Health / Mental health

Isolating During Mental Health Awareness Week

After the covid-19 swab “tickled” the back of my throat and went so far up my nose I’m sure they sampled my brain, I was given a piece of paper with my list of isolation rules.

I knew I was required to stay inside for the next 3 days but the reality of it set in as I read a list of dos and don’ts. I’m not allowed to touch my husband as I’m required to stay 2m away from him and we have to sleep apart.

As someone who’s not too keen on touch, perhaps this wouldn’t be too bad but when you’re told you’re not allowed to do something, what’s the one thing you want to do?!

This week I’ve finally been listed for steroid injections into the facet joint in my spine. I was due this painkilling procedure over a year ago but the NHS had other priorities…

A couple of difficult moments include after the first night in separate beds, my husband came down to breakfast and automatically went to kiss me good morning. When a cross word is said and we talk things through, we like to hug it out but when we can’t do that it feels like we can’t quite put the misunderstanding to bed.

2 hands reaching out

You don’t realise how much you touch other people until you’re not allowed to. My husband and I hold hands to pray (before each meal and before sleeping at night) and it feels really strange not to do this. We ended up holding the ends of a pillow! I didn’t realise the physical connection I make with my husband aids the spiritual connection I make with God.

Mental Health Awareness Week this year is themed Nature. I’m an introvert, a highly sensitive person and could quite easily go for a couple of days and not realise I’d not left the house but being told I’m not allowed out is different. I yearned just to breath the fresh air, I daydreamed of walking around the park and I longed to make that connection to plants and animals that I know is good for my mental health. Check out my latest blog post for details.

There are all sorts of risk reduction measures going on at the moment in order to look after our physical health. Whether it’s social distancing, masks, isolation or working from home where all meetings are ‘virtual’, we’ve never been more disconnected. As the vaccine is being rolled out and lateral flow tests are the next stage in managing the pandemic we’ll now start being able to properly connect ‘irl’ (in real life)—this will greatly benefit our mental health!

Although my isolation was only 3 days it’s helped me to gather the tiniest glimpse into the world that was lived by thousands of people with underlying health conditions who were advised (overnight) that they were at risk of serious complications from a unseen virus. Everyone’s story is different, some isolated with their families, others lived apart while others tried to remain isolated away form their families while living in the same house. For one such story, check out Kate and Holly’s Isolation Diaries from BBC Ouch Podcast.

We’ve had a couple of fun moments: I shared a song I was planning to arrange for saxophone ensemble with my husband and started dancing along. Usually we would have joined hands and started doing some silly dancing, since we couldn’t do this, we pretended we were holding hands and did a silly dance anyway! Our kitchen is pretty small, we weren’t sure if it was big enough for both of us to prepare food at the same time; realising Steve was about 2m tall (1.98m) he lay down on the floor, found it was just long enough and declared that he could prepare his sandwiches at one end while I prepared my smoothie at the other!

Look up isolation in a thesaurus and you see vastly varying words from protection through to segregation and loneliness. I felt all of these!

At times I could see myself become afraid of germs; each time my husband went out, I was fearful he would bring the virus back, despite having a year of evidence showing this hasn’t happened before. I had been advised to wash my hands regularly and had to be careful that this didn’t become an obsessive behaviour.

A feeling of disconnection is really hard—working from home when everyone else is in the office feels almost shaming. What had I done wrong to be in this position? I find asking for help difficult at the best of times but when it’s in person, intonation and body language help to read the situation. Sending and receiving messages asking for help and support required courage and resilience. I was just incredibly glad I could work from home, it’s not too long ago it simple wasn’t an option when it really should have been!

man and woman embracing

Hugging again when you’ve not been allowed to for a while is something else! You don’t realise what you’ve got until you’re without it! It reminds us not to take anything for granted!

The whole ordeal was really hard but I was fortunate that it was only just over 3 days and I had a plan for getting out of it! I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience it with the physical, mental and emotional difficulties. Putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, I feel, is something we should always strive to do, that’s where real connection begins.

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