SJ's COVID-19 diary: Back in Bristol

15 September 2020

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

It has been about a month since I returned to Bristol. This partly explains the lengthy gap since my last blog post. In returning, there has been much to adjust to. I left when the city was in full lockdown, and I have returned to a very different situation.

After four months staying in a very rural environment, changing back to life in the big city has required a lot of time and energy.  It has really challenged my mental health and addiction recovery but I am taking one day at a time. Each day I get through is another one without a relapse.

At the beginning of lockdown I had no idea that I would be spending that amount of time out of Bristol. It was needed, but despite the difficulties I am glad to be back – this is my home.

There are a couple of groups that are re-starting now with face-to-face sessions. They are all different, in as much as capacity is limited and there is (rightfully) a lot of care being taken with Covid precautions. Groups are often having to host in different venues (bigger or outside).

Despite these changes, much is also the same. Many of the attendees are the same, the staff is the same, so there is familiarity there. Whilst the changes have been difficult to absorb all at once, and I know it will take me a few visits to these new style groups to try and get to the point where I can contribute properly, I applaud services for starting these face-to-face groups again. It’s not easy but it’s really needed right now.

In my last post I was feeling very disenchanted with online meetings (and I still find these challenging). However, I have accessed some online content which has been really great, and I have virtually attended two festivals. I have never been able to attend one in person, the prospect has always been too daunting for various reasons. These have been very accessible because it’s a one-way stream - only one person or band on screen at one time and you choose how long you tune in for. I also don’t even have to look at the screen, I can just listen to the music or discussion.  I have really appreciated having a few individual meetings with the workers who support me in the services that I engage with, these have been the first in person meetings since lockdown began. 

Getting out the house is still difficult. I’m not sure when this will improve but I try to challenge myself to do this every day. I signed up to a fundraising challenge to walk the length of a marathon with my dog in August.  Although some days I thought it was going to be impossible to step out the door, the thought of the people who had sponsored me really helped me keep stepping out the door. 

Similarly I’m trying to work on gradually building up my confidence to go into shops again. I shop online as much as possible but there are essentials for which I need to be able to go into a physical shop to do. One of my biggest anxieties in fact on coming back to Bristol was finding the right face mask.  I needed one that I could tolerate (the feel on my ears, the smell of it, the feel of the material on my face), and ideally one that would still allow me to chew my sensory chews whilst wearing it. This turned out to be quite a criteria. I like to use my chews when I am in periods of stress and anxiety like being on public transport and shops - all the places where you need to wear a mask).  I did not want to go down the route of saying that I was exempt because I was worried of the amount of judgement that I would receive, and also certainly wanted to try and tolerate the mask to protect others if nothing else. Thankfully, I have managed to find a mask that is quite good for me, and hopefully will be able to get a couple more in a similar style. Like many people there are things that became more difficult for me during lockdown that I have yet to resolve but I am working on it gradually.