As lock down restrictions begin to lift, this post is to those able to start making exciting plans for the future, plans for getting out and about, plans for returning to ‘normal’.
Please don’t forget what you have just experienced. You know that feeling of grief about all you’ve missed out on during this period of enforced lock down? That feeling of being trapped in the same four walls for weeks on end? I know how much you will want to forget about how it all felt, but please use this experience to gain an insight into life with a chronic illness/disability which leaves people housebound indefinitely.
As lock down restrictions begin to lift for the majority of people there are a minority for which the next few months will be even more difficult than the period of imposed lock down was. Perhaps not practically; for during lock down they couldn’t get the grocery deliveries for which they had always depended, the carers and personal assistants who came in regularly to help them in many different ways haven’t been able to do so for risk of infection. But mentally the next few months are going to be much harder for them, as they watch the world return to ‘normal’ while their life effectively remains in lock down.
You see, there are many people who found that lock down didn’t really change too much for them: their lives are restricted to being at home all the time, only going out for essential things such as medicines, food shopping and medical appointments. And for many the first two of those things are usually ordered and delivered to the home wherever possible.
They can only manage the essential trips out. And when they are at home they are not able to do all the things most people have been doing to keep themselves entertained during this period of lock down. While it has been fantastic to see the creative ways people have found to stay in touch with others, to be social, to keep fit, to take the opportunity to do things they’ve been meaning to do for years. And the way everything has adapted so most things can be done from home and be inclusive.
That has hurt; think about how you felt as this country entered lock down meaning you couldn’t meet up with friends as you usually did, do all the things you loved to do and had planned, while in other countries around the world life was (at some points during this period) continuing as normal. That’s how those who are usually housebound have felt as they’ve watched the world around them adapt to doing things from home, some things of which they have asked for for many years but those requests have been ignored.
As the differences between being healthy while housebound, and chronically ill/disabled while housebound have become abundantly clear, a new wave of grief has been experienced by many. It’s only natural. To see everything everyone else is able to do while effectively living the same way as you, but without the limits illness/disability imposes, it’s almost impossible not to feel at least a bit sad about everything you’re unable to do. You know all those video calls, virtual quizzes and the like which have helped keep you sane over the last 8 weeks? Imagine not being able to manage those, at least no where near as often; many people can’t. All those activities you’ve found to fill your time? Only a few might be manageable to some who are housebound, and even then it will take them longer to achieve, if they can achieve them at all.
The stark reality of the life those of us with chronic illnesses/disabilities which leave us housebound has become even more apparent to us during this period of lock down. Whereas before we’d learned to make the best of our circumstances, and what we could manage while housebound seemed plenty. Now we’ve been hit with the reality of it again, like we were when it first occurred; the contrast between what we consider a successful day and what you would consider a successful day is huge. And believe me that hurts.
Add to that the gradual lifting of lock down and all the excited posts on social media of what you’re planning to do when you can get out and about and that’s a double whammy of grief right there. For us the gradual lifting of lock down makes very little, if any difference.
Yes, during lock down most of us haven’t left our homes at all. Not even for so called essential purposes, preferring instead to find other ways to get the essentials because the risk to our health has just been too high. So the gradual lifting of lock down does affect us in more ways than one, it means we might be able to return to going out for those essential purposes; to get medicines, food and to medical appointments, once we feel it is safe enough to do so, or in the case of medical appointments once the health service resumes the routine appointments and tests for managing long term, underlying conditions.
But please don’t forget that during this period of adjustment, as the majority of people begin to return to some semblance of normality with the gradual lifting of lock down, that the minority will be grieving for the fact they can’t do the same. That their ‘normal’ is similar to what you have just experienced for 8 weeks or so, but without the ability to do as much as you did each day. And for them life in lock down has no end.
So if you know someone with a chronic illness/disability who is usually housebound, please check in a little more than usual. Make sure they know that you know this period of adjustment will be hard for them, and you’ll be there if they need you or want to talk about it.
Please be kind, and think about how it must feel seeing the world return to more normal ways of living again, knowing that for you nothing has drastically changed; while everyone else is beginning to emerge into the outside world again, free from the four walls of their home, you are still housebound, only able to leave for the essentials.