4 April, London, UK

By Tina Poyzer

Today was the latest I’ve ever got up. Half the day gone, wasted. My 20-year-old son shrugs when I tell him and continues his online game with friends. “Doesn’t really matter right now does it”? He says, as I express my anguish. 

I make coffee, realising I’ve already sighed more than five times in less than one hour. I know my body is trying to get more air because my ‘in and out breath’ are both too shallow. I see it, the physical evidence of my chest rise as I sharply take air in through an open mouth. The noise alarms me as I stand in my own silence by the coffee machine. Now my chest starts to feel tight again. I’m reminded that i feel trapped in a cycle of anxiety. It’s been on high alert for two weeks. I am doing lots to help myself; reading only one piece of news each day, a 20 minute work out on Youtube, (yes who would have thought that could ever happen). I’ve even drawn a big chart that I keep tacked on the kitchen cupboard. Each square has the name of a task or activity and when I have completed it I colour that square. The idea is, more coloured squares, more motivation. Despite this I am still struggling. 

There is an odd irony that one of the ways I calm myself is remembering I am not alone. There are many more people, who, like me feel anxious; searching for distraction to manage and stay calm whilst wanting to stay informed.  Those of us isolated with others are, if we can get along, mostly at an advantage. Whilst we can share activities, we also share knowledge that if one gets ill the others may too. There are two of us here and every day, not only do I touch my own forehead with the back of my hand, I listen for my son coughing. Once a day I say to him “do you have a temperature”? and once a day, in the same tone, he replies “no”. It’s become stuck on repeat. I don’t want it to stop. I have decided that I like it. The repetitiveness of his response allows me to feel I have some control over planning what I can do with the rest of that day. Hearing the word ‘no’ is a stimulus, that allows me extra positive thought.

Last night was spent dreaming and fighting sleep; needing to reassure myself it was not me or my son I could hear coughing and choking. It was, I learn today, my neighbour upstairs. He sounds very unwell. I can’t reach out to him; I can’t call. For a moment I am reassured by the fact that he doesn’t live alone before I remember the risk that presents to those living with him. They are not the only people on my mind.

For the best part of the morning whilst catching up on sleep I hear the sounds of a typical Saturday through my open window. People driving cars up and down the road, people walking and talking up and down the street alone and with others. I want to shout out of the window to stay home. I don’t want to stay in forever. Does that sound over dramatic and ridiculous? This uncertainty, this unknown, this unplanned and unforeseen leaves me with an inability to know, to decide, to plan and the questions; when it will be safe to go out, see family and friends, go to work, enjoy travel. I don’t know. I can’t be sure. 

What I do know is that I have to wait, we have to wait. We need to sit it out, stay home and safe. To be kind to ourselves if we sleep day instead of night, if we have days where we do nothing much at all and to find and hold dearly the small anchors, the words, feelings and actions, that allow us to have more and more daily positive thought.