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Isolation Diary | Week 1 | Don’t Dead Open Inside

Posted on 22 Comments 10 min read

Last week, our family  – like many others in the UK and around the world –  started what we’re currently being told will be 12 weeks of social isolation, in a bid to help flatten the curve, and stop my immunocompromised husband catching coronavirus – along with the rest of us, obviously. I, naturally, decided to document the experience in diary form: so here’s what week 1 looked like… 

S

o, it turns out I am not cut out for the pandemic life, which, WHO WOULDA GUESSED? Other than absolutely everyone who has ever known me, even if only through my blog, I mean? It’s like, when we’re watching The Walking Dead, Terry will frequently try to start conversations about what we would do in the event of a zombie apocalypse, and I’m just like, “Dude, we both know I wouldn’t last more than a week: which is a shame, really, because someone has to diarize the shit of the situation, and  THAT I could do.”

So this, I guess, is my diary of the apocalypse: which, it turns out, has nothing to do with zombies, even although it all feels very ‘DON’T DEAD OPEN INSIDE,’ somehow. 

(It’s a Walking Dead meme, mum: don’t email me about my grammar…)

I’d assumed this first week would be mostly about staving off the boredom, while simultaneously panicking about both the prospect of catching the virus itself, and the very real possibility of our business going under because of it. As it turned out, though, I ended up worrying about much more than “just” those things, because, in true Forever Amber fashion, this was the week that everyone in our house got sick simultaneously. 

NOT with COVID-19, obviously: THAT would’ve been a totally different post, and, honestly, I’m not sure even I would’ve opened with all of that Walking Dead stuff under those particular circumstances. Kinda regretting that even now, TBH. But no, I’m happy to report that we managed to get through the “Could It Be COVID?” stage of our respective illnesses pretty quickly, and establish that:

Max had YET ANOTHER ear infection.

Terry most likely had a bad case of oral thrush.

I had a surprise return visit from The Throat Infection That Almost Killed Me, which, FML, seriously.

For about three days, neither of the adults in the house were able to function normally: which gave the toddler in the house ample opportunity to trash the place, basically. Most of our furniture will not make it through the next 12 weeks, let’s put it that way. (Also, RIP The Lamp in the Office: I’d like to say you died doing what you loved, but unless you loved being pushed over and then sat on by a screaming toddler, I’m afraid that’s just wishful thinking on my part, really…) Those 3 days, however, may have been short in the great scheme of things, but, in the “Parenting a Toddler When Everyone Is Ill Simultaneously,” scheme of things, they were pretty damn long, all things considered.

At any other time, of course, we’d have been able to call on my parents to come and lend a hand, but, with everyone isolating, there was literally no one who could help… and, while I know you’re not allowed to complain about sore throats and ear infections while the entire world is crumbling around you, I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway, because not only is ANY kind of illness a cause for concern in these troubled times (Because, how do you know FOR SURE that it isn’t COVID?), it also felt a bit like the universe was giving us a handy preview of what it’s going to be like to have every single one of our support systems removed from us for the next 12 weeks (or longer). And, spoiler alert: it’s going to be terrifying. And lonely. And… just way, way too much, really. 

With everyone ill, the entire week was a bit of a blur, really: and, in some ways, the sickness was something of a distraction. Yes, the world was falling apart around us, but, inside the sick house, we were so busy trying to get through each day while feeling like hell, that we could almost pretend it was just a random week of sickness, and that, once it was over, things would go back to normal.

Then, just as I started to get better, Terry and Max got worse. 

By Friday morning, it was obvious they were both probably going to need antibiotics. Our health centre is closed now, after a confirmed Coronavirus case (Rumour has it that some guy came back from Italy with it, and just rocked up at the health centre. Thanks, That Guy!), but we managed to get a telephone appointment with the doctor, who prescribed two sets of antibiotics, which, she said, would be ready to collect later that day. 

But they weren’t. And here’s why:

pharmacy queue due to coronavirusThe line outside our local pharmacy, where “social distancing” is just for sissies, apparently. Like, the Coronavirus would take one look at that lot and start rubbing its hands together, wouldn’t it? 

Now, even if we hadn’t been isolating, I don’t think either of us would’ve been keen to stand amongst this crowd right now, with people breathing down the back of our necks, and everyone panicking at the slightest cough. As it turned out, though, we didn’t have to, because, NO, they did NOT, in fact have either of the prescriptions ready: and they didn’t have them the next day, either. In fact, it took until Monday for Max’s antibiotics to arrive, and, to date, Terry’s still haven’t turned up: so, yes, good to know that the guy with the kidney transplant, who we’re all supposed to be ‘shielding’ right now, is the one who has to go without his meds, right?

With both us in isolation (And both still ill, into the bargain, which meant we’d have had to isolate even if Terry hadn’t been in the highest risk group …), and the pharmacy telling us they weren’t able to deliver the medication, our only option was to ask a friend to go and pick it up for us (Yes, I know there are various services that deliver prescriptions, but the ones near us are all for repeat prescriptions only, and these were one-offs…): at which point our poor friend Linsey got to stand in line for almost two hours to collect it. TWO HOURS. (Yes, we will be buying her a very, very big drink as soon as all of this is over…)

As shocking as that seemed to me, though, the fact is, we were lucky. We were lucky that Max and Terry weren’t more seriously ill than they were, and were able to wait a few days for the medication. We were really, really lucky that we had a friend nearby who was willing to go and collect it for us, despite the huge pain in the ass it turned out to be. What about people with more serious conditions, though? What about the ones who have literally no one they can ask?

It honestly doesn’t bear thinking about: and, of course, until now, we’ve never really had to, have we? Until now, we’ve pretty much taken it for granted that if we needed medical help, it would be there. But now it isn’t: and, while people whose countries reached this stage before us have been quick to reassure me that this phase wont last, and the pharmacies should be back to normal in a few days, I can’t help but wonder about the people who don’t have a few days to wait for their medication? I mean, sure, I know the government are putting measures in place to make sure food and medicine will be delivered to those who need it, but, until that happens, it strikes me that our most vulnerable members of society – i.e. the ones who’ve been told to totally isolate for 12 weeks – are the people most likely to be forced out of the safety of their homes to collect medication: and then find themselves standing for hours in a crowd of people like the one shown above – in which anyone at all could be carrying the virus, and pass it on. 

There are more things to worry about than the virus itself, then, was the message of this week. Because it might be the biggest risk we’re facing right now, but it’s far from the only one: and that’s just one of the many, many dark thoughts that have been keeping me up at night. (Well, that and the fact that I’ve been sleeping on the sofa most nights: our respective illnesses have NOT made either Terry or I very silent sleepers, unfortunately…)

The biggest thing keeping me up, of course, has been my fear of one of my loved ones contracting the virus. That goes without saying. Along with the fear, however, there’s also been a huge amount of sadness, which keeps creeping up on me when I least expect it. Things like:

  • Putting away some of Max’s laundry, seeing all of his “nice” clothes hanging in the wardrobe and realising that he’ll only ever get to wear them around the house now (And probably not even that, really…), because, by the time our isolation period ends, they’ll all be too small. 
  • Listening to him talk excitedly about his friends from nursery, and wondering if he’ll even remember them in three months time. Will he remember what it’s like to go to shops, or other places? I mean, I know he won’t remember ANYTHING that happens this year in the long term, good or bad, but will it delay his development to be stuck inside the house for three full months, never meeting anyone other than Terry and I, and never going anywhere further than the back garden? Will he be frightened of other people when the quarantine is over? Will he develop agoraphobia? Will WE?
  • Going through my ASOS wish list and deleting all of the swimwear and sundresses I’d earmarked for my holiday, which will no longer be happening. 
  • My Google Photos app giving me an ‘On this day…’ pop-up every morning (Yes, I know I could switch it off, but little things like this seem totally overwhelming to me right now…) which serves as a stark reminder of all of the normal things we’d used to take for granted, but which are now totally impossible to us. 
  • The homepage of my website showing photos from our holiday to Bulgaria last year, and the realisation that the beautiful, brand-new hotel we stayed in, will really struggle to make it through its second season, with no one travelling any more.
  • Putting Max into the PJs he got for Christmas, and, OMG, remember Christmas? When everything was so normal, and we had absolutely no idea what was in store for us? Was that our last ever “normal” Christmas? Will we all still be here for the next one?

All of which, of course, pales into insignificance every day when the updated figures come in, and we’re confronted yet again with the number of lives that have been lost – the entire worlds that have been shattered. While the big things like that are, of course, the most important things in all of this – and the reason why we haven’t hesitated to do whatever’s necessary to keep as many people safe as we possibly can – the smaller sadnesses still sting. It’s like death by a thousand cuts, basically, and I can’t help but be devastated by it all, hundreds of times each day.

Everything still feels surreal. Everything still feels dark, and hopeless, and while I’m hoping it’ll get easier –  at least in the sense of us reaching a point where we’re no longer being blindsided by the memory of “normal life” every few minutes, or waking up to those few seconds where you feel like everything’s normal, only to remember that no, it really isn’t – right now it’s very far from easy. In fact, I think it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and, to be brutally honest, I’ll be amazed if I make it through this year unmedicated. 

For now, though, our first week has mostly about trying to keep our heads above water while feeling like we’re inevitably going to sink. It’s been about working out the logistics of how we do things like collect prescriptions, or get our online grocery shop into the house without touching anything that might be infected. It’s been about obsessively checking temperatures (me), panicking every time someone coughs (also me) and wanting to cry because the LED sign on the kitchen wall was bought during our holiday last year, when everything was normal and no one was about to die in a pandemic. (Guess who?) It’s been about trying to figure out how we can possibly try to carve out some time to work when we suddenly have zero help with childcare… all the while knowing that, even if we survive the pandemic ourselves, the business that we’ve spent the last 15 years building up, probably won’t.

Oh yeah, and it’s been about constantly having to stop in my tracks and come to terms yet again with the fact that the phrase, “If we survive the pandemic,” isn’t just something people say in movies now: it’s part of our everyday conversation, and probably will be for a very long time.  

I’m pretty sure it’ll break me. I’m 100% sure that people like me are not built for situations like this. But, for as long as I can, I’ll continue to write about it: because it’s the only thing I know how to do.

And that was week 1. How’s your pandemic going?

 

 

 

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22 Comments
  • Rosie
    March 24, 2020

    Oh shit, Amber, I really feel for you guys. I’m still at work (NHS secretary) and went to one of the specially allocated NHS workers slot at Tesco on Sunday only to find it rammed – there was no possibility of social distancing and the very few basics we went for weren’t available anyway! We all have our grumbles but at least I can go out and I’m not suffering any symptoms. I know you hate it when people tell you to be positive but just know that we’ll all be here, reading your blogs and thinking of you. Good luck x

    • Amber
      March 24, 2020

      Thanks Rosie – keep yourself safe: I have so much respect for those of you still going out to work at the moment so the rest of us can stay home ❤️

  • Mum
    March 24, 2020

    Ah, glad I read on before I contacted you. XXX

    • Amber
      March 24, 2020

      Knew it!

      • Ivy
        March 24, 2020

        This is seems such a small thing, but we haven’t been able to buy chicken for love or money for the last two weeks. I have haemochromatosis (genetic iron overload) but my husband loves meat, so our compromise has always been chicken most nights of the week. Now it’s trying to balance the red meat I shouldn’t really eat more than once a week with vegetarian dishes I don’t know how to cook in a way that will keep Arnold full.

        Hope you are all on the mend now. Thinking of you.

        • Amber
          March 25, 2020

          It’s sometimes the small things like that that really bring it home to you, though, isn’t it? Stay safe – and I hope you find some chicken!

  • Cheila Martins
    March 24, 2020

    I’m so sorry. I hope you guys are feeling better. I share a lot of your feelings. Our president (Portugal) has declared a state of national emergency so we cannot really be wondering about. The other day I asked my husband if we could maybe just walk to the beach and his reply was “you know you’re not allowed to go somewhere unless we have to”. It really hit me because it’s something I never thought I’d hear during my lifetime. This is so new but so old at the same time. It makes you think of dictatorship and the wars and curfews and rationing. It’s so scary. So I’m with you.

    • Amber
      March 24, 2020

      This is so true – it’s all stuff that we couldn’t ever have imagined happening in our lives, and it’s really hard to adjust to it. Multiple times per day I find myself thinking, “Oh, I’ll just…” and then remembering I can’t do whatever it is any more 🤦‍♀️

  • Jenna
    March 24, 2020

    I feel incredibly lucky. I live in a small, rural town in the US and we have no reported cases so far in our county…yet. There is one reported case in the county next to ours so it’s only a matter of time. Because of that, it feels like we’ve had a little more time to prepare than other more populated areas. Our local chamber has put together a database of volunteers for those of us in self-isolation (like myself) to contact them if we need supplies to be picked up and dropped off. I’ve been able to keep a bit more than half of my students through video lessons (I run a music studio, teaching lessons) because a number of parents here are wanting normalcy for their kids. I don’t know how long that will last, but at least I can concentrate on something. Our district is kind of classifying this like a natural disaster since being rural means many families don’t have internet access; so there is no home learning requirements. I’m very fortunate to live in the type of community that really tries to step up for each other. But it’s also made easier by the fact that I’m an introvert and don’t like going out, and I also have the privilege of living on an acreage, so I can actually get outside without risk of running into anybody with a lot of room to roam and walk. I’m very, very lucky.

    • Amber
      March 24, 2020

      I’m very envious of people with lots of outdoor space – we’re fortunate to have a garden to go out in, but I suspect it’ll get old fast!

  • Jana
    March 24, 2020

    Oh Amber, I’m so sorry you’re going through this with so much fear. This is a situation where faith helps to ward off fear. There is still fear but the knowledge that someone is in control and they have our best interest at heart is a comfort and something those with faith can relax into. My husband & I are in the high risk group in the US (California). They are telling us that we’re not that far behind Italy’s trajectory. It’s hard to get milk and bread and bananas (for some reason). Medications were sold out long ago. I have friends who are infected. Some have recovered, some are in the hospital in isolation. Hospitals are running at full capacity and our nurses and doctors are not properly protected. They even parked a hospital ship off our coast for a thousand extra beds. The world is crazy but I trust that God will bring us through. This too shall pass. It won’t be forever and we will recover our lives.

    • Amber
      March 24, 2020

      As an agnostic, I unfortunately don’t share your faith, but I’m very glad to hear it’s bringing you comfort – we could all be doing with some of that right now!

  • Myra
    March 24, 2020

    I have a few months before they lock me up in the 70+ category, and am taking advantage of the get some exercise daily directive. Having barely left the house for months, the sun is out and I feel compelled to go outside. I’ve been gardening and walking and today I cleaned my little car. (This was my Mother’s Day wish, but as my family must stay away, I did it myself.)
    My daughter has put virtual granny escape tape around my door and microchipoed me, so she can see when I put a foot outdoors, but I elude her virtual traps and escape anyway. She did a shop for me yesterday and wiped every item before putting in my house. My grandson passed my a Mother’s Day card from a safe distance, along with a can of baked beans (which apparently are very rare).
    I am watching a lot of news about CV and a lot of very light TV programmes. I can’t cope with anything intense or scary – CV is scary enough. See, I can’t even say its name, like you know who in Harry Potter. I’m talking a lot to friends and family and ranting about CV to anyone who will listen. That’s My week.

    • Amber
      March 24, 2020

      Haha, CV is definitely the real-life You Know Who – only scarier!

  • Mary Katherine
    March 24, 2020

    Dear Amber – when I want a break from all the positivity, I know where to come! But seriously, you just express what we are ALL feeling from time to time. To me, this feels like The Recession of 2008 +Y2K Worst Case Scenario +what WWII was like in the US (rationing without bombs) – all the in space of one month, so far. And I do believe an economic recession is coming that will make the 1930’s pale by comparison. And when I think of all the US presidents we COULD have had to lead us through this, and what we ACTUALLY have…well, I’m sure you don’t want us getting political here. I’m lucky enough to work from home AND still being paid AND still have health insurance. I also live in the middle of a 360-acre farm so I can roam to my heart’s content, and have actual farm WORK to do if (when) the weather actually improves. And my family and I are all in good health. So I even feel a bit guilty about all that! I am trying to support local businesses – today I’m buying greens from a local farmer and meat from a tiny local butcher shop. I’m also trying to exercise every day and learn some new stuff online. I won’t try any of that cheer-up stuff I know you DON’T want to hear. Y’all have it VERY rough, and there’s no use denying it. DO know that you have a lot of loyal followers, and I will continue to read your posts and be wishing for peace, sanity and resilience for you, Terry, Max and your families.

    • Amber
      March 25, 2020

      Oh, I have no problem with you getting political: I’ve said many times to Terry that I wish America had almost anyone else other than Trump at the helm right now: so many people are going to die because of this man’s actions, and if it’s horrific to watch from a distance, I can’t even imagine how you all must be feeling ☹️ Please take care of yourself ❤️

  • HELEN TABOR
    March 24, 2020

    Evening Amber, I love your posts and am sorry you are feeling so despondent, though can completely understand how you feel. It is a scary world at the moment. I am trying to be positive but will not enrage you for fear you will fling your lap top at a nearby wall and then what would you do? My youngest had a rather abrupt end to his primary school last week and he will miss out on his last sports day and leavers party. Normally a stoic fellow he cried his eyes out but thankfully a family pack of Cadburys mini eggs sorted him right out. I have a big circle around the 12th June when hopefully things will be getting back to normal. I send you and your lovely family my very best wishes. Helen from Manchester

    • Amber
      March 25, 2020

      I really feel for people having to explain all of this to young children 🙁 We’re fortunate in that Max is too young to really know what’s happening, but even he’s been constantly asking to see his grandparents and friends, or wanting to go to the park or nursery, and it’s horrible having to keep saying no – I suspect he’ll stop asking after a while, and, to be honest, that’ll be a sadness of a different kind, really ☹️

  • Georgia
    March 25, 2020

    Dear Amber,
    it is tough for everyone, at a varying degree of toughness. However, the alternative, is even worse…
    Take care, have strength, think positive, keep busy and keep well

  • Amy
    March 25, 2020

    I’m in a high risk category too, so I started self-isolating a week before everyone else (hipster vibe there is unintentional). It isn’t too different from my life in the Before Times. I’m gently baffled at not being able to follow my whims so much, but otherwise coping.

    I’m sad for so many people, scared for others and so grateful that I’m safe and (touch wood!) no one I know has been ill yet. This is a strange time in our world and I’m glad you’re documenting it.

  • LP
    March 26, 2020

    Thank you for your post. I upped my time as our local community LE19 had created a group to support the vulnerable, in a way we may all that and I’ve created a WhatsApp group for our close of 22 houses after a survey at a distance. Some joined immediately -3 that has increased to 8 households plus me wondering why only 8, they could have benefited from my Iceland delivery which I surprisingly got on Monday for yesterday! So short sighted! These activities were distraction therapy and tears arose when I realised I didn’t have a paper gift bag. Not a typo but lack of a gift bag was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was for my daughter K baby shower which is not happening and will also mean we won’t see the baby for a while,.Won’t create the nursery,etc. Then I,’m missing my 15m old granddaughter and that is so hard. Her mum has essential work apparently – in a bank, plus nursery will still have her for 2 days dad but that’s not very safe, dad is working from home. Hopefully she too can work from home but so many can’t.
    We have to cope, adjust, learn new things value what we have and after our world be better. Sorry that you have had such a hard time getting meds.
    And the gift bag -I’ve made one from wallpaper and paper just for the virtual baby shower. What did you do during the coronavirus Amber? You made a real difference to people as

  • Dubliner
    April 2, 2020

    I really wish this wasn’t the reality right now. It’s all so scary. The only thing I find that helps is taking it each day at a time. I’m really worried about family in Ireland. I know if something happens to them I won’t be able to fly over.