Charlene's COVID-19 commentary

Charlene has continued to volunteer with Healthwatch Southend all through the COVID pandemic . Her time and contribution are invaluable. We asked Charlene to write a little about her personal COVID experience. Here is her story...
charlene

Isolation for me

When I was asked to write about my experience of being in isolation due to Covid 19 (corona virus) I almost laughed. Not that it’s a laughing matter, but I hope my explanation will help prove I’m not completely heartless.

So I have a few chronic conditions which means I can’t work full time anymore and spend most of my time resting at home or attending hospital appointments. I hardly go out as I am wheelchair bound and usually when something is planned chances are I’ll become unwell and have to miss the events.  After a while people end up just not inviting you as they assume you won’t be able to make it. Also due to being wheelchair bound my food shop is a click away and delivered to my door. So what changes have come into place since the lockdown for people considered to be in the vulnerable group you ask, let me share with you the ways;

  • you can’t leave your home
  •  you aren’t allowed visitors to your home
  •  if you absolutely have to go out  ensure you maintain  no less than 2m from other people,
  •  you must order your food online or have someone do it for you and leave it at your door.

Now these are the main rules and when you compare them to my day to day living, you can see not much has changed. I usually stay at home as mostly, I’m in pain or too tired. I tend to stay away from people due to my low health immunity and I order food online for delivery due to my limited mobility. I hope you can see now why I may chuckle when I am asked this question. It seems I have been in training for lockdown for the last 5 years. The only guaranteed times I left the house were maybe once a month for dinner with friends or having friends over, and my hospital appointments.

 

Mental health impact

Please don’t confuse the light heartedness with lack of empathy. I understand many people have faced many problems and heartbreak from this. Mental health has been significantly impacted as they say we are not lone wolves as a species, we thrive better with others. I do feel the loneliness even more with lock down as my social network has been cut off. Due to the lockdown my friends have not been able to visit which is my connection to the outside world. Speaking on the phone is different to touching, and being in the presence of people. It extends the feeling of loneliness and can impact your mental health.

Travel trials

I am more anxious and scared the few times I do leave the house.  The virus is highly contagious and you never know who has it, as some people can just be carriers without showing symptoms. This makes each time I step out of the house almost tempting fate, the only way I can travel is via taxi and different people have different measures, if any in place, to keep their surroundings clean. As I still have to go for treatment 3 times a week regardless of the lockdown, I am in a taxi 6 times a week. With lockdown and not many people driving, some of the taxi drivers have had to find other sources of income, meaning less taxis on the road and it could be difficult seeking transport in a timely manner. As I rely on my hands to transfer into vehicles not only do I wear a mask but gloves which brings more attention to me, and I’m a very self-conscious person. This just makes each time I step outside the bungalow nerve wrecking.

Shopping

My food shop has also been affected as you’d only be guaranteed a food delivery slot maybe once every 2 weeks so having to carefully plan and keep track of your food shop was necessary. You could not guarantee everything would be delivered, as the lockdown affected all industries impacting availability of stock. Also seeing all those people panic buying, or buying in bulk too, then charge more online, left the vulnerable people with no other options but to go without some supplies. This could be very stressful as when you live alone and can’t pop out to the local shop, being so reliant on a service which couldn’t guarantee to meet your needs just adds to the stress and anxiety of everything else happening around us.

My garden, my dog and me

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom though. I was lucky to have moved homes before COVID started and my new home has access to a garden.  This has significantly helped my sanity as I have still been able to enjoy the sun and have access to fresh air from the garden. As the non-essential hospital appointments have been put on hold, I find I have more time to rest and also work on growing some vegetables in my garden. I have also adopted a dog which keeps me company and helps pass the time in what seems an unending day. My dog encourages me to have a schedule and routine where everything seemed to flow into one day. You find purpose in getting up from bed for something that isn’t a hospital appointment. She has helped my levels of anxiety and stress by simply being present and now we can walk whilst maintaining social distancing outside the home parameters.

Positive outlook

To conclude, even though there haven’t been many physical changes following the lockdown, I can honestly say I believe my life has improved some. The more time I spend on my own I have had the opportunity to really sit and think about my future and health. I consider myself to be lucky that I still have access to all that I need even if slightly inconvenient.  I felt useless when it started as I couldn’t help anyone else without harming myself. My dog has proved to be a big reason as to why I have had had a positive lockdown experience. I just wish people paid attention to what they are doing to help prevent the spread of the virus, as not everyone has had such a positive or less affected experience to their lifestyle.

 

CM.  12.10.2020

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