What it’s really like being in Shielded Lockdown: 12 weeks of solo isolation

April 12, 2020

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

While everyone in the UK is being told to stay at home to slow the spread of coronavirus, around 1.5 million people with underlying illnesses are in shielded lockdown. This extreme form of isolation means they must avoid any close contact – even with loved ones – for 12 weeks. So, how are they managing? Here’s my sister’s account of the last thirty days…

What it's like being in Shielded Lockdown: 12 weeks of solo isolation
View from a window

Overnight, normality and my everyday life was turned upside down.

I received my letter from the Department of Health and the Government confirming that, because I have an underlying health condition, I must adhere to the following rules for the next three months:

  • Do not leave your home
  • Avoid face to face contact
  • Continue washing your hands for 20 seconds
  • Keep at least 2 metres apart from others living in your home
  • Minimise time spent in other rooms in the house
  • Sleep in separate beds and use separate bathrooms if possible
  • Avoid using the kitchen
  • Eat your meals on your own in your room
  • Prepare an overnight case with essentials for hospital

Suddenly the Covid-19 crisis became very real and scary. How would this pandemic impact on my life and what could I do positively to ensure that my mental health and wellbeing were not too badly affected?

What it's like being in Shielded Lockdown: 12 weeks of solo isolation

Food parcel from the government

I very quickly received a surge of local support to ensure that I was safe and well for which I will be forever grateful. These include daily texts from the NHS, a phone call a week from my GP, a weekly food package delivered to my door, and a dedicated volunteer who buys our weekly shopping and disinfects it before delivering it. My planned hospital appointments have also been cancelled for me.

My bedroom is now my ‘isolation room’ and it has become a studio flat!

My husband and I are living completely separate lives. It’s very similar to Upstairs and Downstairs – he makes my meals every day and has found culinary skills that he never knew he had! He is also doing the household chores and gardening in between practising his golf swing and watching TV repeats of The Open.

However, he is extremely worried that, if I catch the virus, it will be him who has given it to me. We cannot hug each other to make ourselves feel better like we would normally do.

I am currently on Day 30 of ‘shielding’. Over the last month, I have been feeling fine one day and then worried, frustrated and tearful the next. My emotions have been up and down like a roller coaster. I’ll admit to having a couple of meltdowns but my lovely sister has always been there for me on the phone giving me encouraging words and then the world seems alright again.

What it's like being in Shielded Lockdown: 12 weeks of solo isolation
Chatting on the Portal

So, I have given myself a talking to each morning and put some positive things into place. I treated myself a new Facebook Portal which has a camera that automatically adjusts to focus on you when you are moving about. So I’m able to keep in touch via regular video calls with family members, all of whom we are missing like crazy. On the plus side, I can play virtual games, sing songs, read stories and just talk with our precious grandchildren. It must be so difficult for them to understand why they can’t see us or come over and stay any more.

Every day, I practise online yoga and mindfulness, phone or text my family and friends, watch TV, light a scented candle, spray lavender scent around the room, put relaxing balm on my temples and play online Scrabble.

I enjoy listening to the birdsong every morning and my husband arranges fresh flowers to be delivered with our weekly food order which I keep in my room and which keep me smiling.

I have also been phoning our elderly parents daily, as well as organising extra care for our stepmother who has dementia and lives on her own which has not been easy.

I’m writing a daily journal of my experience during my shielded lockdown as a reminder in future years of what my life was like during Coronavirus 2020.

Having lots of time alone means I get lots of time to think. And in my efforts to stay uplifted and positive, I am always dreaming up new things to do from the safety and security of my new bedsit!

What it's like being in Shielded Lockdown: 12 weeks of solo isolation
The teddy bear campaign, making children happy while out on their daily walk

Rather like the Chase the Rainbow campaign, where people are putting colourful drawings in their windows, we have a similar activity locally using teddy bears. Teddy spotting cheers up children while they are out on their daily walk. My husband added a few mini Easter eggs to my teddy bear’s picnic yesterday – much to the delight of the little boy who was passing by.

Every week I use my Portal to enjoy a virtual drinks party with three of my lifelong friends. It’s lippie and wine time – the only time I dress up and put on make up. I really look forward to this weekly socialising with such supportive girlfriends so, I’m signing off now as I need to decide what to wear.

Although shielded lockdown can be very difficult at times, I am feeling safe and protected. I am determined to concentrate on what I can, rather than what I cannot do. Best wishes to everyone, whatever kind of isolation you are currently experiencing.

More upbeat wellbeing posts here

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