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Living As A Shielder

July 2, 2020

me behind barsAt the moment, I am advised to shield until mid-August because of my specific health condition.  Those of us who are shielders are now best advised on the way to move forward by our specialists and healthcare providers.  I will have been shielding for a total of five months by that date.  I have been able to meet with two friends so far, and only because they had not seen anyone outside their immediate household for a minimum of two weeks.

I am suffering, as are all shielders.  Some are now able to open up a bit more, because the more we know about Covid-19 the more the advice can be targeted more accurately to our specific conditions.  I am not one of those people who is able to be released.

I feel like I am imprisoned.  My depression has been exacerbated resulting in an increase in anti-depressant medication.  I now have extreme anxiety to add to this which was not a feature of my mental health before.  I have started psychotherapy/CBT dual treatment to try and deal with this new addition, which I have to pay for as there is no access in my area to NHS mental health treatment for at least two years.  My level of debt is increasing, as I am furloughed on reduced wages whilst having to meet increased costs in food and other vital expenses.

My fears are not irrational.  I look outside and see so many people walking about with no masks on, not socially distancing, and know that they are increasing the length of my imprisonment.  I know that they neither know nor care.

I am a person who tries to look on the bright side and have learned techniques to help in this through previous CBT and therapy sessions, undertaken over 15 years ago.  My practice of these techniques has been destroyed by the way in which the pandemic has been dealt with by government and by society.

There is no thought, no care, no understanding.  Our society is now one of individuals looking inward rather than a social group looking to each other to support, help and uplift.  It’s all about how one can best help oneself, with no sense of responsibility or consequence for the actions effecting others.   We are a profoundly selfish society now.

I don’t see any end to this.  I don’t see a release date.  I feel pressured to give advice to work, to family, to friends, in order that they understand my position and that of a small minority of the most vulnerable (because we are vulnerable, that is the right word to use) people.  I don’t feel truly understood though.  I cannot go outside.  I cannot enter any enclosed space.  I can’t go to parks because they are full of non-socially distancing people.  Even if they aren’t when I go there, I cannot guarantee they won’t become full and if they do, it’s too late for me.

It’s not as simple as finding somewhere that is deserted to go outside.  It has to remain deserted for the entire time I am there.  I live in the city so this means I can’t go outside.  Even driving outside of London to find somewhere has been unsuccessful, even more so since the lockdown eased, or as it seems for most people in their self-absorption, since the lockdown stopped altogether and ‘normality’ resumed.

I have to ask people before I meet them what contact they have had with people within the last two weeks and if they have had any contact at all, I can’t meet with them.  It’s not just them I have to have trust in, it’s who they may have met up with, how closely they may have stood to someone in a shop, and I trust my friends implicitly but I do not trust those I don’t know.

The pressure to ‘be normal’ is intense; I am the one who has to advise my workplace on how to make things safe for me, and I know as much as anyone else as to how this can be achieved.  I do not know yet how I will travel to work as I cannot use public transport, nor when I will return as we do not know if there will be a second wave nor how safe my area of London will be.  I may have to purchase some form of motor transport as my osteoarthritis means I cannot cycle but goodness knows how this will be achieved.  Come my next appointment in August, I may know more.  I may not.  It’s impossible to plan for.

I feel so much guilt about the situation this puts my partner in.  He has had to shield with me, although he has also had to go to the local shops for essentials.  This is the only outside he has really had, and if I were properly sticking to the rules he would not even be doing this.  I can’t subject him to that though; it’s a balance between my physical health and both his and my mental health.  This of course compounds my fears.

I am a puddle of guilt, fear, anger and (rarely) hope.  I cannot see me leaving the house before 2021 – we have the flu season coming up and this compounded with CLL means my life will be at even greater risk.  Maybe if people were still wearing masks and were practicing social distancing and mindfulness of other people I could see a ray of hope.  They aren’t, so I don’t.

That is my life as a shielder, to know so many would be fine with my death.  That is my life for the foreseeable future, to know a latte, a haircut or a pint is more important that a human life.  That is my life and it is out of my control.

HOW TO HELP SHIELDERS

From → Autobiography, health

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