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‘Here comes lockdown two, and at least four more weeks of social isolation. And I feel… fine.’

@lucywriter‘s #MadCovidDiaries 4.11.2020

I remember March, the month the world changed. I was in crisis as lockdown began. And just as I was trying to get my head around the idea, there was a new headline on BBC News: ‘Social distancing may be needed for rest of year.’

‘I can’t bear this,’ I posted in despair on Facebook. I rely so much on friends to prop me up when I’m falling apart, and the thought of not being able to see them, go out for dinner with them, curl up on the sofa with them, hug them, not just in the short term but for the rest of 2020, hurt. It really, physically hurt.

At first, lockdown isolation was horribly difficult. When I’m unwell, my natural instinct is to withdraw, and it’s only because of my friends that I don’t disappear completely. But distancing myself from the world had become compulsory, and while there were tearful phone calls and strained Zoom get-togethers, I was desperately lonely, despite my husband and two children being at home.

Over the coming months, things slowly got easier. I gradually came out of crisis thanks to a small but significant tweak to my meds, and as social distancing eased in tiny increments, I started to feel less alone.

Being able to see friends for a 2m-apart walk, then have a Starbucks in the park, then have them in our garden, then around for a cuppa in the living room, then go out for a meal: every little step made me feel more connected.

The relaxing of restrictions brought its own challenges. Not knowing how closely other people were adhering to social distancing made it hard to know what to ask of them. Asking if people wanted to get together was fraught with anxiety: was I expecting too much? Making them feel duty-bound to see me when they didn’t want to? Had they relished every moment of the two months in which we’d been unable to mix, relieved of the enforced break from their needy friend?

But bit by bit, I’ve worked out who’s happy with what, and how the dynamics of our varied relationships have adapted. There are some people who are still more comfortable 2m apart, while others are fine with sharing a sofa. Some are okay with going out for a pizza and sharing a taxi home; others would rather sit in the garden. My parents are delighted for us to stay overnight, and looked after the kids for the best part of a week in the summer. I’ve even had a few illegal but utterly life-affirming hugs.

Other forms of social contact have gradually resumed, too, albeit with modifications. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been able to go back to church and to my Bible study group, and while it’s very strange to sit 2m apart, wear masks and not sing, it’s an opportunity for face-to-face connection that I really missed.

So, social distancing ‘for the rest of the year’ – in other words, in an increasingly dilute form – hasn’t been as terrifying as I thought back in March.

But now, here comes lockdown two, and at least four more weeks of social isolation. And I feel… fine. Actually, I feel more than fine. I’m kind of looking forward to it. What has happened to me?

Maybe it’s because this time, it’s more controlled, and I’ve got the chance to see my friends one last time, unlike in March where it all happened so suddenly that there was no opportunity to say goodbye and have a last hug. Maybe it’s because this time, it’s (hopefully) time-limited. Or that, with schools staying open, I’ll at least get to say a passing hello to the parents of my daughter’s friends every day.

Maybe the past eight months have made me less dependent on regular social contact and has proven that I can manage on my own, or that there’s actually something rather appealing about four weeks of cosy, winter hibernation with fluffy blankets and candlelight.

Maybe it’s that I’m so much less Mad than I was back at the start of lockdown one, or (and actually, this worries me a little) that my Madness is tipping the other way and getting a bit out of hand.

I’m dreading (and not intending to participate in) more Zoom gatherings and virtual quizzes, but other than that, I feel on top of this. I don’t feel like I’m going to cease to exist if I don’t see anyone beyond the immediate family for four weeks. I’m even kind of looking forward to a stripped-back Christmas that doesn’t involve seeing 135 different groups of people in a three-day sprint.

I don’t know if this positive, slightly too happy attitude will last, or whether my bubble will burst and I’ll end up crippled with depression again. But right now? I’m ready to do this. Let’s see what happens.  

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