When I first heard about lockdown happening in other countries on the news I obviously hopped it would never come to that here. The idea made me slightly anxious and I tried not to think about it much. However when lockdown was announced here I was not surprised and knew there was nothing I could do about it. Like everyone else I had to learn to cope with the situation and deal with it as it unfolded. To my relief I was not told I needed to shield by my doctor. I think it would possibly have been too much for me living in a flat with no garden on my own. I feel for those who have been shielding with no outside space at all.
I pretty quickly established a new routine for myself. Being autistic routine helps me, especially in difficult situations. I decided to go out every other day for exercise and shopping. Since I do not drive and public transport was advised against, I could only shop within walking distance of my flat, so no large supermarkets. Luckily most places in my small town are within walking distance, even for me with my chronic pain issues, except on my absolutely worst days. I found it too physically and mentally draining walking everywhere, remembering to socially distance from others and trying to touch as little as possible to go out daily. Every other day gave me enough exercise and mental stimulation to cope. I soon discovered my favourite bakery was still open, so sometimes went to them for lunch and then I could sit in the park or by the sea to eat and watch the world around me. Mostly in lockdown here that was birdlife.
I live in a town well known for its waterfowl, both on the river and in an enclosure with some non-native species. I have always enjoyed nature, especially waterfowl, but during this time I really got into watching the birds in town. I have started to learn some more of the specious we have and have observed the differing behaviours of the birds. I find watching them quite therapeutic, it can be relaxing and help me to feel a little more cheerful. I even joined Chris Packham’s Self Isolating Bird Group on Facebook to learn more about birds and other wildlife.
Spring is a good time to keep going out and visit the same places regularly with the trees and flowers blossoming and the birds at their most active. I have watched a pair of swans raise cygnets and a goose family with goslings. I saw how they young gradually develop and change over time. Lockdown would have been a lot harder in winter, being able to go out less often and nature being less active. On a good day pain wise I would make my walk to or from town a little longer, exploring my local area. I am lucky to live near parks, countryside and the coast. I can think of a lot worse places to be stuck in lockdown.
Although I was on my own and did miss company. I missed visiting my parents which I usually do quite frequently and got a bit frustrated with being on my own. However where I live has a great community of people who have always been supportive and helpful and during this time really stepped-up for those who needed it. Several local charities got together at the start of lockdown and formed a support network to organise things. People knew I was on my own and a friend referred my name to them. It started off with a delivery a couple of days before Easter of a chocolate egg and colouring book. It helped me to feel less alone during a bank holiday weekend I would normally spend with my parents. Then a few days later I got fish and chips from a local restaurant who donated a lot of meals through the scheme. After that I started to get a meal delivered every week from the local community centre. They cooked freshly prepared meals; usually a roast dinner and some sort of crumble for dessert and all I had to do was reheat it. At first I felt slightly guilty that I was not stuck at home shielding and could get out for supplies. However it gave me something to look forward to every week and being on my own I was not going to cook a roast dinner for one, so it was lovely to have one delivered, as I could not go out and eat anywhere else. Plus I felt I was sort of earning my meals a bit by keeping up with some of my volunteer work.
My weekly volunteer afternoon at the local community craft shop stopped for obvious reasons, but my online volunteering carried on. I help a local charity to run their Facebook page. They are one of the charities that made up the support network for lockdown, so I was promoting their role in that and made sure relevant information was put on our page. I put a call out for volunteers and made sure it was clear how to get support if needed. I also shared some of the information to other relevant Facebook pages and groups. It helped me to know I was doing my bit, although very small, it felt better than doing nothing.
I already used Facebook to stay in touch with people and during lockdown I used it even more as a way to feel less isolated. It is good being able to see how friends are and share things with them. In more normal times I often attend Karaoke at a local pub. A couple of the regulars formed an isolation karaoke group. We would film ourselves singing along to songs and upload the videos to the group. Although not quite the same as a night out in my local, it was quite fun filming myself, trying to make more of a performance out of it and watching others have a go. I also got a few of my friends to join in who live in other towns which was a way to enjoy something together whilst we could not meet up in person. Music often helps me when I feel lonely or am struggling mentally and during this time it was especially helpful.
I started to take photos on my trips to town to document things. I shared a lot of my photos on Facebook and Instergram. I enjoy sharing the things that give me pleasure with others. I think my photography skills have slightly improved now, although I am just using my phone.
Keeping in touch with family has helped a great deal. I do this using WhatsApp, Email and Facebook. My mum and I made an arrangement to talk every day for at least few minuets on the phone. It helped having someone to talk with when alone most of the time. It was also reassuring to know my parents were OK.
Once we were allowed to travel further and take unlimited exercise my mum came over for a few socially distanced walks. As I do not drive, I was still unable to get out of my small town, but my mum could drive to me. Although we could not hug which was somewhat strange, it was very nice to have some company. Since then single person households have been allowed to merge with another household and I have been able to visit my parents again and even stay over which has been lovely.
I am pleased with how I have copped with lockdown. I did have a minor wobbly when my kitchen hot water tap broke within days of lockdown starting and I spent a few hours rather upset, but I calmed down and dealt with the issue fairly quickly. I now have a couple of facemasks and carry hand gel in my bag whenever I go out, so feel like I am prepared for the next phase of this. It was not always easy spending so much time alone, especially as I tend to over think things and my OCD can get worse, but making sure I got out regularly helped. There were times I felt fed up, frustrated and lonely, but I am sure that was the case for many people and I still managed better than I thought I would.
I would like to thank those who have helped me during lockdown and made it a lot easier than it might have been otherwise. Friends, family, the local community and volunteers who made sure I was alright. I know that whatever happens next with this I have a great support network around me to help me deal with this.