Photo credit: Rebecca Brooker
On Monday 23 March, I was one of the 1.5 million humans in the UK who got a text from the NHS, advising them that they are considered at risk of severe illness if they were to contract coronavirus (COVID-19).
The text went on to advise me (us) to stay inside for up to 12 weeks, isolate ourselves and keep a safe distance from any other humans.
I received this first text around 1pm, while half listening to the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2. After reading it through once, feeling confused and nervous, I heard Jeremy speaking to a doctor about the letters and texts the NHS was sending out “right at this moment”, advising “extra vulnerable people” to stay home and not leave even for essential shopping, as other less risky humans were given the OK to do. That sent me into a tailspin - I had a good cry, and even wailed “It’s not fair!”
That was the first time I heard from the NHS, with regards to the pandemic. I’ve since had more texts from them, almost one per day - all of them informative and kind, and each one has brought me to tears.
A daunting prospect
I’m quite scared about the coming 10+ weeks (it’s already been two as I write this). It’s true, I always love spending time on my own, but I’m quickly realising that I need other people around to bounce off and get my happy vibes from. I am super chatty, and I love being out and about with friends. I love coffee/lunch/dinner dates. I love days out, I love nights out, I love being hugged and I love being smiled at – with full eye contact. I love feeling someone with me, even if we’re not speaking, just sitting side by side watching a movie and maybe sharing some food (if they're lucky). I’m not sure how to cope without any of those things, for the foreseeable future.
Accepting the limitations
The overwhelming feelings I’ve had since getting that first text are frustration, yes, but also the deepest sadness because it’s yet another instance in my life when I’ve been thrown a curve ball and had to stop everything I’m doing and the progress I’m making because I’m too sick to carry on as normal.
As I said on Twitter, I’m usually so open and positive about my illnesses. But being classified as a ‘high risk’ in these current circumstances has reminded me that while I accept everything that’s happened to me – and wouldn’t change a thing because ultimately it’s all taught me so much, brought amazing people into my life and actually made me a better person – I’m still limited in what I can do day to day.
And the difficulties that come with these diagnoses can still sneak up behind me and pull me down when I’m not looking. All this is bringing up another fear of mine – while I can really love being alone, I also get scared of being lonely.
We know how invaluable our face-to-face events can be and while we’re currently unable to bring everyone together in person, we still want to give you the chance to meet new people and share your experiences.
That's why we're hosting online meet ups for parents and young adults to help you stay safe and be alone, together.
Looking at the positives
I’m trying to focus on the positives, for now. For instance, this unprecedented alone time in my one bed flat is actually helping me properly ‘bond’ with the place. I moved in at the beginning of January and hadn’t had much quality time with the space, as I was always rushing in and out – usually to one of my two jobs or to see friends.
This time has also seen me looking up new, fun recipes to try out, and I’m doing a LOT of reading. I’m hoping that in the coming weeks I’ll develop more of a rhythm, too – right now all I have set in place each day is my Instagram live stream at 10am, followed by coffee time that I like to share with a friend via video chat.
And almost every other day I do my usual yoga classes via Zoom. I am very fortunate to have a secret outdoor space despite living on the top floor of my building. It’s a godsend for me, especially on warmer days when all I want is to feel the sun on my face and breathe in the fresh sea air.
Keep it simple
I have set myself a few little goals for the coming weeks. The trick is not overworking yourself and feeling a pressure to be ‘super productive’. You don’t have to ‘use’ this time, if you don’t want to. Don’t feel like you have to clear out your whole house, or take on a complicated knitting project or write a lengthy memoir.
Just focus on the smaller, more achievable things – like devoting an hour or so to polishing all your favourite jewellery (don’t knock it till you try it – it’s SO satisfying). Baking some cookies, making a meal plan and finishing a new series on Netflix are also excellent uses of your free time. And if you’re like me and NEED the social time, maybe schedule in one friendly video chat per day.
And most importantly – never feel guilty for resting and doing next to nothing. It’s what your body and brain need, sometimes.
Sending good vibes to you all!