‘We must not forget those who might not set foot outside for six months’
We know we are in for a difficult few months as a second wave of the pandemic tries to take hold. We are doing everything in our power to make sure this does not happen, but even the mere threat of it means our most vulnerable in society may be forced to cocoon once again. We must make sure they are not left behind or forgotten, writes Jennifer McShane
It’s hard to stomach the thoughts of another lockdown. Even local lockdowns. We know they must be done if we are to suppress this virus, but for the past two weeks, as the reality has set in, I’ve read next to nothing about support measures in place for those who know they will not be able to leave their homes for the winter months.
Some have never left their homes. Still inside since March with rising cases and a vaccine a good while off, those with compromised immunity, with underlying health conditions, with disabilities – some have no choice, they must stay inside.
“I literally haven’t left my home in seven months,” says Sarah, a woman from Dublin with severe asthma. “Even prior to Covid, I was prone to attacks so with Covid, I just can’t take the risk.”
“I have family with me, thank God, but I feel stuck; like I’m still at the very beginning of this while all my friends slowly stepped into the real world and moved on. We were all in it together at first, but now, everyone is sick of Zoom and making bread – they want to live again.
“I feel I won’t be able to re-start my life until there’s a vaccine and that means at least six more months indoors with winter on the way and cases rising. My mental health is really suffering and I don’t think that’s spoken enough of either, the toll of isolation, being cut off from others, has on your physiological wellbeing.”
And as I await with trepidation new restrictions from Boris Johnson and his cronies, a young woman with mild Cerebral Palsy who lives alone, I can’t help but see the mundane in the next six months. I cocooned for 12 weeks initially and I swore I’d never do it again, but what choice do I have? If I get sick, I may never recover fully, such is my immunity.
A scare last week rendered me resolute in my determination to stay well. Shallow breathing. That struggle to get air into your lungs. It wasn’t Covid, as it turns out – I can’t say what it was because all my vitals were normal. Subconscious anxiety? Stranger things have happened. Government advice has not strictly said anyone must cocoon again yet, but some won’t be able to wait for that official nod and have to do so anyway.
A different kind of loneliness
I fear loneliness, brought about by this pandemic. As someone who never feels alone in her own company, Covid-19 has brought with it a different type of solitude for those of us living alone or uncoupled. It is not peaceful solitude. I never felt lonely before and yet I fear I’ll be lonely now. The unknown of when this too will pass has brought this on.
There’s so much talk of families, of togetherness that when comments such as “no one but a single household” get said, I fear those that say it have never truly been in their own company for weeks on end, unable to allow another human being in their personal space.
Will their still be ‘support bubbles’? In Ireland, I would hope so. In the UK, it’s not looking likely.
Regardless, we must not forget those who may not set foot outside for another six months. Connection, even a virtual one, is vital now. And kindness in those connections. Reaching out to the friend you haven’t heard from in months, to offer support, a chat on the phone, a funny GIF – small actions make the biggest of differences in a time when we so yearn for a particular kind of closeness – that which we’ve had to forgo for the safety of those we love.
As it was before, I wish for again, that this next wave, or whatever it might be, will bring out the best in our communities – that sense of care and warmth was something no one was unaware of back in March. And even now, when we’re feeling tired and worn, it’s that same sense of togetherness and support that will get those who find it most difficult through the next few months.
Hope, alongside building up and being there for each other, will get us through the winter.
And this type of hope is really only successful, just like the fight against the virus, when we’re all in it together.
If you need someone to talk to, you can free call the Samaritans on 116 123
Main photograph: Unsplash
Read more: ‘We’ve been trapped inside our homes and our heads since March’ — the looming mental health crisis and what we can do to tackle it
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