenly free! It was amazing! But what on earth should I do with this new freedom?!
First trip out
I called my family and boyfriend to tell them the good news, but waited until the next day to actually leave my little flat.
I went out with Mama that afternoon to walk along the seafront, which is only a few minutes from my doorstep - hearing the seagulls and waves from my window for two months and not being able to go out had been torture!
After our walk, we sat on the beach (safely distanced) and chatted. It was so surreal being out and about at that time of day, when the sun was low in the sky and there were so many more people around.
Confession time: I’d been sneaking out a couple of times a week before then, to get fresh air and walk quickly along the ‘quiet end’ of the seafront and back, around 7am, when there was nobody around. I’d get home after these illicit walks and immediately jump in the shower and throw my clothes in the wash, terrified I’d get sick after just 45 minutes of brisk walking outside.
That evening when I got back home, I tried to process the news and work out what I was comfortable doing with my new freedom.
I decided to keep my outings to a minimum and not risk going to any supermarkets or on public transport. Because even though I’d been told I could be ‘normal’, I still felt it was important to stay home as much as possible.
I’d recommend that anyone else who is being let off shielding do the same - limit your outings, because, while lockdown is steadily lifting, those of us who are more vulnerable are still at a higher level of risk than anyone else.
I was relieved to find out from a contact at the BBC that of all the shielders they interviewed, when it was announced that they could go out after 11 weeks, 90% of them said they were continuing to stay indoors.
Enjoy the little things
It’s my personal opinion that the UK is going ‘back to normal’ far too quickly. I can only say, to all the people like me who received that text or letter on 23 March, please keep yourselves safe.
Enjoy the little things - go out if you need the walk, or fresh air, but please be wary of large gatherings and bigger shops. Oh, and make the most of your priority delivery slots - I sure am!