- Blog written by Kate Bennett-Davies
Self-isolation is not something I take lightly, but nor is it something I think is impossible. I know you can have a good quality of life and laugh every day, even in the most challenging circumstances.
As someone who was diagnosed with a chronic illness at a young age, I have spent a lot of my life indoors. I’ve spent significant amount of time housebound, and even bed bound.
Social distancing and even self-isolation are not too far from normal for me. I know how it feels to close the door and not know when you’ll be able to open it again.
A ten minute walk on my own is still a luxury I savour.
I know how it feels to have your world shrink to the size of your house overnight. At nineteen years old I woke up one morning unable to move. I could feel my limbs, I just couldn’t move them. I felt like someone had piled bricks on top of me. I’d had health problems for a lot of my life but this was new territory.
It was unexpected, unexplained.
It was the beginning of a downward spiral that led to me needing round the clock care, being confined to a wheelchair, and eventually bed bound.
When I think back to being stuck in bed for months on end, I don’t remember it as awful. There have been harder periods for me. It was difficult to cope with the pain and extreme exhaustion, but there was still so much good. That surprises people.
Human ability to adapt to our circumstances is greater than we know. That is the story of my life. I’m sure if I had told my teenage self what my adulthood would look like, it would have been a daunting prospect.
A different life is not necessarily a lesser life.
Your home can feel like a prison or a safe haven, depending on your perspective.
Novelty is key. I took the opportunity to decorate for every minor holiday from St. Patricks day to Valentine’s day. When my husband and I lived in a one bedroom flat we did things like move our mattress into the lounge to have a sleepover somewhere else, or had an indoor picnic. The options are endless when you’re creative with what you have.
Conversely, I also find routine helpful. When you don’t leave the house time can become endless. Hours blur into days, which blur into weeks. Routine helps combat this. I get up at the same time every day, go to bed at the same time, and when I’m able to, get dressed every day.
Before he goes to work, my husband asks me, “what are your plans for the day?” It’s quite rare I have to do something on a specific day but by making plans or setting small goals, I don’t get lost in time and end up feeling like I haven’t achieved anything.
If my plan for that day is to check in with some friends and I do it, that makes me feel like I’ve achieved something. Something that simple has a really positive effect on mental health and wellbeing.
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Do something for someone else. Taking your eyes off yourself and helping someone else gives a huge boost. Something as simple as writing a card or putting some food in the food bank collection never fails to brighten my day. There is a lot of need right now. It’s win, win.
I keep a list of at least three things that I am thankful for or went well every day. “Every day may not be good…but there is something good in every day” (Alice Morse Earle). I am a true believer in this. It’s easy to focus on the negative, and the more we do that, the more we train our brain to keep remembering the bad stuff. But, the reverse also works. Sometimes my list is as simple as ‘I got dressed’ or ‘I managed to hoover the house’.
During the time I was housebound we moved from a flat to a house with a garden. It made the world of difference to be able to go outside. Our garden was nothing special, just being outside helps. I still spend the majority of my time at home alone so I prioritise going outside for at least 10 minutes. On very good days I can go for a little walk, on other days it’s just a drive in the car.
When I couldn’t go outside, we tried to bring the outside in. Keeping the windows open, buying plants and flowers. Flowers still remain my all-time favourite gift. Seeing a bunch of daffodils every day really lifts my mood.
There will be hard days, or ‘wobbles’ as I call them. That’s ok, that’s to be expected. Accept your feelings, share your thoughts with someone or write them down.
I believe in this trying time we will discover we have more resilience and capacity than we thought. Everyone feels stretched but we will not only survive, but thrive.