A few weeks ago I wrote a post asking people not to forget their experience of lockdown, (See ‘Please Don’t Forget This Experience‘) as the rules of lockdown changed and began to lift for the majority of people, I wanted people to remember that for some lockdown, being housebound, is their normal way of life and they have no choice in that.
At the time of writing I hadn’t really considered much beyond the grief and pain I was feeling at seeing some of my family and friends posting on social media about making plans to do things once they were allowed. To be honest I hadn’t given a thought to what it would be like for me to go out, because at the time the advice for vulnerable and high risk people didn’t seem to be changing; well there was no mention of them in the news so I assumed, like many others that there was no real change for us, however right or wrong that assumption might seem.
But with the news of shielding coming to an end, with literally everyone being told they can begin to resume some semblance of ‘normal’ life, whatever that might mean, I’ve come to realise that for those of us with chronic illnesses and disabilities, there is more than just the grief I wrote about previously, when seeing everyone return to being out and about, making plans etc.
There is also a sense of anxiety, a sense of unease, even a sense of fear about the idea of leaving the house for those essential reasons, particularly as medical appointments resume. As lock down lifts and the outside world becomes busier, as it returns to some form of ‘normal’, albeit a new normal, there is a sense of danger almost.
For months, those of us with chronic illnesses or underlying health conditions, as the media frequently describe it, have been told we are more vulnerable to the virus, with some of us advised that in addition to being more likely to catch it, we are at high risk of being badly affected by it too.
So is it any wonder that now, as things begin to return to some form of ‘normal’ we are more anxious than most about going out again?
During lockdown the streets were mostly deserted, the majority of people kept their distance and the world was a wary place (going by the photos I saw being posted by others and what friends who were going out for essentials and exercise told me anyway!). But now as restrictions lift and things return to something closer to normal, the streets are busier again, keeping distance from one another doesn’t seem to be quite as important to many people (that much I can tell just from sitting in my house or garden, let alone the media reports!) and so the risks when we, as vulnerable people, go out are greater.
Our risk of catching the virus is higher. Our risk of being badly affected by the virus might also be higher. Unless in a remote place, going out for a walk now runs the risk of not being able to distance ourselves enough from another person. If you use a wheelchair you often have to rely on other people to move to allow more space between you, you’re not always able to just move across to create more distance between you due to the nature of the pavements. That alone creates a sense of fear and anxiety about going out. To be dependent on strangers to be understanding and respect the need for social distancing when they don’t know you is quite nerve-wracking.
I suspect those of us who have been deemed more vulnerable aren’t the only ones with a sense of anxiety about going out for the first time since this all began. I suspect many people felt a nervousness or even a bit of fear the first time they went out either during lockdown, or after it, because we all know this virus can affect anyone, and by going out even just for essentials we are essentially putting ourselves at higher risk than by staying home.
But can you imagine the fear, the anxiety, you would feel knowing you’re going out in a more ‘normal’ world, when you might not be able to socially distance appropriately; you’ll have to rely on others to do so, while also knowing you are more at risk of getting the virus and it impacting upon your other health conditions?
So I ask you not just to please remember the lockdown experience, as discussed in my previous post, but also please be patient with us. The outside world seems like a scary place for those of us who are at higher risk and more vulnerable, those of us who on the advice of our doctors, the scientists and the government haven’t left our homes for 12 or more weeks (I actually think most of us are getting on to week 15 now) because of the risks to us.
Please be patient as we adjust. Encourage us gently to venture out for a walk, but do not force us to go out if we don’t feel ready. Offer reassurance on those occasions we have no choice but to go out whether we are ready to or not; for those all important medical appointments for example.
Please be respectful of the social distancing guidance when you are out; if you see someone in a wheelchair, using a mobility aid or visually impaired please make the effort to put as much space between yourself and them as possible, even if it isn’t quite the recommended distance for social distancing, because they may not be able to do so themselves.
Remember, although we may not say so we do appreciate you doing these things, they may only take you a few seconds but they make the outside world that little bit less scary right now.