On Wednesday 8th December 2020, the UK became the first country in the world to vaccinate against Covid-19 virus; which has impacted our lives in ways we could have never imagined.

I wrote a lot about my experience, starting with concerns before the pandemic, my shielding experience and how it has impacted me post-shielding. So now seems like an appropriate time to review those articles and compile for easy reference, in case you missed any of them. Enjoy!

N.B. the ‘read’ count I am providing is based purely what was read on joelvsarthritis.co.uk – I cannot account for shares on other platforms, for example, we have evidence to suggest that https://joelvsarthritis.co.uk/as-shielding-comes-to-an-end/ could have been read up to 10,000 times on other platforms! Read count accurate at the time of publishing.

1. Early concerns (221 reads)

I cannot believe I wrote this at the end of January (published early February) – it feels so long ago! It also feels very frustrating to think of how many conversations I’ve had with followers, loved ones and work colleagues trying to persuade them about the real and obvious danger of this virus.

This piece kind of flew under the radar as nobody was talking about the virus back then, however, I had just recovered from a run of bad infections, I had experienced Swine Flu back in the 2000s and to me, this had the potential to be the ‘big one’ scientists had warned about but people stopped listening when previous pandemic-potential outbreaks (such as Swine Flu and Bird Flu) were successfully contained. Unfortunately, this ignorance helped fuel what was to come in 2020.

2. Controversies (46 reads)

Hardly read but my word did this get me some passionate (replace with aggressive) messages on social media! It still makes me chuckle how so many people could hold such strong opinions on something many of them hadn’t even read.

I wrote this when I was scared. I was receiving all the scientific info from the hospital. I knew shielding was coming, a national lockdown imminent but all the media were peddling was this narrative around how it wasn’t something to worry about as those who died already had ‘underlying health conditions’. It was wrong on multiple levels and, in my opinion, contributed to the wider public not taking this virus as seriously as they should.

What I didn’t expect was so many to not see the potential danger, the awful decision Doctors and Nurses would have to make if there was only one ventilator and two people needed it – one a fit young person who had been in a car accident, the other a disabled person with ‘underlying health conditions’.

3. The breaking point (67 reads)

I don’t need to pick at old wounds on this one. The article explains how I was feeling back then better than I could articulate now. From the end of March to April, I came pretty close to breaking point. It was important that I went on to write about this, capture that experience. I’ll leave it at that.

4. Shielding enforced for the ‘Clinical Extremely Vulnerable’ (52 reads)

The news I knew was coming since the end of February. It didn’t make it any more palatable, however. Further guidance came out in the following days to explain it wasn’t for all biologics users and this lack of clarity caused issues in the arthritis community throughout the pandemic.

5. As a national lockdown comes in, an opportunity presents (53 reads)

I wrote this at the start of the national lockdown, hoping to use the nation’s sense of lost freedom, liberties and things people take for granted to try and empathise with the daily lives of those with chronic illness or disability.

I’m not ashamed to say that I was gutted that this one never took off like later articles. However, I believe it was the start of my writing maturing – where I started to talk about far bigger subjects than just my personal battle, where I started to use the emotion I would inject into my songwriting in my younger days, into my writing for greater effect.

I’m really proud of this one, even if hardly anyone read it! 🙂

6. A predictable war (11 reads)

My first of many poems during lockdown (I won’t list them all). This one proved popular on social media so the read count doesn’t do it justice.

You can read them all here – including the very popular The Outcasts.

7. Educating on immunosuppressant therapies (297 reads)

I had received so many messages and questions about my earlier article on Coronavirus and campaigning on social media that I felt like a follow up was needed to answer the question of why biologics users were at risk.

This one still gets hits from Google searches today from people asking that question and recently crept into the ‘Top 5 Most Read’ articles on this website, so I’m glad I wrote it.

8. Isolation takes its toll (204 reads)

The first of my ‘big hitters’ in terms of shielding articles and the first one I saw really take off on the likes of Twitter. I know for a fact that this was re-published on other platforms without permission but it was an important message and I was pretty broken at the time so didn’t raise too many objections (in future – don’t steal my work without permission!). 🙂

This article also felt like the first one in which I fully found my voice – my confidence and writing style and I think much of my work looks like this piece today. Very proud of this one, even though I was a in a very dark place when I wrote it.

9. BBC interview and awareness campaign (44 reads)

A surreal couple of months that saw me involved with national Versus Arthritis radio campaigns and media work, culminated with a BBC Look East interview on my shielding experience and my thoughts of a national lockdown coming to an end.

It’s funny how you reflect on a period thinking you spent most of it in bed, doing little to contribute, being miserable etc. and then realise you achieved much more than you gave yourself credit for. Blogging has its uses! Maybe keep a diary of your ‘little wins’ to remind yourself when in those bad places on high pain days?

10. The long chronic illness road (235 reads)

After months of no access to treatments and my usual hospital care due to Covid-19, I finally got access to my consultant. I didn’t get the answers I wanted and the experience pushed me back towards that dark place I had been in back in March – but the love and support I got on social media from you lovely people was phenomenal. Thanks for picking me up when I fall.

11. Shielding end date announced – My experience goes viral (714 reads+)

What happened with this article is something I still can’t wrap my head around. I wanted to write a piece that summarised the last 5 months of shielding. My experience. I had no expectations but shortly after posting to my very small Twitter following at the time (<100!) it was retweeted by university professors, a BBC World News journalist and the rest was history!

To put it into context, I was seeing my own article on my social media feed from people I didn’t know or follow. I clearly captured some of what the shielding community were feeling.

Upon seeing this take off, I quickly put in place monitoring on the article but by this point, it was day 3 and I missed the initial wave of shares, retweets and quotes around this. I will never know just how many people read this but it’s in the region of thousands.

Whenever I doubt why I am doing this, when you publish something you put hours into only for it to flop, I re-read this article to remind myself – as I had no expectations for it but the messages of support I received around it, will never be forgotten.

12. National lockdown rules relaxed – we’re still stuck inside (139 reads)

This was a very painful time. My siblings and friends flooded the likes of Facebook with pictures at the pub, having haircuts, family meetups at the beach in the height of summer and the shielded were still on house arrest. I don’t want to open old wounds here – have a read for yourself.

13. Contemplating shielding coming to an end (256 reads)

In this piece, I tried to raise awareness of those who had shielded for 5 months fears and situation with the guidance coming to an end. The expectation to simply return to normal. The pressures from employers and family alike.

I have never received so many messages and questions as I did in the two weeks leading up to 1st August and the end of shielding. There were some very scared people out there – I wrote this one for them.

14. The last day of shielding (656 reads)

I wanted to write something that captured the whole shielding experience in one piece – a combination of my earlier articles. This was it and released on the last day of shielding intentionally. Another one that was shared far and wide. Proud of this one.

15. Back into the wild – the damage done to my mental health is clear (191 reads)

My first week of freedom since early March ends in me crying at the side of the road.

16. Don’t bring my son into this (159 reads)

Six weeks after the end of shielding and I am still noticing the effects of it – this time, in the most personal place of all, with my son, who developed attachment issues after 5 months stuck indoors with me.

I hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I did compiling them. There are many days and hours of work here, often through pain or difficult times.

If you would like to support my writing, please head over to Medium to follow, like and read my best work. I am paid per subscriber read and it allows me to keep this website ad-free. You can also send a donation at the bottom of this website to help us keep doing what we do.

If you have a suggestion for a topic I should cover, please do get in touch, I love hearing from you.

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Arthritis and Psoriasis Patient Advocate, Writer And Consultant. Owner Of The Pain Company.

I share my story of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis to raise awareness and specialise in pain, parenting (with disability) and the mental health impact of living with chronic illness. I write and campaign for leading charities and organisations. In addition, I provide patient experience consultancy for both charities and global healthcare companies.

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