Rather than lockdown, we’re in limbo

Lucy’s #MadCovidDiaries 10.6.2020 

@lucywriter

As Covid-19 restrictions slowly ease, I find myself wondering whether we’re still in lockdown.

In some ways, it no longer feels like lockdown now I can see my friends and family (albeit at a 2m distance and not on a rainy day unless we’re willing to get drenched in the park), go to the garden centre and pick up a takeaway Starbucks.

But it doesn’t feel like the new normal, either: not with my children still at home for the foreseeable future, and hugs with anyone outside the household still outlawed.

Rather than lockdown, we’re in limbo, and while it’s undoubtedly better for my mental health than the complete enforced isolation of March and April, it’s unsettling and destabilising in an entirely new way.

We’re allowed to see friends in groups of six, but what if they don’t want to see me? I’m scared to ask in case they feel obliged to say yes when they really mean no – and in case they say an outright no, and I crumble into a small pile of rejection and loneliness.

We’re allowed to send some children back to school, but not all of them – including mine. I love them, but the thought of having them at home even into the autumn term fills me with dread.

I’m not equipped to be their teacher, and my eldest in particular is falling behind on their home learning. Every time I receive an email from his school telling me his work is incomplete, I’m overwhelmed by guilt. I’m a terrible parent, failing my children. They’d be better off without me.

I could send them back to school on the basis of my mental illness; the school nurse has told me as much. But how can I when the rest of their friends are still off? How can I explain to them that I’m too mental to keep them at home?

I’m working from home as usual, and as well as the kids being ever present, my husband is now into his fourth month of working from the kitchen table.

Sometimes, I’m glad to have them around, but at other times, I want to scream. I miss my silent, peaceful house where I can work without interruptions. Sometimes, I’m so overwhelmed by their omnipresence that I can’t even cope with them touching me.

I’m angry, too.

I’m angry that my husband, who has given his company 17 years of service, loyalty, hard work and talent, is now at a 50/50 risk of being made redundant, which will blow apart life as we know it.

I’m angry that from next week, we’ll be able to spread our germs all over Primark, and soon be able to have a drink in a beer garden or even go to bloody Legoland, but my kids can’t have the education they deserve, I can’t see my psychiatrist in person, and I can’t have a cup of tea and a proper face to face chat, with my friend.

How is this fair? How is this right? I’ve never felt so politically enraged.

The scientists, doctors and politicians are all in agreement that the pandemic will trigger a spike in new mental health problems, but there’s no acknowledgement of us who already have severe mental illness: those of us who have had intensive treatment cancelled, face to face appointments replaced by phone calls, and prescriptions overdue.

We can’t be ‘cured’ by going for walks, taking long baths, and maybe having a short course of counselling, but when we try to seek support, that’s all they can offer.

I’ve often wished for a magic wand to make my illness disappear and now, greedily, I want another, to make life go back to normal.

But what even is normal any more? What is this ‘new normal’ that we keep hearing about? Will it (eventually) mean washing our hands more often and keeping a respectful distance when queuing, or will it mean months or years more part-time schooling and not being allowed to stay at my parents’ house? 

Will it mean my husband is out of work and struggling to find new employment in a sector that’s been hit hard by the pandemic and the government’s mishandling of it?

Will I ever be able to see my psych in person again, or will Zoom appointments become routine?

Yes, I do feel a bit better since lockdown has been eased, now that I can have a walk with friends and drive to the coast or country for a change of scene. But with ongoing isolation, possible redundancy and months more homeschooling hanging over us, I’m having to put everything into not unravelling in this weird state of limbo.

Normal? It’s anything but.

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