LONELINESS AWARENESS WEEK 2021
BY MELISSA, VOLUNTEER TELEPHONE BUDDY
I don’t think people who haven’t experienced shielding can fully understand the all-encompassing nature of the isolation.
Overnight, your life is halted; cut-short. Your existence takes place in a series of rooms, where once you had the world. A world of people to communicate with, a friendly chat with the stranger who takes your coffee order or a trip to the gym, now you have this stripped-down place wherein the coffee is substandard, and the gym iscluttering your office space. At one point, a friend called to ask, “Is this happening?” We had read about pandemics throughout history, with a feeling of sorrow and an inevitable emotional detachment.
There are moments I recall vividly - moments of connection.
Over a year of shielding, I was fortunate to volunteer with George House Trust.
It gave me a link to the outside world when I often felt I could not grasp it; loneliness and isolation are insidious, and shielding offered little respite. There is a window in my living room, and I would often watch people pass and feel disconnected. Outside became like another sphere that I could not inhabit because I feared the virus. For people with disabilities or long-term health conditions, that initial period was overwhelming and inscribable.
We were told that the virus had the potential to do irrevocable damage, to wreck our immune systems, to damage us and our organs beyond repair. We were told not to interact with others. We lived with that fear for so long that it felt like living in a mental and physical fortress.
As time wore on, having conversations allowed us to learn a great deal; I had never faced such uncertainty, and the connections which were formed were all the more valuable; one question I always asked, “is there anything else I can help you with?” I asked because I didn’t know what else to say. It was effective as it gave us a feeling of continuity and reassurance.
It helped me to regain a sense of normality in the most abnormal of circumstances.