Shielding During A Pandemic

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When the lockdown restrictions began to lift earlier this week, people around the country were celebrating. But for me and my family, and thousands of others, life won’t be changing just yet. 

My mum has a rare blood cancer, and three different letters urging her to shield. We’ve been in lockdown for 2 months now, rarely leaving the house except for the occasional food shop when we couldn’t get a delivery. Life for us is now the same four walls, just three humans (us and my brother) and two cats.  One day, we’ll be out, but for now this is our new normal. 

As an introvert, lockdown hasn’t been horrible, I’ve been living vicariously through my Animal Crossing town (which is thriving), and doing your typical quarantine baking, cleaning, and even essay writing when I can muster the strength. The hardest part is actually leaving the house again. I’ve not taken any of my state-sanctioned daily walks, and I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve gone further than the end of my drive on foot. It’s not for lack of health; we’ve all been fine so far and had little to no symptoms of even a common cold. When I leave the house, it’s not my immune system that threatens to fail me, it’s my mind. 

I’ve been to the supermarket a total of four times since we went into lockdown, each time was for necessities. Each time I went alone, in the NHS hours (my mum’s badge in hand) when it was quietest. But every time, I found my pulse heightening when I entered the shop, rounded an aisle, approached a till. A person coming anywhere near me would spring tears to my eyes, seeing the aisles full of other customers and staff makes my hands shake, and when a child ran at me the other day in the middle of Tesco I had to (embarrassingly) fight the urge to duck and scream. It wasn’t a gun, a knife, anything that could hurt me; it was a child. The same happens when I take the bins out; my neighbours have several young children who have been playing on the drive fairly frequently, and I’ve found myself timing my rare trips to the end of the drive around them. When they aren’t around, I allow myself a blissful 20 seconds to stand at my front door breathing in the fresh air, until I remember that I’m in the middle of a pandemic and have to lock myself in the house. The impact that the virus has had on my mental health is clear, and coupled with worrying about my parents, (my dad works in a prison, where social distancing isn’t exactly possible), I’ve found myself constantly feeling anxious

Seeing people flouting the rules isn’t just annoying, it’s devastating. I can’t risk leaving my mum until I feel safe letting her do the everyday tasks I’ve been insisting on taking over, answering the door, going in the shop, taking out the bin. Every step the country takes backwards is another day we’ll be trapped inside, unable to leave until cases are close to, or even at 0.  The daily briefings are a nightmare, I can’t tear myself away from. My stepmum’s dad died just a few weeks after the country went into lockdown, and it hit harder than I thought, and behind every number there’s a similar story. So, when I see people having street parties, conga lines, meeting in secret, it frustrates me beyond belief to see them being so careless. 

But there have been some happy moments in this crazy time. Last night, we took a drive round the outskirts of my town, turned up the cheesy tunes, and sang along much to my mum’s entertainment. I’ve been planning to be more creative when I’m done with assignments, to get painting again and to learn some new skills. Thankfully my mum is allowed to work from home and has been assured by her boss that she can do so for as long as it takes. And we’ve somehow managed to get on 99% of the time, clearly someone out there has performed a miracle. So, while the pandemic is raging on outside our doors and we’re facing the most difficult issue our generation has ever seen, I’m trying to count myself lucky to have found a bit of peace at home, even if it’s at the toootally tragic cost of having to listen to 80s music non-stop.

Lizzie Wright