Carmarthen, United Kingdom
It was finally announced on the BBC by the Prime Minister calling the country into a Coronavirus Lockdown. It was about the beginning of March, when my brother in Australia advised me to prepare for social isolation.
I googled and found there was actually an official term: ‘preppers.’ Mostly associated with Doomsday-Apocalypse predictions, this was amongst the middle-aged, who fantasised about a nuclear conflict. However, the most recent who came out on social media were quite down-to-earth housewives. I typed ‘emergency food storage’, and was taken aback not only by such a site being listed, but that freeze-dried food was already in short supply, indicating both high demand and short supply. I consulted with my family and far from being really worried, there was ridicule at such a suggestion. I decided to use my savings to buy a month’s worth of food for the six of us.
Seeing the panic buying soon after, especially for toilet paper, I tried to buy this online together with hand disinfectants. Finally I accessed a year-old account of ‘Who Gives A Crap?’ – toilet paper made from bamboo – and managed to get a delivery. As for soaps, I had collected special scented Indian soap to tuck away in my clothes drawers, as my mother had.
Yesterday, 23rd March 2020, the Prime Minister called for an official Coronavirus Lockdown. Of course, it is a very difficult situation. In my case, I have had periods of being alone, limiting my choices for going out to socialise. For me, solitude may be bliss, but imposed loneliness could be a curse.
It took twelve years for them to diagnose LOMS – Late Onset Multiple Sclerosis. The only treatment offered was Metrataxate, which the consultant also warned may have adverse effects on my kidneys and liver in ten years. I declined and turned to alternative therapies, adopting a gluten-, sugar-, and dairy-free diet. ‘Glutton-free!’ I joked. Already a vegetarian, but a keen cook, it was not difficult. I used a folding walking stick, ankle-camp-boots and a French-style beret. One artist thought my walking stick was an affectation!
I do not know when, but I became friends with MS. Over the years, there were many adaptations, until I had no choice but to accept a wheelchair. I opted for a mobility scooter; my long years of driving stood me in good stead. I chose not to elicit sympathy from people, which was imperative to me.
We moved from a five-acre smallholding with horses, dogs and cats, and into town for convenience. However, for the last seven years, my condition deteriorated; I became increasingly bed-bound or confined to my electric wheelchair. I gave my shopping list and purse to my husband and as I struggled to get in and out of the car, I resorted to shopping online. It became easier to stay at home. Whenever I needed medical assistance I rang the doctor and they started to suggest home visits.
It started with intermittent self-isolation, which became longer. I lived with many limitations: bladder, bowel, balance and mobility, impaired sensory feeling, which means I can only type with my right index finger. It’s the simple things in life that have become insurmountable – like getting-up by myself, brushing my teeth or transferring from seat to seat. I used to enjoy vacuuming, washing up and loved cooking. Sometimes I wish I could be me, as I used to be, but then, wait, what and who was that, but a memory?
Of course, it is a restriction, but maybe it was growing slowly. I found I was learning to live with myself. I had always been my own enemy, criticising and being really hard on myself.
It was observing lifelong spiritual practices that has helped most. Sharing it with my brother, and until recently with my mother, talking almost every day over the miles has strengthened our bond. Sharing this with my husband and a few close friends has also enriched me.
Having more time has made me reliant on my inner self. MS has become a lifelong companion. Sometimes it wins, sometimes I do.
I even consciously talk to myself. I am increasingly talking to different parts of my body, but not as harshly as I used to.
To escape from aches and pain, I lose myself in my passions of writing and drawing. MS has enabled me to do more of this than I might otherwise have made room for.
I would love to go back to driving, striding, skipping, doing the ten things I did all at once. It hurts to be unable to do these things. But, solitude has kept the noise of the world away and has opened a window to help me find a special space within me.
For further information
Surviving the Coronavirus Lockdown and Social Isolation is a guide to creating a new normal in a changing world. Download a copy of the ebook for free now.
Get your free copy of the book here.