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…
So, 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, 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, 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:
The 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?