Me, myself and isolation.

On Monday 23rd of March, I was one of the 1.5 million humans in the UK who got a text from the NHS, advising them that they are considered ‘at risk of severe illness’ if they were to contract COVID-19/Coronavirus (still not sure how to differentiate the two? Anyone?). The text went on to advise me (us) to stay inside for up to 12 weeks, isolate ourselves and keep a safe distance from any other humans. 

'Home is the safest place for you. Staying in helps you stay well and that will help the NHS too. You can open a window but not leave your home, and stay 3 steps away from others indoors...' 

Photo: Erin Veness

I received this first text around 1pm, while in the car with Mama, driving home from an important errand (which involved 1 kilo of crunchy peanut butter and 2 takeaway coffees), half-listening to the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2. After reading it through once, feeling confused and nervous, I heard Jeremy speaking to a doctor about the letters and texts the NHS were sending out ‘right at this moment’, advising ‘extra vulnerable people’ to stay home and not leave even for essential shopping, as other less risky humans were given the OK to do. That sent me into a tailspin; I had a good hard cry, and even said ‘it’s not fair’ – something I have only ever said three times before about my illnesses, because I have always thought it’s a useless thing to utter when you should be cracking on and getting through it, not wallowing in self pity (you can always do that later). The first time I said it was when I got the news I needed a second brain op, and ran off into a field to cry by myself. The second time was on a bench outside The Royal Marsden in Sutton, when a very insensitive consultant told me I needed radiotherapy, and then didn’t understand why this news made me wobble so much. The third time was when I was told I needed a second lot of surgery on my bowels – huh, seems like it’s always the second or third round of something, I never complain or indulge in sadness the first time. How funny. 

That was the first time I heard from the NHS, with regards to the pandemic. I’ve since had a more texts from them, almost one per day, all of them informative and kind, and each one has brought me to tears. Varying levels of tears, mind you; the one about ordering medicines online? Just a little welling up. The one asking if I live with others, and advising me how best to steer clear of them in our mutual living spaces? A good wobble. The one about getting food delivered by a neighbour, and reminding me that any deliveries have to be set down on my doorstep for me to collect? Wails and sobs, staring into the fridge. And the latest one, telling me to call a friend or family member at least once a day and reminding me that I’m keeping others safe by isolating? FLOODS. 

I am so terrified of the coming weeks. Sure, I always love spending time on my own, but I’m quickly realising that I need other people around to bounce off and get vibrations from. I am, indeed, an extroverted introvert. Or whatever label you think my weird social needs would fit under. I LOVE chatting. I love walking, I love coffee/lunch/dinner dates, I love days out, I love nights out (not as much as days out, but still), I love being with people and I love being held and touched and being smiled at with full eye contact. I love feeling someone with me, even if we’re not speaking, just sitting side by side, watching a movie and maybe sharing some food (if they're lucky). 

And the overwhelming feelings I’ve had since getting that first text are frustration, and sadness, because it’s yet another instance in my life when I’ve been thrown a curve ball and had to stop everything I’m doing, the progress I’m making, because I’m too bloody sick to carry on. As I said on Twitter, I am usually so open and positive about my illnesses, but being classified as a ‘high risk’ in these current apocalyptic circumstances has reminded me that while I accept everything that’s happened to me, and wouldn’t change a thing because ultimately it’s all taught me so much and actually made me a better person… I am still limited in what I can do day to day, and the difficulties that come with these diagnoses can still sneak up behind me and pull me down when I’m not looking

Photo: Erin Veness

Since getting this bad news (last Monday), I have cried about six months' worth of tears in just a few days. It's only now (the following Tuesday, exactly a week since I began to isolate) that I have sort of turned a corner, and haven't wobbled too hard since the weekend. I think that's the human in me (wish I could 'bling bling' and solve things with the goddess in me, like Lizzo, but hey); we are really quite good at adjusting our expectations and everyday routines when something changes, even if it's as huge as this whole 'not being allowed to go outside' thing. Either that, or I've reached the acceptance phase of the process of grief I've being going through  but if that's the case, I think the depression stage lasted far longer than it was meant to. Anger came and went quickly; Denial was my initial suspicions that this would only last 4 weeks max, not 12, and Bargaining was basically me debating popping outside just to put my cardboard boxes in my road's recycling bin then sadly deciding against it. 

Now, real talk: I may have accepted the state of things now, and yes, I love being alone, but I'm secretly quite scared of being lonely. 
I am aware that I have a very sweet sig-oth (thanks, Schmidt) who I could have asked to stay with me – he even offered to, when I first told him about The Text – but I couldn’t do that, because silly as it sounds, he isn’t as limited as me and I don’t want to limit him. He is a very healthy human (who regularly brags about ‘never getting ill’, pffft okay, rub it in) and this means he’s a little more free than me in that he can go out once a day for exercise and to do essential shopping. I wouldn’t want to deprive him of that. If he came to stay here, he’d have to be very careful around me at all times just in case, and if he left the building, he couldn’t come back. Also, I feel like my flat is ever so slightly smaller than his. And his flat is his space, and this is mine. Y’know? So yeah, all good reasons, and I do feel like I made the right decision in asking him to stay at his until all this blows over. That said, I definitely regretted my stupidly sensible decision when he came to mine the other day to drop off some food on my doorstep. Why does he have to be so pretty!? 

Okay, that’s enough emotion. 

Photo: Erin Veness

I wrote at the very beginning of this year about the excitement of moving out on my own, into my little (rented) flat just a short walk from the seafront. I have had a funny few months getting to grips with it all, and have actually struggled to ‘bond’ with the space (who I have named ‘Dora’), because it’s still so new and not quite perfect yet; I have a lot of tweaks still to make, and stuff to move in/buy from my local second hand shops. It made a huge difference when, a month or so into my tenancy, I was able to get my smallest bookcase from my room at the parents’ in the living room of the flat, and set up my shelves with all the books I haven’t yet read (the ones I have read, loved, and want to keep are safely stored at the parents’! Don't worry). Getting some plants in has also really helped me feel like the space is mine (there will be a post about that, too!). Now, for the weird thing. Something very strange has come over me since moving in here… I suddenly love cleaning. I get so much pleasure from wiping down my kitchen tops, shining up my taps in the bathroom and even scrubbing the tiled walls in the shower. What’s happened to me!? I mean, I did diligently adhere to a cleaning rota when I lived with friends at uni (a cleaning rota that apparently allowed everyone else to swap jobs when they didn’t fancy bleaching the loo, but not me) but I didn’t get as much satisfaction from a good deep scrub back then as I do now. Maybe it’s because this is my space, a direct reflection of me and my mind, and it’s my responsibility to keep it fresh and fabulous. Yeah, it’s probably that. That said, I am very grateful that it’s only 3 small rooms I have to keep tidy and clean. 

But then, that’s an issue for me too. This beautiful flat is ONLY 3 ROOMS. Okay, let’s say 3.5, because I feel bad for the space I walk into at the end of a long day and the automatic light switches itself on, no doubt happy to be of use after I’ve been out and about for 10 hours or so. Well, auto light, your sensors are gonna be exhausted after all these weeks! You’ll soon wish I was back at work, too… wow, I’m talking to my automatic light and its sensors. Am I going mad already?

Yeah, 3.5 rooms. All on one floor. That’s very small. And only my living space and my bedroom have windows. My (gorgeous) bathroom is lit purely by artificial light, which I’ll admit does feel a bit weird some mornings – especially because my shower curtain is a trendy deep brown with swirly patterns, which makes me feel like I’m stepping into a little cave when I wash each morning. My living room makes up for that, though. Goodness me, it is FULL of light each morning, and pulling the curtains apart on my tall sash windows warms me up almost instantly. My bedroom is lovely too, and yesterday I made it feel even bigger by moving the bed so one side is against the wall… because nobody will be needing to get in the other side in the immediate future. *sniffs* 

Photo: Erin Veness

I guess one good thing about this sudden ordered isolation is that it will help me bond with Dora properly. She and I were getting closer anyway, as time went on. This will speed it up a bit – talk about a baptism of fire, eh? And I mean, if that’s how I’m looking at this whole ridiculous situation, I guess you could say this will help me hone my cooking skills a bit more, too. And meal planning! The other night I made pasta with tomato sauce and Co-op’s vegan meatballs, which I pan fried. YUMMY. I made sure I had enough for leftovers, and factored those into the meal plan for the coming week. 

Okay, I feel like I'm rambling a bit too much about the most boring things, now. Time to sign off. Anyone else who is self isolating, or even isolating but with a house full of people you don't particularly want to spend time with (no shade), please reach out. I am online pretty much all the time, these days (except when I sneak out onto my neighbour's kitchen roof for a little quiet sunny time with my book). I'm here for messages, comments, TV/movie recs, writing commissions (plz plz plz) and yeah, anything else you wanna throw at me. Hope you enjoyed this insight into my life at this time, and that it wasn't too much of a bummer. More positive content to come, soon. Bye for now. *waves from window* 

Shout out to Charlie, for helping me nail the title for this post.


  1. Stay strong and positive grace you will get though this and we will also be stronger. I am self isolating but with company.

    1. Thank you, mysterious friend. Sending you happy vibes x

  2. To answer your question, Coronavirus is the collection of viruses, as the family of this virus has been around for many years. COVID-19 is the specific virus that we have right now, which has never been seen previously in humans. That's what makes it worse than the previous versions, as we have no natural immunity/ scientific knowledge to help us fight against it, so we're having to learn and adapt as it's happening

    1. Thank you so much, my resident healthcare professional! Hope you are okay in all this madness, in yourself and at work xxx

  3. Hi Grace! I live in the Philippines and we share the struggles of being forced to stay home. I have mixed sentiments when being told that our greatest contribution to this pandemic is to remain healthy and STAY HOME. Initially, I thought the quarantine period will last for weeks. Hence, I was quite happy because it meant having the opportunity to stay home, have a break from work and getting more than enough sleep. The one week was extended to a month and recently, another two weeks. I'm thankful for the comforts of home. But like you, my list of worries is starting to pile up. This period also made me realize a lot of things I should be thankful for. The mere fact that I can easily go out and reach places, seems to be impossible now.

    I hope everything will be better soon for everyone.


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