flowers on the window

Lockdown Diary | Week 2 | We Still Watch Neighbours

[On March 16th, 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… ]

After the lockdown was announced, we watched Neighbours.

To be fair, Neighbours has been amazing this week. There was a psychopath who decided to go on a killing spree, using a range of James-Bond-villain-esque methods, like pushing his victims into an abandoned mineshaft, then throwing a snake in after them. There was a bomb in a cake box, and an entire island set on fire. There were quite a few bare butts.  And, you know what? As totally ridiculous as all of that sounds, it’s STILL not nearly as far-fetched as real life has suddenly become, is it?

The pandemic is not the way I imagined it, though. It’s much more … ordinary, I guess: at least for those of us who are staying home. I didn’t expect to be wearing sweatpants for it, for one thing, or wondering if it could be a good opportunity to re-paint the garden fence. At one point last week, meanwhile, I was Facetiming with my parents, and my mum mentioned how, earlier that day, she’d been in the kitchen drying some dishes, while my dad worked in the garden outside, and the TV behind her broadcast the news of entire countries going into lockdown, accompanied by a news ticker updating on that day’s death tally. My mum just kept drying the dishes: because what else can you do, really? 

It’s totally not how we imagined it. 

We still get up in the morning, make breakfast and endlessly remind the toddler not to eat the bits that fall on the floor. We still do the laundry, make a note to add more washing powder to the online shop, and wonder where all the socks go. We still watch Neighbours: only, these days we find ourselves thinking, “Hey, I wonder how the soaps will handle the pandemic? Like, will they just ignore it altogether – assuming they can keep on filming – or is someone desperately trying to come up with a bunch of plotlines involving everyone sitting around in their own homes right now?” Because, honestly, I think I preferred the “psychopath on the loose” stuff. And the bare butts, obviously.

But here we are. 

Even although I was expecting it, the lockdown announcement still made me well up at the enormity of it. We watched Boris Johnson – (Who is literally the LAST person I could’ve imagined being entrusted to guide us through something like this…) make a speech that will be remembered for generations. We saw history be made. And afterwards, I felt a lot of things, but I mostly felt relief.  I’ve hated every single second of our enforced isolation so far, but I want it to continue, because it’s the only thing that makes me feel even vaguely safe right now.  Vaguely safe, however,  isn’t the same thing as actually safe: and, halfway through the week, it suddenly hit me that, no matter what happens in relation to treatments or testing, I’m not going to feel really safe again until there’s a vaccine: which, even according to the most optimistic estimates, is still a long way away. 

flowers on the windowWe’re going to miss spring: and probably summer, too. We might even miss autumn, and then, before we know it, we’ll be right back to winter again, an entire year having passed us by. Sometimes I feel like I’m actually going to scream at the sheer unfairness of it: sometimes the reality of it hits me like a brick, and I just don’t think I can do it. But then the news comes in about a 21-year-old woman who died from coronavirus despite having no underlying health conditions, or my nurse friends posts a heartbreaking update about nursing her first COVID-19 patient, and I realise there isn’t any choice. There really isn’t.

Meanwhile, millions of people across the country still get up every day and go to work: a simple act that, these days, means literally risking your life. At the time of writing, over half a million people have volunteered to help the NHS. Thousands more, meanwhile, are continuing to stock the supermarkets, deliver goods, and take what feels to me like an unimaginable risk, just to keep the rest of us safe. So, on Thursday night at 8pm, we opened the front door, took a single step outside, and joined in the Clap for Carers : Terry stoically holding back tears, and me just letting mine flow.

From all over our little village, we could hear the sound of people cheering in support of the NHS: it was one of the most moving things I’ve ever witnessed, and I hope it helped, in even a small way, to show all of those brave souls that we’re thinking of them, even although there’s so little we can do to really help.

Coronavirus lockdown, Week 2So, the lockdown started, and I felt a tiny bit safer. We’re fortunate to be able to do this. We’re lucky that our apolcalypse is proving pretty ordinary – boring, even. It’s not that way for everyone, obviously, and, every day, that stark fact becomes a little bit clearer, and I start to feel scared again.

It’s been two weeks now since Max last went to nursery, which I’ve always thought was our biggest risk factor in terms of catching the virus. Over those two weeks, he hasn’t shown a single symptom of it … but, then again, children often don’t, we’re told: so, if he DID pick it up on that last day with Other People,  he could still have passed it on it to us at any time in the past two weeks.  Then there’s my mum, who had to go to the pharmacy last week for a routine prescription: my parents aren’t technically in the high-risk group yet, as they’re both still under 70, with no underlying conditions, but they’re close enough to it (Let’s just say that one of them has a significant birthday in the next couple of weeks, and leave it at that…) for me to worry about them constantly, and require constant updates on everyone’s health. (I am also really fun at parties, just in case you were wondering.)

Max with his Jellycats

As for Terry, meanwhile, he never did get those antibiotics he was prescribed during our first week of isolation . Apparently the queues at the pharmacy are averaging two and a half hours now, and, according to the local Facebook groups I’ve joined, which have been set up to keep people connected, there’s been at least a couple of spats, as people’s tempers start to fray. Not only would it be too much of a risk for either of us to go and mix with that many people right now, it also seems like too much to ask anyone else, so while Terry’s throat is still sore (The immunosupressants which make him more vulnerable to COVID-19 also leave him more vulnerable to other illnesses, and a throat infection that a “normal” person might be able to throw off in a few days can end up lasting several weeks for him…), he’s just getting on with it, and feeling thankful it isn’t worse.

On Saturday, though, things did take a turn for the worse, when he received a letter from the government , officially identifying him as being in the highest risk group for Coronairus, and telling him that, in addition to staying at home for 12 weeks, he must also try to minimise the amount of contact he has with me and Max. I wrote about this in a separate post when it happened, so all I’ll add here is that while we will, of course, follow the advice to the best of our ability, we also think it’s going to be necessary to balance the huge risk to our mental health that separating our family would pose, against the very small risk to our physical health that’s presented by the three of us continuing to have contact with each other whilst remaining isolated from everyone else. I realise some people are inevitably going to judge us for that, but ask yourselves how you’d feel if you were told you couldn’t see your very young child for three months, and if you genuinely think you’d be OK with that, then I guess you win at Pandemic-ing. Er, congrats. 

As for me, meanwhile, well, at the weekend, someone commented on Facebook to tell me that splitting up our family for three months was a “small sacrifice,” but, to be totally honest, I feel that separating people from literally everyone they love, and taking away every single bit of human contact for months on end is actually a pretty big sacrifice: it’s the kind of sacrifice, in fact, that will make a lot of people feel like they just can’t go on, and attempting to diminish that and pretend it’s nothing seems quite unkind, really . Not everyone has the mental fortitude necessary to cope with things like this – especially those who are already dealing with serious mental health issues –  and not all of the deaths that result from this pandemic will be from coronavirus, sadly: which is something worth thinking about before you jump in and tell someone they’re not allowed to feel bad about the fact that everything that made their life worth living is now gone.

So, while I’m grateful that we’re able to stay at home, when millions of others don’t have that privilege, I’m also sad that ‘saying safe’ means giving up so many of the things that mattered to us. I’m frustrated that so many people still don’t seem to understand that those two things aren’t mutually exclusive: that we can be 100% behind the lockdown, while still feeling devastated that it was even necessary; that we can understand the need for isolation, but still feel like bursting into tears at the thought of one more day of it. The fact that there are other people who have it worse doesn’t mean that any of us have it particularly good right now, and I wish people could be a little bit more understanding of that, and stop trying to tell us that we’re only allowed to feel bad if we’re dead, and nothing else counts.

We’re allowed to feel scared.

We’re allowed to feel sad. 

We’re allowed to feel however we want, really: because every single one of us is currently going through something that none of us could even have imagined just a few short weeks ago, and we’re basically just making it up as we go along, aren’t we?  So we still do many of the same things we did before: the cleaning and the laundry, and even a bit of work, when we can fit it in. We still watch Neighbours.  But everything has changed. 

 

COMMENTS
  • Clapping at 8pm must be so powerful. I see all my friends sharing their stories on instagram about the clapping in Madrid, and just that already brings tears to my eyes. Here in Germany no one is doing it yet, and it kinda feels weird to be the first one…
    Rationally I completely agree we are all allowed to feel sad, yet when I feel sad myself I also feel a bit guilty, and cannot help but thinking about all those other people that have it way worse… It’s a tricky one.
    I am glad you are your family are doing well.

    xxx
    Isabel
    https://isabelstories.com/

    March 30, 2020
  • May

    REPLY

    Just last night the government announced that the lockdown (originally supposed to end tomorrow) is extending until April 14th. Can’t say I, or the vast majority if people really, are surprised. While we’re thankfully nowhere near China, Italy, or US, we still have cases, community spread has started and the worst of it is expected to happen around mid-May. I don’t think the lockdown is going to be lifted before the end of April, if not later, but I’m thankful they’re announcing it in two-week increments. Being told all at once that you’re going to have to isolate for entire months at a time would drive anyone crazy.
    I’m mostly resigned to the situation. This is nothing anyone could have ever predicted, and there’s nothing else we can do about it. In my personal life, I’m mostly worried and angry about how this has changed all my college plans. We went on lockdown before I even started all my classes, and while one I’m doing at home, I haven’t heard from the other yet. Examinations have been cancelled so finals will keep piling up, and I don’t think I’ll be able to graduate when I planned it. Sure, it’s not as terrible as people losing their loved ones or their own lives, as health care workers being overworked and underprepared, as small business owners and minimum wage workers finding themselves jobless, and I know that. I know that in the large scale my problems during this pandemic are tiny. But in the small scale of my life, which is the one I’m directly affected by, it’s pretty huge. And I’m allowed to feel bad about it.
    We’re all allowed to feel whatever we feel in a situation where everyone’s lives is turned upside down unexpectedly

    March 30, 2020
  • Alison S

    REPLY

    You articulate how I feel so perfectly, I don’t think I’ve ever gone through quite so many emotions as in the last few weeks. Shielding is so difficult but at least if you can do it as a family you can support each other.

    March 30, 2020
  • Carolyn

    REPLY

    The other day my 14 year old asked me to stop talking to him like I was a professional therapist. Just trying to be helpful. Keep sending out your blog – I look forward to it.
    Much love from Canada.
    Carolyn

    March 30, 2020
  • JoAnn Moran

    REPLY

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. We are allowed to have our feelings. Very weird times. I’m a high school teacher in Colorado who is teaching online now. My youngest daughter was in school in California and working in a restaurant, but her restaurant closed and I didn’t want her in Los Angeles by herself because I’m genuinely concerned about civil unrest at some point. Your family is in my prayers. I think you’re taking every precaution and your precious family should be together. I think you can still post links to things you are using or ordering and sane people won’t think less of you. Take care.

    March 30, 2020
  • May

    REPLY

    Our government announced last night that the lockdown that was supposed to end tomorrow is getting extended until April 14th. Can’t say I or most other people are surprised. While we have less cases than expected and we’re thankfully nowhere near the worst hit countries, cases are rising and community spread is happening. The worst of it is expected around mid-May, so I don’t think the lockdown is being lifter before end of April, if not even later than that. I’m mostly resigned to the situation. No one could predict this, and there’s not we can do about it other than be safe and keep living our lives with as much normalcy as we can.
    What really worries and angers me about this whole thing is that it’s ruined all my college plans. The lockdown started before I started all my classes (South American here, school year goes from March/April to November/December). I’m doing one online but I haven’t heard from the rest yet. All examination boards have been cancelled until further notice so finals are still piling up. I really don’t think I’ll graduate when I wanted to. I’m aware that it’s not as bad as losing your loved ones or your own life to the disease, as being a healthcare worker that’s on the frontline, overworked and underprepared, as being a small business owner or minimum wage worker losing your job, or even as having an immunodepressed husband and a toddler and having the government tell you to rip apart your family for three months. It’s not important in the large scale, but it’s the small scale of my life that effects me directly, and in that scale it’s a big deal.
    We’re all allowed to feel whatever we’re feeling. This has changed all our lives upside down completely unexpectedly and we all have our own woes to deal with.

    March 30, 2020
  • A

    REPLY

    Thank you so much for this Amber. So much of it echoes with what I’m feeling, particularly the wanting to scream with the unfairness of the situation. I have a three month old baby and had only just been coming out of a really tough period when she was born, only to be plunged into this and to lose nearly all the things to which I’d been looking forward. I absolutely know that so many people have it much worse (you and your family for one – and I’m so sorry for what you’re going through). And I’m so grateful for our current health. But it’s still scary and difficult and just hard to face. It really helped to read you being so honest about your feelings.

    March 30, 2020
  • Alice

    REPLY

    I really think the advice about isolating yourself from Terry is for people where the “non vulnerable” in the household are still going out to the shop, to exercise, potentially to work. If you are all isolated from catching it I don’t see why you shouldn’t be together.

    (And yes Max could have caught it at nursery 2 weeks ago but there isn’t anything you can do about that now.)

    I work in healthcare so pretty much resigned to catching it, but hoping that I am not seriously affected.

    March 30, 2020
  • Brenda

    REPLY

    There is no handbook for this, is there! I think the post you did a few days ago on emotional gaslighting has resonated the most with me. Yes, it can always be worse, but to downplay your own feelings, or for someone else to do it to you helps nobody. We all have feelings to sort through, I go through probably every emotion in the course of a day. Lately, the worst thing for me is waking up in the middle of the night and going through all the things that can go wrong in my head… I’ll lay awake for at least an hour or two. Everything is much worse in the middle of the night. Then I wake up all shaky and feeling gross for the rest of the day. Only for it to happen again the next night. Not much fun. Keep the posts coming, Amber. I think we all find some solace in your words.

    March 30, 2020
  • Janine

    REPLY

    I fully agree with the choices and decisions you are making re Tery and his shielding – you and max are also shielding on his behalf and not coming into contact with anyone else, so I agree with you… the risk on Terry’s mental health to completely isolate him within your own home would far outweigh any benefits of him coming into contact with 2 people who are not coming into contact with anyone else. I totally understand this needing to be followed to the letter in families where some of the family have to leave the home. But you are not. Really feel for you all ❤

    March 30, 2020
  • Kathleen

    REPLY

    So true. This is not easy for anyone especially those of us with multi layered extenuating circumstances…
    My husband and I are actually marooned away from home in Hawaii and isolated in situ at my moms house because she is dying right in front of us with end stage renal failure. It was so unexpected…we only found out on the first day of our visit. Feb 24th.
    You go through the motions of normal life but it’s all so surreal. My salvation is to walk to the market every morning to find a big takeout organic coffee and a pastry. It’s a mental health pastry😉 and walk to the beach ( which is now not allowed) for a few minutes. The waves don’t care. They just keep rolling in…
    The rest of the day is so weird.

    Sending you big hugs and lots of Love
    Kathleen

    March 30, 2020
  • Amber,

    You are TOTALLY within your rights to feel to the deepest level how completely awful this situation is, especially for your family, and to write about it. And if anyone doesn’t like it, they should stop reading you! Please keep writing for all of us who love you and your little family! I look forward to your posts.

    March 30, 2020
  • I hate the fact that other people are telling us how we should feel. At various points last week, I had to silence social media because it was making me rage. Of course you have found it hard! The whole enormity of the thing is hard enough, without that thrown into the mix as well. We don’t need to constantly be made to feel that actually, compared to others, we have it easy. If you feel sad and scared then you feel sad and scared, end of! I’m trying to take it in bite-sized chunks and not go beyond missing spring. I can’t bare to think about it as my daughter is isolated on a psychiatric unit and her birthday is in May. I have to keep shutting it out of my mind or I will possibly dissolve into a puddle of sadness…Best of luck to you and yours. Stay safe. xx

    March 30, 2020
  • I live alone, and the prospect of spending 4 weeks (the length of my country’s lockdown) and possibly longer on my own had me in tears. It’s been less than a week but I already miss my parents. Humans are social creatures so being under this isolation is very unusual for us. I can only hope like hell that everyone follows the restrictions of our governments and life can go back to being somewhat normal soon

    March 30, 2020
  • Myra

    REPLY

    Keep on writing. This too will pass.

    March 31, 2020
    • Myra

      REPLY

      I’m annoyed! I wrote a paragraph thatt I just lost and have to type it all out again on my phone. Anyway, I said that Marsha was really touched when Max’s Form Tutor rang to ask how he was doing. She explained she was making him work 2-3 hours a day, but keeping weekends work free. He asked about Max’s well being and she reported he was very excited about experiencing this historical event, so guess he’s OK. He complains about working, he’d much rather be squared watching TV or being online playing games or talking to his friends. Their only saving grace is Teddy as they must take him out every day. They are restricted to one local area, but it is a sort of wildlife “field” where they might only see one other person across the huge field with a dog. At least there are a couple of trees for Max to climb, and where Max goes, Teddy follows. He in the only tree climbing dog we know. Stay well and stay safe. This too will pass.

      March 31, 2020
  • Miss Kitty

    REPLY

    I am stressing about this virus because we have had to cancel our wedding. I am stressing because I am an asthmatic who gets severely ill when I catch a normal cold, let alone Covid-19. I am stressing because I can’t go to work and even though the government does offer a wage subsidy, I don’t know if it will be enough to get us through this. And then I stress that I am stressing, because stress makes you more likely to get ill. It all feels like a terrible roundabout you can’t somehow get off.

    Gosh that’s awfully doom and gloom isn’t it? I do try to keep optimistic, and there are some things about this lockdown that I am enjoying. I like that I have more time to cook and exercise and generally look after myself, it’s made me realise what a mad treadmill we were living on before. Even when things get back to normal, whatever that is now, I want to try to slow life down and try to stop and step back every now and then. I think this whole thing has really made everyone step back and see what is important to them, whether it is their family, their job, whatever, and hopefully after this we (well, me anyway) will make more time to enjoy those things that are important to us. But sometimes it is nice to just share your problems and grumbles!

    March 31, 2020
  • Milda

    REPLY

    Hello from a longtime reader here. I am not a doctor but in my uneducated opinion locking Terry in a room would be mental as you’re all already self-isolating and disinfecting everything! There’s no rationale to it, it must be aimed at those who still go outside. I feel for you so much for being in a risk group. I’m not worried about getting sick but the thought of getting someone else sick is terrifying. My brother is a doctor however and he’s resigned to getting the virus at some point, so he’s just living normally and hoping our mother who lives with him will go through it with no complications – at some point there’s nothing more you can do.

    March 31, 2020
  • NEIGHBOURS HAS GONE DOWN TO TWO DAYS A WEEK AND IT’S MY ONLY SENSE OF NORMALCY RIGHT NOW!

    April 2, 2020
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