Me and Max, April 2020

Lockdown Diary | Week 3 | The Sadness of the Orange Slices

[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… ]

For weeks after our dog, Rubin, died, every single thing reminded me of him – and every single memory hurt. 

What surprised me about this, though, was the fact that it wasn’t just the things you’d expect to spark a memory that cut like a knife – finding one of his toys tucked away in a corner, say, or an old photo of him popping up on Facebook. No, it was literally everything . I remember one day, not long after he died, I went into my dressing room to pick out an outfit, and I as I pulled out a skirt, or a dress, or whatever the hell it was, it suddenly occurred to me that, the last time I’d worn that item, everything had still been blissfully normal, and I’d had absolutely no idea what lay ahead of me. So that stupid, meaningless skirt, all of a sudden had the ability to break my heart – and so did almost everything else I saw or did. 

That’s what the past few weeks have felt like to me. 

 I know this sounds over-dramatic, even for me, but I feel a bit like I’m mourning my old life right now, and everything I do provides an unwelcome reminder of it. Opening a tin of orange slices for Max this week, I suddenly remembered that the reason we started buying them was that he became obsessed with the ones in the breakfast buffet during our first family holiday together . The intro to every Disney movie, meanwhile, reminds me that we should have been going to Florida next month, while filling up Max’s water bottle is a reminder that he used to take it with him to nursery, and I’ve no idea when it’ll be safe for him to go back.

If I thought the current situation was only going to last the the weeks of the lockdown – or even the 3 months we’ve been told to isolate for – I think I might feel differently. You can see your way to the end of a 3 week lockdown – which, I guess, is why so many people seem to be treating it as a very dull kind of holiday. When the isolation is indefinite, though (And, as I said in last week’s post , regardless of when the rest of the country starts to get back to normal, I know we won’t feel safe until there’s a vaccine…), it’s hard not to feel a bit bereft at times. I think everyone knows what it feels like to miss a person, or even a place – but, right now, I miss literally everything. I’m homesick for my life: and it doesn’t really seem to be getting any easier, either.

Everything hurts. 

But life goes on. And here’s what it’s looked like…
On lockdown, April 2020

MONDAY

The online grocery shop arrives from Tesco. We’re really fortunate in that we’ve been able to find slots so far (Although it hasn’t been easy: although Terry is in the ‘shielded’ group, he isn’t given any priority by our regular supermarket, so it’s basically a fight to the death every time new slots are released…) but actually getting the shopping sanitised and unpacked is proving to be super-stressful. So, what would normally take 20 minutes, and almost zero thought, ends up taking almost an hour, as we attempt to disinfect all of the shopping, then clean the kitchen afterwards, while Max clamours for attention and keeps trying to grab everything in sight. By the time we’re done, Terry and I are barely speaking, and my already dry and cracked hands are so painful from the many times I’ve washed them that they’re practically trying to jump off my arms to save themselves. 

But the shopping is unpacked, and we have everything we need to get through another week of lockdown. Well, almost everything, anyway: what we still don’t have is the antiobiotics Terry was prescribed two weeks ago … and which, having tried his best to soldier on without them, he’s now been forced to admit that, actually, he DOES need after all. 

Luckily, however, help is at hand, and after yet another phone-call to his GP – who is aghast to find that he STILL doesn’t have them – the antibiotics are delivered by a local volunteer: one of many brave souls who’s giving up her time in order to help those of us who can’t leave the house for the next 12 weeks. (And when I say brave, I really mean it: one of the pharmacies near us was held up at knife-point this week – so you can probably guess how desperate the situation is getting…)

That night, we pour a glass of wine each, and have an online meet-up with two of our oldest friends, over Facetime. It’s amazing being able to chat with them, and we go to bed (Me on the couch again: Terry and I are still having to take it turns to sleep in the ‘big bed’, as Max calls it, because his throat is still keeping him up much of the night…) feeling just a little bit brighter. The infection and death figures dropped today for the second time in a row: maybe this will all be over sooner than we thought? 
March 31st, 2020

TUESDAY

Today, the number of deaths from COVID-19 were almost double yesterday’s figures, and included a 13 year old boy. It’s absolutely unbearable. It feels like it’s never going to end, and that we’re never going to be safe. My mood plummets. Max empties an entire tub of slime over the living room rug, then throws the empty tub at me while I’m trying to clean it up. I JUST manage not to burst into tears. 

Oh, and it’s our wedding anniversary: a fact which seems fairly irrelevant under the circumstances. All the same, I have a quick look through some of the wedding photos, thinking I might post one on Instagram. Like the sad orange slices and the doomed water bottle, though, the memories of happier times are too much of a contrast with where we are today, so I abandon that plan, and wonder if we’ll celebrate next year, or if that’s too much to hope?
Sleepy Max, April 1st, 2020

WEDNESDAY

On Wednesday morning, I Whatsapp my parents, as usual, to ask how they’re doing, and they reply to say they’re both fine … but that my dad has a bit of a sore throat. Now, I know perfectly well that a sore throat isn’t one of the “main” Covid-19 symptoms, and I also know that he’s most likely caught it from my mum … who most likely caught it from me, when I was sick last month. Everyone in our family has had a sore throat over the last few weeks, so my dad’s should come as much of a surprise, really. All the same, I’ve read enough anecdotal accounts of Coronavirus which have included a sore throat a symptom, to spend the rest of the day panicking, and wondering if this is IT. 

My dad, meanwhile, spends the rest of the day out in the garden, energetically chopping down trees and shrubs. He probably doesn’t have Covid-19. But the reminder that he COULD have it – that any of us could, really – is enough to send my anxiety spiralling: as if it wasn’t bad enough already…

mummy and Max

THURSDAY 

I keep having nightmares about social distancing. Every night, I dream that we’re in some crowded place, or out in public when we should be at home, isolating. Last night, I dreamt that some loved ones paid us a visit, and, instead of being pleased to see them, my brain just went, DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! I worry that this will stick: that my brain is basically learning to see the outside world as dangerous, and other people as a threat – which I guess they are, really.   A world in which we’re constantly told that hugging our loved ones could literally kill them, and that every time we step outside we’re putting everyone in danger, however, is a hard thing for the human brain to adjust to, and I worry that, the longer all of this continues, the harder it will be to unlearn all of those lessons, and go back to “normal” life. Already, when I’m watching TV now, I’m unnerved by the sight of groups of people, or crowded places: already it seems wrong – and if I feel that now, what’s it going to feel like in 18 months time, which is the earliest we’ve been told we can expect a vaccine? 

So, I’m not sleeping well, needless to say: and that, combined with the fact that Max has started getting up around an hour and a half earlier than he used to, is making the days feel very long indeed. As for Max himself, meanwhile, he’s adjusted pretty well, although he’s not nearly as oblivious as you might think. He knows he’s not going to nursery any more, obviously, and he’s really missing my parents, who he asks for every day. We’ve told him that no one is allowed to drive their cars right now, which is why we’re staying at home, and he hasn’t questioned that, but when I’m getting him ready for bed tonight, he starts crying for his gran and granddad, and I end up having to quickly FaceTime them to get him to calm down.

It’s heartbreaking: and, of course, the fact that he won’t remember this time – which I’m hugely grateful for – doesn’t change the fact that he’s having to live through it now, and it’s hard not to worry about the effect it’s going to have on him: and, of course, on all of the other children whose childhoods are being disrupted. 

In happier news, though, my dad’s sore throat is a little better today: I’m not quite ready to stand down the vigil , but at least it’s something
Max playing with sidewalk chalk in the garden

FRIDAY

I wake up during the night feeling sick, and am instantly doomed to lie awake until morning, doing the, “Could It Be Covid?” dance in my head. (Spoiler alert: no. Much more likely to just have been all of the ‘comfort food’ I’d been eating before bed…) I’ve read so much now about some of the lesser-known symptoms of Coronavirus that I’ve come to the conclusion that more or less everything could be a potential symptom – so, yeah, it’s not a great time to be suffering from health anxiety, really, is it? As my friend Alex commented last week, it’s hard dealing with anxiety when you’re constantly being proved right: which pretty much sums it up, really…

Just before lunch, we watch Prince Charles open the new Nightingale hospital in London by video link: it’s a conference centre which has been transformed – over the course of just 9 days – into a 4,000 bed hospital. Meanwhile, an ice rink has been turned into a temporary mortuary, the daily death tally has been over 500 for two days in a row, and every single item on the news reads like a piece of distopian fiction. It’s been three weeks now, but it’s STILL impossible to believe that any of this is real.

In the evening, Terry goes online for a while to play a game with some of his friends – and, of course, to chat about how everyone’s coping.  On social media, toxic positivity is still making it hard for some of us to be really honest about how we’re feeling, and is creating the impression that most people are just enjoying an extended Easter holiday right now, which I’ve found really hard to relate to: in “real life”, meanwhile, a lot of our friends are really struggling – not just with the lockdown itself, but with the constant anxiety created by the virus. I’m not the only one, it seems, who’s constantly worrying about potential symptoms, and checking the news for updates: it’s like society is collectively going through an extended episode of health anxiety, and, again, I find myself worrying about how people will cope once this is over. Will we all just go back to how things were, or will this change us forever? 
The Lockdown Diaries

SATURDAY  – SUNDAY

I’ve started to notice that my mood is directly correlated to the weather right now: so, when it’s sunny outside, I feel like I can cope better than when we wake up to rain, and gloom – which is more often than not, this being Scotland. This weekend, though, we finally get a little bit of sunshine, and make the most of it by spending some time out in the garden, although – unlike the rest of the UK, apparently – it’s still much colder than I’d like.

Under the UK lockdown rules, people are allowed to go out once a day for what everyone’s referring to as their “daily exercise”, but, as Terry’s in the shielded group , we haven’t left the house at all. I’d love to be able to go for a walk, or even a run, but I’m just too scared of coming into contact with people who could pass on the virus. Our village is small, with narrow footpaths, so if I were to encounter someone coming the other way, one of us would literally have to step onto the road in order to maintain the two metre distance that’s being recommended (And which I don’t really think is far enough, to be honest…), and if lots of people decide to take a walk at the same time … well, it just feels like too much of a risk, basically, so I’m really grateful that we at least have a garden to spend some time in if the weather’s dry enough – I can’t even imagine how claustrophobic it must be for people living in flats, or houses without any outdoor space right now.

Even though the concept of the ‘weekend’ seems a little bit meaningless during a lockdown, we’re trying our best to make it feel just a little bit different from the rest of the week, so Terry and I don’t bother even pretending to do any work, and allow ourselves to just veg out in front of the TV once Max is in bed for the night.  Between that and the chilly spring sunshine, I end the week feeling just a little bit brighter than when I started it. It’s not the lockdown itself that’s bothering me right now: I mean, I’d rather not be stuck at home all the time, obviously, and I miss my parents terribly, but just being at home is no great hardship – especially when you have plenty of food, internet access, and the chance to get some fresh air when you need it. 

No, it’s the uncertainty that’s the problem: that and the sheer terror of feeling like you’re not even safe in your own home (Tomorrow we have the weekly grocery delivery to face, and I’m already dreading it…), and that, no matter how hard you try, the virus is still going to find a way in. All week, I’ve found it impossible not to keep dwelling on the 12-18 months that’s constantly quoted as the earliest we can hope for a vaccine. And, as I said earlier, while I can cope with the thought of weeks – or even a few months, if that’s what it takes – on lockdown, the thought of missing out on an entire year and a half of life is another thing altogether.

But, tomorrow we start our 4th week of “sheilding”, and the UK enters its fourth week of lockdown: so let’s just see what that brings…

 

 

COMMENTS
  • Lots to empathise with here. The stuff about Rubin hit particularly hard as we lost our lovely big cat quite unexpectedly last week, and since we weren’t allowed inside the vet until we actually made the decision to let him go (and, even then, only my husband was allowed) it’s felt incredibly traumatic. I had one day this week where I felt my emotions were “normal”, but I’ve woken up a big ol’ puddle of depression and anxiety again.

    Jay and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary this summer. Probably not in New York as we planned, but hopefully we’ll be allowed outside by then? Can we even think that far ahead?

    Love to you all.

    x

    April 6, 2020
  • Ugh, yeah, it’s the eighteen months thing that’s getting to me right now, as well, along with all the general uncertainty. My provincial government recently released projections and said we could be dealing with this for up to two years. And, while my autistic self is actually enjoying getting to work from home instead of having to brave the bus and the office every day, the thought of it being a couple of years before I can see my parents or siblings again is hard.

    I mean, I used to only see them once a year or so, when I lived in Scotland and they lived in Canada. But I moved back here to be closer to them and see them more often! And besides, when I lived in Scotland I had some certainty. I saw my family around once a year, and booked tickets well in advance, so I usually had either recently visited or knew a date when I would visit again. It wasn’t like this when I only live 20 minutes from them and now can’t pop round for a Sunday dinner. Meanwhile, my Scottish husband hasn’t seen his family in over a year, and we’ve no idea when we’ll be able to go back, which I think is a lot harder for him to deal with than just the usual separation.

    April 6, 2020
      • Bold of them to assume that the lockdown will end during Scotland’s one week of summer, irrespective of the year 😉

        When the schools here closed for an extra two weeks after March Break in mid-March, everyone was acting like they’d be back in the classroom this week. Now that closure has been extended till the beginning of May (though I would be surprised if the schools re-open before the summer), and I think that’s when it’s started to sink in for folk here.

        April 6, 2020
  • Brenda

    REPLY

    This definitely hits home for me. My son has type 1 diabetes and the rest of us have asthma. We have been staying home for three weeks now also, except for a weekly trip to the grocery store. Delivery dates are absolutely impossible to get. Anyway, I was just thinking this morning that even if we manage to steer clear from the virus for the time being, eventually we will be able to go out again but the virus will still be out there, until a vaccine has been formulated — and that could be in a year. So then what? Do I let my kids back out into the world? They are adults — my daughter is 20 and my son is almost 18. The anxiety is numbing. I also had a sore throat last week and it was nerve wracking! It ended up being allergies. But still. I started off this period of isolation by saying to my husband that we can only control our own actions, we can’t spend time looking too far into the future, but I feel like I am off that track now. I feel like we are on a big ship that is off course and NOBODY is steering it. Ugh. It’s very overwhelming.

    April 6, 2020
  • Nicole

    REPLY

    Oh my goodness I love that little puffy jacket Max is wearing in the Friday picture! Is it a dinosaur?

    April 6, 2020
  • Miss Kitty

    REPLY

    I started off thinking I would be fine in lockdown. We’re still allowed outside in our neighbourhood for walks (no driving except to food stores or pharmacy), and I thought that would be enough. Turns out it’s not. When you have done the same walk every single day for 10 days you start getting desperate for some new scenery. Who knew that a trip to the supermarket could be the highlight of the week! I am an asthmatic so would prefer to stay away from people, but delivery slots are impossible to get, and I also need to get out of the house for my mental health. There are also no other shops open so all my ideas of doing arts & crafty things at home have gone out the window, and I end up vegging out watching Youtube videos most of the day, once the housework is done. I know I should be learning something or doing something with my brain but it all starts to feel like too much effort. My brain will be like porridge once this is over. We still have 2 1/2 weeks of lockdown left with no guarantee that it will be over then, although cases here in NZ do seem to be flattening off.

    April 6, 2020
  • Myra

    REPLY

    Do whatever helps to reduce your anxiety. I have almost completely stopped watching the news as it seems only about CV and that means I don’t think about it so much. I’m just waiting for the all clear, then I might watch it again. I don’t want to hear more bad news. However, whenever I speak to anyone on the phone, almost the whole conversation is about CV. Fear abounds, so you are not alone in that. While I don’t feel particularly fearful, I am following the instructions and my daughter’ s even more stringent rules. I have been going out for short walks every few days, but our streets are empty, so little chance of contamination there. I can imagine how much you want to go out and how frustrating and upsetting it is for Max not to see his grandparents or to do his usual activities. I think you’re right though, he won’t remember this.
    Stay well and safe

    April 7, 2020
  • Jacqueline

    REPLY

    Stop watching the news, it’s very sensationalist and I think they are deliberately trying to terrify us. I avoid the TV news at all costs, but will occasionally read some online news, as I can choose the bits I want to read. Beautiful pictures of you and Max, and your lovely house.

    April 7, 2020
  • Jana

    REPLY

    For Max: Maybe Play2Progress.com can help.

    April 7, 2020
  • Erin

    REPLY

    It’s so difficult. Sending you guys lots of love from the US <3

    April 7, 2020
  • Kate

    REPLY

    It’s so reassuring to know I am not the only one feeling like this – I could have written much of this (less eloquently of course). I woke last night with what I’m now pretty sure is mastitis but my mind definitely went THERE first and it’s taking me about 12 hours to climb down from that panic. Ugh this is so hard. But thank you for saying it’s so hard!xx

    April 10, 2020
  • Kate

    REPLY

    My browser are my comment so I’ve just come back to say THANK YOU for being so honest about how you are feeling and how shit all this is. You’ve made me feel less alone and less panicky. I woke up with what I’m sure is mastitis but it’s taken me a while to talk myself down and your post really helped xx

    April 10, 2020
    • Kate

      REPLY

      Oh – no my other comment is there! Sorry about that x

      April 10, 2020
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