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.
But life goes on. And here’s what it’s looked like…
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?
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?
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…
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…
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?
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…