The last few weeks have been all about listening to the advice from the Government, trying to put the media hype to one side and adapting our lives accordingly.
What has that meant for me? I, along with thousands of others across the country, had to make the decision with the most recent advice to change from social distancing to self-isolating.
The difference between social distancing and self-isolation is that social distancing involves adjusting your routine to make sure that you avoid close contact with other people, whereas self-isolation involves staying at home, keeping the people you are in contact with to an absolute minimum. For me, unless the advice dramatically changes, this isolation is for 12 weeks. I have the week commencing the 8th June 2020 clearly marked in my diary as week 12 of social isolation and am thinking of ways to celebrate the occasion!
Initially, before the advice changed, I reduced contact with those around me. Visits from my Grandad and Rebecca (my project manager) a couple of times a week were great. My Grandad normally visits me every day and has tea with me once a week, so it was a reduction in visits but still lovely to see him. And having Rebecca still coming a couple of times a week meant that we could keep working on Road Safety Talks together. She was going solo with our school visits, but at least we had some admin and planning time together.
Social interaction is so important for your mental health, and I worry about that more than I do my physical health. Whether that is right or not, I’ve learnt over the years just how important it is to have people around me and things going on to keep my mind busy and occupied. Dwelling on the negatives is no help to me at all.
When the advice changed and those around me felt it was better that I went into social isolation, I agreed. The Lauren from 10 years ago maybe wouldn’t have done, but I have matured a lot since those days!
So how do I prepare myself for 12 weeks of not seeing anyone?
I think of the positives.
- I still see my Mum as she is part of my care team.
- I still have face to face chats with my team.
- I am not ill.
- I have lots of TV boxsets and films to watch.
- It will give me time to do the little jobs around the house that I keep putting off.
- I have the technology to keep in touch with everyone else.
- This request by the Government doesn’t just apply to me.
I spent 16 months in hospital after my accident so I can easily do the advised 12 weeks of staying in my own home.
Bizarrely, as vulnerable as I am in being paralysed, and I totally get that, when I read the list of this who were classed as vulnerable on this occasion, I didn’t fit into any category! You see my lungs are ok; it’s the muscles around my lungs which were affected after my accident. The vulnerable on this occasion were those who have weaker immune systems and long-term or chronic illnesses. Of course, it is right for me to take the precautions I am doing as this is about us all doing our bit to protect ourselves and everyone else, but the way I see it is that there is always someone worse off than yourself.
My home is a place of work, and I am conscious of keeping it a safe environment for my team. They are as much at risk as I am and have families at home too. We all work hard to protect each other. I am starting to forget what they look like without their masks on!
Meetings, events and school talks are all cancelled, and we have to accept that we can’t do anything about it. A couple of summers ago, I had a pressure sore which resulted in me needing to stay in bed for 22 hours a day, for six weeks, for pressure relief. It was the hottest summer we had experienced for a while, and everything was carrying on as normal around me. That was a pretty tough time. In a way, everyone being in the same boat at the moment makes it a bit easier for me to get my head around the situation.
I can only hope that everyone else is following the Government guidance and the group gatherings or non-essential trips out we have seen in the news, are stopping now. We must take these steps to protect the NHS. This isn’t just for the vulnerable people in our community; we would all want their expertise, knowledge and care if our families or we needed it.
So as social isolation takes hold, how am I keeping busy?
As the saying goes, when you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.
I’ve been here before you see.
We were experiencing the busiest six months in the four years of our Road Safety Talk project, and although we can’t be out and about as we had planned, fortunately, we have plenty of work to be getting on with behind the scenes, and we just see it as a good chance to get everything up to date. From blogs and emails to developing our website and recording for our local radio station, Stray FM, we’ve certainly been kept busy! We’ve even learnt how to film from each of our homes for our local BBC Look North news and the Editor did a fantastic job merging all the different clips…it was a seamless report!
We are also working really hard to keep our project out there using social media, TV and radio as when this is all over, we still want people to know about the work we do and to get back out and about again! We have had some fantastic offers of support in doing so.
Technology is great at times like this for keeping in touch with people. Rebecca and I are in touch regularly through messenger and email, and we FaceTime most days. We’ve always worked through everything together, and we were adamant that this time wouldn’t change anything. It’s good to talk anyway and we like to do lots of it!
On a personal note, I have been regularly checking in with my Grandad (who’s self-isolating at home) and other family or friends who will also be missing the regular contact with people. My nephew was born on Friday 20th March, and I have only been able to meet him through FaceTime, so am looking forward to being able to meet him in person, but his sister, my 5-year-old Niece, keeps me up to date with how he’s doing.
As my Mum is one of my care team, we had to make the decision as a family that my Dad would be the person who would do my shopping etc., but this means that Dad and I would have to stay apart. We have messenger, email and can call each other, but I’m looking forward to being able to see him again. He’s a huge part of my life and I really miss him being around.
I also felt the need to let Poppy, my dog, go and live at my Mum and Dads so that my Dad could take her out for walks. The house is very quiet without her and I really do miss her. We have tried FaceTime, but for some reason, she never wants to look at the camera!
Unlike the time I was in the hospital, at least I have all of my home comforts around me and can go out in the garden when I want a bit of fresh air; my patio is a great sun trap and it has been a bonus to have some nice British weather for once!
This virus has changed the world; there is no disputing that. We will continue to listen to the facts, follow the rules, change our sails accordingly and hopefully sail in the right direction. We will do all this together.
Because bringing people together is just what it has done. Families, friends, neighbours and communities have once again embraced each other, helped each other and supported each other. Social media has become a much friendlier place. We have started to appreciate the little things in life again, taking the time out of our lives to think of others and long may this continue.
I may not be visiting Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen in May as I thought, but one thing is for sure… those cucumber sandwiches and cakes will taste extra special once I do get there!
Keep Positive, Keep Talking, Keep Smiling, Keep Well and Keep Safe.
This time will pass.