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“Together we can get through this difficult period”- My experience of life in lock-down

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Hi my name is Amy, I am 25 years old, living in the north east of England, after recently moving into the community after 11 years in inpatient mental health settings. My diagnosis is autism and I love to write, especially poetry. I also like long walks and being creative.

Throughout the start of March there was a lot of talk on the news about COVID-19. I was not deterred by COVID-19, I just thought it was another strain of the flu and brushed it off but kept up my usual hygiene routines and normal daily routines. It was only when certain activities like rock choir and aqua fit were cancelled that I started realising the severity of the situation.

I felt really hurt and a little rejected, as the routine I had spent so long building throughout my transition from hospital to community was slowly being destroyed.

At first, I was really self-centred and did not understand the need for all the fuss. I felt really hurt and a little rejected, as the routine I had spent so long building throughout my transition from hospital to community was slowly being destroyed. This was really upsetting as I had been restricted in hospital for so long that living in the community was a luxury. I was scared that this would send me backwards, I did not want to believe reality but gradually I had too. 

It was only as the news was getting more powerful and other countries were put on lock-down that I really started to understand the impact that this virus was having. I fretted for my own safety due to falling into the vulnerable category. The difficult decision was made to phone work and explain that I would not be able to carry on working until after this crisis. This was a really difficult decision as I knew it would disrupt a massive amount of my routine but I would have to do this to keep myself and my care staff safe.

It’s scary, it’s frightening and strange, I feel very disorganised.

Then just a week later the UK was put on lock-down. It’s scary, it’s frightening and strange, I feel very disorganised. I feel like we may be living in a science fiction film and I wake every day hoping it will be over but knowing we will face the same routine of doing not a great lot, which is hard for me as I have been in hospital under section for so long that entering the community has given me the freedom I had yearned for so long. Now it’s like I am living back in hospital but without the restrictions other than only leaving the house once a day for exercise and once a week for my weekly food shop. At least I am in my own home with staff support and less restrictions.

I am at an advantage because I know how to keep myself occupied

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My thoughts when everyone is complaining that they can’t get out the house or they have nothing to do, or they are bored of being stuck in, or even bored of same repetitive routines and activities. Follow the pattern of me feeling like screaming to people be grateful for what you have, or try living like this but with more restrictions for years with no choice or control over what you do. Try living like this when other people have control of your life, because I have been through this already. In all fairness I am at an advantage because I know how to keep myself occupied; jigsaws have been a new trend in this household but at the same time it’s frustrating. I did not expect to move into the community and have to live like I did in hospital.

I am in awe of how caring everyone is and it motivates me to keep going

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There are positives, I have created a new temporary routine to get me through this, which includes self-care, regular zoom calls with family and work colleagues. It has allowed me to feel more settled within my new home environment and daily exercise means I have managed to create a few different walking routes in my local area. Crafting has been a big part of my routine and is currently keeping me going strong. Hopefully soon this will all come to an end.

Orbis staff have been amazing at keeping us all safe and rallied round to help everyone, I am in awe of how caring everyone is and it motivates me to keep going. They motivate me when I am feeling low and help me to continue using coping strategies I’ve learned that continue to help me deal with my autism. They have helped me find a way to get through this, by helping me to understand what this actually means for everyone and explaining to me what I need to do to remain safe during this time.

I had forgotten how big the world was outside of my little bubble

This has been a really difficult time for everyone and it is still going to be a super difficult time. Especially coming out of lock-down and all the changes it will bring for everyone. It will be so unusual after everywhere has been so peaceful for so long and everyone has had limited contact with other people. I think of it with an analogy which was so relevant when I first came out of seclusion. Sometimes in seclusion the most excitement I would have would be watching a fly, flying around the room.

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When I came out I had forgotten how big the world was outside of my little bubble, which had become my life for three months. I was extremely scared; lots of people, lots of noise, too many conversations. I didn’t even know how to use stairs, it was so overwhelming. I know lock-down is a totally different situation but it has some similarities, we have now created new routines, some which we will be happy to carry on but some which when lock-down ends, we will revert and go back to what we knew before this whole situation began. This is going to be so hard as we have become accustomed to this new way of living.

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The best advice I can give right now is that we need to give ourselves time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, continue to do what makes you happy as much as possible and take making changes as slowly as you can. Don’t rush, help yourself and create goals to make a smooth transition back to normality. If you have found new ways to cope or new hobbies throughout this time try to keep them going as they have clearly kept you going and loosing these can be scary. I have also found that being in an accepting mind frame around the news of extensions etc. is really helpful as it makes me feel prepared and less disheartened when there are changes that we might not want to accept.

You are not alone, there is a massive sense of togetherness and it is very comforting.

Community spirit is strong and this has also been a massive help as it has reassured fears that it is not just yourself going through this. You are not alone, there is a massive sense of togetherness and it is very comforting.

Together we can get through this difficult period. It will not last forever and we will fight the good fight.