Last week the UK government extended the lockdown by another three weeks. For most of us, being stuck indoors without any idea of when life will resume, isn’t normal. However, for those with a chronic illness this can be all too familiar.
Imagine you’re in lockdown – but just you.
You can’t leave the house. Sometimes you don’t get out of bed. Everyday starts by changing out of your night-pyjamas and into your day-pyjamas. Now what? You can’t meet up with friends. You’ve missed out on that festival, that dinner party and that holiday. You’ve watched all of Netflix, read every book and coloured every flower in every colouring book. Sometimes you’ll sit by an open window or on your doorstep. Feeling the fresh air on your face, a sense of calmness wafts over you as you take a deep breath. You’re desperate to walk to the park or wander around the neighbourhood, but the anxiety that comes with it draws you back into the house and back to bed.
The only way to keep track of each day is with another impulse buy; each one momentarily distracting you from a never ending cycle of this self *inflicted* isolation. As well as the occasional DPD driver, your only social interaction is when friends or family bring you food shopping. You lie in bed, watching your mum put the food in the fridge. You’re desperate for a cuddle, but alas your immune system is so weak, something as mundane as a cold could put you back in the hospital. So you keep your distance.
Unlike our current lockdown, your friends and family are living their lives. They’re going to work, school or university. They’re going out for dinner, hitting the gym and going to the movies. Everyday you see another picture of them meeting up at the pub, having coffee mornings and flying around the world. Your only form of communication is through your phone. People start off by messaging you everyday and FaceTiming as much as possible, but this becomes a distant memory as you can’t find the energy anymore. Texting becomes exhausting, scrolling through social media just makes you feel worse and a phone conversation requires a full day to recover. Your friends try to stay in touch but they’re too busy living their lives – while you’re just fighting to stay alive. So you watch the world carrying without you.
This lockdown is bringing back memories of the isolation I was living three years ago. My body put me in quarantine for just over a year. My year of treatment and waiting for surgery, forced me to experience what everyone feels right now – just with added toilet trips and less sleep. The constant sense of anxiety you feel at this very moment; not knowing when it will end; is what a lot of people with a lifelong illness feel for years.
So world, welcome to the life of someone with a chronic illness.
When this is all over, think of the people who are in a self *inflicted* isolation thanks to illness or disability. They might not be able to see you all the time and it might take them 3-5 working days to reply to a text. But rest assured, they are reading your messages. Every single message, phone call, voice note or card will give them a sense of love and strength to keep fighting to stay alive.
All you need to say is:
“I love you. Im thinking of you. Keep fighting and we will get that glass of wine when this is all over.”
I don’t mean to diminish the severity of the current situation.
This is just to offer a little perspective from our side of the tracks.