As Britain adjusts to life in lockdown, an opportunity to empathise with the disabled presents itself
Like many countries before us, Britain is waking up today still trying to work out the details on what a lockdown and enforced isolation means for the individual.
On 23rd March, the following three measures came into place:
- Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
- Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
- Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public
Full details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others
Isolation – what to expect
On medical grounds, I have been in isolation for a week now and as a member of the ‘high risk’ group I am preparing for a minimum of three months forced isolation. Limiting me to my home and garden. I can’t even walk my dog. It feels like a prison sentence but I fully understand and support the measures. If I catch Covid-19, as an immunosuppressed asthmatic with a number of underlying health conditions, I am at serious risk of complications.
After just one week, I am already bored, irritable and a little bit depressed and due to limited mobility, I was already restricted with what I could do before the lockdown.
This got me thinking about what the whole nation faces now. People will miss their usual sporting or club activities at weekends, that Parkrun, routine trip to the hairdressers for the latest gossip or that coffee you always have at the same table, in the same café. Not to mention how much you will miss friends and family. It was Mothers Day on Sunday and I found this particularly hard. Not being able to visit my mum or for her to see her grandson but we must remember the reasons why we are doing this.
At least 12 weeks at home in isolation…
The emotions you will experience in the coming days, weeks and possibly months, will be the same as when I lost my mobility. Denial, bargaining, anger, depression. Over the space of just a few months, I had to give up sport, lose touch with my friends, say no to more things than I could RSVP yes to. What made it worse was the more I went about my business, the more I discovered just how impacting on my life my disease was. I am still finding things today that I cannot participate in that I hadn’t considered.
And this will happen to you in the coming days.
You will go through the five stages of grieving and it will be hard but the more you are prepared for this, the better equipped you will be to recognise them and help yourself.
I fully support the British Government’s actions during this crisis and have been better educated than most in the dangers coronavirus presents, thanks to my medical team. But I have still experienced these feelings and been angry at the world. Now, whilst in isolation, and previously when my disease first started to limit what I could do.
Advice for coping
My advice for coping during this unprecedented time would be similar as if losing a loved one. You need to make use of support networks (albeit remotely), friends, family, sharing experiences with those in a similar position. We are creatures of habit so build a routine of checking in with one another, whether that’s a FaceTime call so Grandma can see the kids or a weekly catch up with friends. Try to mirror remotely what you would do under normal circumstances. So if you’d normally spend Friday night in the pub with your best mate, have a weekly call at that time with a beer in hand. This will avoid you becoming more isolated than you already are.
The most important step to take, in my opinion, is to look after yourself physically in order to support your mental health. Whether working from home or under enforced isolation such as myself, it’s a slippery slope to go down if you are not aware of bad habits you might be getting in to. Get changed as you normally would. No sitting in pyjamas or dressing gowns all day or skipping showers because you won’t physically interact with anyone. Maintaining normality as best you can is a key part of good mental health during times like these.
If working from home, try to stick to your usual routine, breakfast times etc. Also remember to eat! All too often, I’ve worked from home and realised it’s 2pm and I haven’t stopped all day. I’ll have a headache and realise I haven’t taken breaks for water like I usually would when in the office.
Finally, don’t forget the downtime you’d normally have in your regular job – those water-cooler chats, or pressure relief rants with trusted colleagues. When I work from home for a prolonged period, it’s that element that I miss the most. You can be full of stress or frustration and have no one to talk to who appreciates it. Your partner certainly doesn’t need to hear it so see if you can buddy up with a colleague and schedule in a half an hour ‘catch up’ as needed. I promise you the other person will be needing that time to talk as much as you.
With the whole nation mourning a sense of loss, there is an opportunity to refocus the mind. For reflection and to appreciate the freedoms and liberties you once took for granted. During these moments of reflection, consider those who have lost something permanently out of their control. Whether that be physical mobility, sight, a limb, mental health or simply their independence. When this pandemic has been and gone and life returns to normal, spare a thought for those who don’t have that positive outcome to look forward to. These feelings you have right now will pass, those with permanent disability have those feelings of loss for life, in some capacity.
So during these next few weeks, whilst the feelings are raw, I challenge you.
I challenge you to appreciate what you have and what you can do when this is all over to be a better person. To make the world a better place. Empathise with those whose disability means some level of social distancing or isolation is just part of everyday life. Who being confined to their home or face serious limitations on what they can do each day is simply the norm. Remember this feeling of loneliness and think how you could brighten someone else’s day when this is all over. Who doesn’t have the option of stepping outdoors when the restrictions are lifted.
I challenge you to think of ways you can help those that are disadvantaged and to remember how you feel right now the next time you take that disabled parking spot, go for a run in the park with friends or walk past that person struggling with their shopping.
I urge you to make the most of everything you have and to do what you can to make other’s daily struggle that little bit easier.
Stay safe, friends and #BeKind
To find out how you can help those with disability, head over to https://www.scope.org.uk/ and take a look at their ‘Get Involved’ section.