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Thursday Connectors: Lockdown Loneliness

Hi, all. It’s Farzana here again for this week’s Thursday Connectors. Today, I’m moving sideways from our usual format of going overseas, to bring you a lockdown story. Instead, I’ve asked my lovely colleagues here at Write On!  to give me their take on what lockdown loneliness means to them.

For months now, we’ve been isolated inside our homes; some with our families, some alone. But this doesn’t automatically mean that the person who has always lived alone is more prone to feeling lonely than the one whose house is alive with kids and a partner. I’ve had days where loneliness kicks in, even though my husband may be sitting next to me, thinking I’m interested and giving him my devoted attention, as he waffles on about something really lame and boring. Honestly, my kids could be having a ‘cold’ war in the garden over who gets to eat the last Magnum in the freezer, and I’d be screaming:” It’s mine or no one’s!” In both cases, though, I’d be thinking: ‘I’m lonely, get me out of here!’

It’s possible. Honestly. This lockdown is bringing out the best and worst of me. And now, months into it, I’m beginning to question my mental wellbeing. I may very well need help soon!

I’m generally a happy-go-lucky type of person. I’m famous for my jolly outlook on life and I enjoy making my family and friends laugh. I’m no joker, though; instead, I like to think of myself as a storyteller. Maybe I’m simply an entertainer?  I started writing to keep myself entertained while I had my hands full with my own and foster children. Did it keep me sane? Maybe. It could be, though, that I was just lonely and this little hobby was my respite.

In my book, Sweethearts Of Ilford Lane, my protagonist has some pretty awful days. When she finally breaks away, this is what she says:

Being lonely was good. It was a blessing. Being alone meant you could do what you wanted. You could eat, fart and burb without anybody holding your neck and making a simple task of breathing a nightmare. Lonely people. They were the most contented persons ever.

I’m not sure I’m going to be feeling as lonely as that, yet. The family may be as mad as me at times, but that’s my life and I wouldn’t change them for anything. Maybe it’s not loneliness that’s kicking in. It’s more likely that I’m missing my friends and I need at least a meal out, or a meet-up, where I can see and, most importantly, hug the life out of them.

To combat my confusion about this loneliness, let’s connect with some of my mates from Write On! Hi, all. Let’s connect:

Claire Buss

Silence is the crush of loneliness impacting in your skull. When you can hear your heart pumping life but there is no life to be had. When you sit on the floor because there is no one to sit on the sofa with. When you break your favourite cup that meant so much more to you than a receptacle for a hot beverage and yet you can tell nobody and nobody commiserates. Being lonely isn’t just about being the only person in the room, it’s about being the voiceless person who is discounted. It’s about the pat on the back because, ‘She’s all right; she always gets the job done.’ It’s the inner rage: the shouting, screaming, pleading to be heard but no one is listening. It’s the tear that runs down your cheek when you check on the children sleeping peacefully into the night, while you are pacing empty rooms with a cavern inside you, you are longing to fill. It’s about not being good enough, or being too efficient. It’s about failing and succeeding at the same time; about going forwards and leaving yourself behind. It’s the isolation. Of you.

Connect with Claire on Twitter: @grasshopper2407

Lynda Shepherd

I’m quite used to my own company. Certainly, the phrase that runs along the lines of being able to feel lonely in a crowded room is no stranger, either. This, however, does not mean I’m a glass half-empty kind of person. Current times have made me realise that, actually, I’m more resilient than I give myself credit for. As restrictions have begun to loosen, I rejoice in being able to take longer walks, and more than one if I want to, instead of my regular gym routine. This is not just exercise in the physical sense, but also the emotional, as I allow my brain to wander, too.

Working from home for nearly three months with my day job has helped me adopt newer habits, too. To keep in touch with family, friends and others, I have been using Skype calls, SMS and instant messaging with increased regularity. Daily team catch-ups via  Zoom has meant I see, at least, some of my colleagues’ faces every weekday. We also try to fit in a quiz or activity where we can talk about our different life experiences on at least one of these sessions each week. I have certainly learnt more about my colleagues than ever before! In turn, this has made me think and, on occasions, laugh until my cheekbones hurt. It definitely felt weird to begin with, but my productivity has increased and, yes, it’s OK not to be OK every day. I continue to learn from everyone around me, but have also learnt a lot about myself.

Connect with Lynda on Twitter: @loneshepherdess

Holly King

The loneliness I feel is from the stress of strangers on the street, or in the supermarket. Before, I never had to think about them; whether they were coming towards me down a one-way aisle, or on a pavement only a few feet wide. Now, when I move an inch closer than someone likes, they jump back in an exaggerated fashion, as though I’ve electrocuted them, and I feel guilty but, more than that, it makes me feel like a hideous monster.

Inside my flat, though, I see more of my friends than I used to. I see them smile on video chats and I hear them laugh over weekly calls. That, for me, is the opposite of loneliness.

Connect with Holly on Twitter: @kinghols

Clare Cooper

Loneliness and depression have plagued me all my life and, if I still lived on my own, as I did for many years, I know I would be feeling deep, dark despair. I now live with my partner, and he has been able to work from home throughout lockdown, which has definitely saved my sanity. I enjoy his company and it’s so much nicer to go for a walk, or go shopping for essentials, together. Pre-lockdown, I met up with friends at least once a week and tried to get out of the house every day. There’s loads I’m missing, of course, but, in the meantime, I’m so glad and grateful not to be alone.

Connect with Clare on Twitter: @ClareLouCoop

Eithne Cullen

We went out with friends in March, joking as we touched elbows: “Because of…you know…”

Then we couldn’t visit. We phoned, house-partied, Zoomed, had a conversation at the front gate for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day will be similar. I can’t hold the new baby in our lives. I have only seen people from two metres away.

I don’t live alone; I know the warmth of human touch: a hug, holding a hand, brushing past each other on the stairs. I’m lucky, my friend told me last week: “I haven’t had a hug from anyone for twelve weeks!” I’m sad for her.

Connect with Eithne Cullen on Twitter: @eithne_cullen

Juneha Chowdhury

How can I feel lonely in a full house? Of course, I can. Loneliness is not about how many people there are in your room, and whether you can all squeeze around the dinner table alongside the three-course meal. Loneliness is not about whether you can hear squabbling voices that speak over your own, or not being able to hear the penny that dropped on the kitchen floor. Loneliness has nothing to do with arguments over who’s before you in the bathroom queue.

Loneliness is that little room in your head that’s not occupied by your husband, your kids, or your home;  those regular breaks that connect you to the outside world. The three days a week at the gym. The weekend at your mum’s. The meet-ups with siblings and nieces. The window shopping trips that clears the head and gives the mind a bit more perspective. The visits to the library where you doodle your thoughts and set your feelings free.

Loneliness is when the world is closed for business and that room is empty. And, as every day feels like a Saturday, a packed house, a relaxing of the weekday rules, you realise that little space has expanded to occupy more of your brain. And in a crowded, noisy environment filled with the energy of loved ones, you acknowledge, even when you’re not alone, you can still feel lonely.

Connect with Juneha on Twitter: @JunehaChowdhury

*****

Thank you, my lovelies, for your thoughts. You’ve made me realise it’s not only me feeling this way; despite having the family in my face 24/7! I reckon loneliness during lockdown is a common occurrence, but how we battle it is the true test. The important thing to remember, is to make sure we find alternative things to do in order to stop it becoming a much more serious problem.

Over the weeks, we’ve covered many topics around hobbies and mindfulness. So: find something to do. Even reading a book can take you to a faraway land for a while, and there’s  no harm in falling in love with one of the characters! I can certainly name a few literary heroes I’ve loved, and may still do (wink) and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Maybe it’s best to move on quickly…

Our key worker segment this week comes to us from nurse, Emily Jackson:

The patient I was caring for had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic had swept through the entire world and the hospital I worked for as an NHS Nurse on the English coast  had not escaped. This is the memory of one particularly harrowing experience.

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. When I looked at him, that’s how I knew. He looked at me in complete desperation. Unable to express himself vocally, there was no mistaking the fear in his eyes.

His breath crackled as he tried to gasp desperately for more air; like fire spreading through his lungs, in search of more fuel to fan its flames. Every breath more painful than the last, in his desperate attempt to stay alive. It had become uncontrollable.

I panicked. My heart wrenched in my chest and my breath became increasingly fast-paced. I hurried frantically to pump the medication through his veins, increasing the oxygen through his mask in another attempt to give him a fighting chance – but nothing was helping.

Then he panicked.

I tried to calm myself down and reached for his hand,  speaking of the fond memories displayed in a family photograph on his bedside table. “I will tell them you love them,”  I said.

He moved his hand a little.

“I promise I will help you though this,” I tried to reassure him. “The enemy has invaded and I won’t let it win. Not this time.”

He tried to cry out, but there was no sound: only the noise of the virus drowning him from within.

In that moment, I was his family: his brother, his sister, his mother. He couldn’t see the tears behind my mask.

 We’d done everything we possibly could, but we were losing him anyway. As I continued to comfort him, I felt so helpless, while humming the song he’d told me was his favourite.

Suddenly, his eyes began to flicker and I was no longer able to hear him gasping for breath. Hoping he would make it through, I waited for his chest to rise and fall. It didn’t happen. The light from his eyes faded and the pain and tension disappeared from his face. The tears ran uncontrollably down mine.

 I opened the window, noticing the clouds parting and the rays of sunlight shining through.

He was at peace.

*****

Oh, Emily,  I’d love to be able to hug you. Thank you for sending me this.

That’s it for today.  I’ll be back next week with more ‘Connectors’. In the meantime, stay safe and stay away from Primark! The leggings in New Look are way better.

You can connect to Farzana on Twitter: @farzanahakim

Read Issue 4 of Write On! magazine here.

For months now, we’ve been isolated inside our homes; some with our families, some alone. But this doesn’t automatically mean that the person who has always lived alone is more prone to feeling lonely than the one whose house is alive with kids and a partner.