SJ’s COVID-19 diary – A client’s perspective on confinement

30 March 2020

One of our clients has kindly agreed to keep a diary during his COVID-19 confinement. This is is first entry.

Unprecedented: that’s certainly a word that comes to mind when I think about the last few weeks and the changes that have occurred in my life and in society as a whole. Like most people across the country, I am attempting to adjust to a new routine, a complete change in the way we are interacting with each other, and to the absence of face-to-face services.

Whilst I am not in an ‘at risk’ category with regards to actually catching the coronavirus, there are other risk factors that I have had to consider with regards to an impending prolonged period of isolation.

I do not currently work due to my disabilities, which are primarily mental health related. I struggle with a variety of other issues and I am waiting to be assessed for autism (which has obviously been put on hold due to the current situation). I am also actively fighting an alcohol addiction. Routine is vital for me to manage all of the above and change is something that I find extremely difficult to manage. Managing addiction is often largely about distraction. Cravings can take over when boredom sets in which, of course, is more likely when you cannot get out of the house.

There is an inherent value in connecting with people face-to-face, and for those services that I engage with, being able to know whether or not I am okay. If I don’t turn up to an appointment or meeting, they know something is wrong. If I seem different than usual, they know who to contact to help keep me safe. These are difficult things to gauge over the telephone unless you know a client extremely well.

I have been trying to work out how to engage with my Personal Assistant, in consultation with Social Services. It is a confusing time for everyone: what can we continue to do safely? What is considered essential? I find going to the shop, collecting my medication and going to the doctors overwhelming at the best of times. Now that everything has changed, I am struggling to navigate these changes and everyday seems different. I understand the need for these measures, of course, but people are perhaps less than understanding to those who are overwhelmed and don’t know what they are meant to be doing.

So how am I coping and how are services adapting to these difficult times?

Several services that I engage with have offered weekly telephone check-ins. They have also begun to send out documents that list online services that offer support via the telephone or online forums or other digital media. These contacts are proving essential in keeping me on track with my goals, reminding me I am not alone in this.

I am lucky to have access to the internet and a mobile. I’m very conscious that this isn’t the case for everyone and I wonder how services are adapting to those clients who are hard to reach.

I am trying to look for the positives in this new world of social isolation. I am perhaps lucky that I am a relatively introverted person who recharges away from people. I tend to find the outside world overwhelming. However, I still need activities to engage my mind. For that, I use puzzles, board games, colouring books, reading books, audiobooks, …  I’m spending some time tidying the areas that I never get around to, doing some indoor exercise, walking my dog (as we are still allowed to do that) and taking photos when I’m out on a walk. These are all things that I can still do and I’m thankful for that.