In early March, I was watching the rapid spread of coronavirus across Europe with constant low level anxiety and by mid-March, this anxiety had racheted up as it became clear that we were in the midst of a pandemic. In the week preceding school closures I finally gave in to my rising panic and pulled my children from school beginning our own unoffocial lockdown.
I spent the first two weeks continually refreshing news feeds unable to concentrate on anything but global infection rates and the grim death statistics. A splenectomy in my teens gained me membership to the elite club of The Shielding. A couple of million of us unlucky souls for whom Covid-19 would likely be more than a few weeks in bed.
When the first fourteen days elapsed without any symptoms, we settled in to a new household rhythm of home working, home schooling, daily walks and hunting for online shopping slots. Our jobs were already home based and we live rurally – a pain for modern living, but ideal for a pandemic.
A few weeks in, I have found that lockdown has actually begun to quell my anxiety. The removal of all external pressures has begun to have a calming effect. It is no longer just my life that is paused, everyone is living in this new reality with me. I have not achieved anything, but I am no longer fearful of falling behind in some race that I don’t know I am competing in.
I feel guilt as for some people, this has been a gut-wrenching time of financial and emotional insecurity, but my PTSD triggers have mostly been removed; I don’t have to drive, traffic through the village has slowed to a trickle, my children are with me constantly and the dangerous world now exists on the other side of our front door.
I read somewhere that for people whom anxiety is a constant presence, as it has been for me since the accident, a state of crisis can alleviate their symptoms – we have already imagined the worst case scenarios, so the reality is less stressful than our imaginings.
Of course, none of this is a long term strategy. I cannot lock my family away indefinitely to fulfil an indistinct notion of keeping them safe, just as I cannot demand (nor would I ever wish) that other’s lives are kept small to make mine feel larger. The absolute nature of lockdown has taken reponsibility of safety out of my hands and although I would never want to actually relinquish my own autonomy, I can begin to see why some people could find that an attractive proposition.
When the UK emerges slowly from lockdown, I will wait to see if my anxieties will increase with each relaxation of the rules or if I can retain some of this lockdown calm.