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Living in Lockdown with M.E.

I’ve been housebound and living in ‘lockdown’ due to severe M.E for twenty eight years.

My illness keeps me very housebound at all times. I’m still not well enough to get out and take a stroll, and my mobility is still very poor. I’m also just not well enough to socialise or to get and so had to accept and compartmentalise my new limitations and boundaries very early on into the illness.

I had to get use to extreme isolation some years ago. I’ve not been well enough to socialise for 28 years. Entire years have passed by where I have not spoken face to face with a single soul. It would have just been too detrimental to my health and I would have crashed.

Food boxes would be left in my shed. The fantastic postman would sign for me any deliveries needing a signature.

Also for a few years after my divorce I had the company of our rescue dog. A small white and grey Staffy Bull Terrier who was fantastic company and a real character. The dog had had to accept no walks from me sadly, and would dart about in the garden like a lunatic for a few mad moments each day and then come back inside and flake out in front of the fire or beside my bed. But she had been a great house mate and a complete character for several years after my divorce.

Mercifully I am still one of the World’s great optimists, and still feel terribly hopeful and positive for the future and to a time where ‘I will’ be more mobile, and where ‘I will’ be exploring the greater outdoors beyond my hedgerow and to seeing more of the World through my camera lens. I lack well being not motivation.

The arrival of Covid-19 onto our shores was very unfortunate timing indeed.

The dust from Brexit was yet to settle, and the pain from the previous decade of austerity cuts was still being felt by many including the NHS.

As a disabled and vulnerable person struggling at any given time with severe physical illness and to having had to accept a life in survival mode for many years, it appals me that my illness has not been deemed worthy of prioritising for food deliveries.

I shall not forget my utter terror four months ago at the sudden realisation that I was unable to obtain any food deliveries at all online, due to the population lockdown and to the supermarket systems having been totally swamped and overwhelmed by the sheer demand. When you live alone, are housebound, and live very rurally with no shops on your doorstep. The sudden inability to obtain food supplies challenges not just well-being but life itself.

I am very much a stranger in my own community and lost in my nearby surroundings. I have not had the health to explore further afield. I get out only with the help of a local taxi service to infrequent medical appointments and so am only vaguely aware of the green and high hedged arteries that punctuate the route with a blood test at the far end, but with little knowledge of what lies either side or beyond.

I searched online for a map of my village, and explored the ten or so surrounding miles making a list of names of any local post offices who I should call. Miraculously the owner of a post office store some twelve miles distant answered the phone and said that they could help, and that they had a team of volunteer drivers to deliver provisions.

 I was very overwhelmed with gratitude and emotion as I clumsily tried to describe and apologise for my needy circumstances.

“It’s OK sir, please don’t apologise…. we all need food”, spoke the kind voice from the other end of the phone as the tears of joy and thanks rolled down my cheeks.

I was also able to find a local ‘veggie box’ scheme and signed up for a weekly box of locally grown seasonal greens and veg. They are also supplying me with a very decent loaf of bread and some eggs and cheese. I was one of the last people to be accepted onto their list before they became overly subscribed. I feel terribly fortunate for these provisions.

I have also persevered with my many attempts to contact two main supermarket Chief Executives. After several emails explaining my individual circumstances and after my making contact with local main supermarket store managers I have eventually been given ‘priority/vulnerable’ status, and so my efforts did eventually bear fruit. But having the safety net in place from the two other local food sources has and continues to be a life safer, nothing less.

The illness means that I am constantly running on empty and existing (‘no’ this is not living) in survival mode. I have neither welcomed nor needed the additional stress of anything else in my life at any time since getting ill.

The dramatic reduction in traffic venturing through the village and the now welcome absence of both noise and diesel fumes has been a real blessing. I am both noise and chemically sensitised since becoming ill and now relish the cleaner tasting air.

I have welcomed and appreciated the glorious moments of distraction spent in awe as my senses drink in the sights and sounds from my bedside perch as a pair of buzzards glide and climb their way effortlessly up and over the hamlet on the gentlest breeze and distracting me briefly from the reality of the silent enemy on our shores causing so much suffering and loss of life for far too many souls.

The swallows arrived in the hamlet just two weeks ago and now my hallway echoes to their squeaks and shrieks as they hurtle and dart past the single glazed windows at breakneck speed feasting on the wing. I feel terribly blessed that these birds have made it all the way back to the valley…., in spite of all odds.

Keep safe everyone.