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I Can’t Cope With Self-isolating Any Longer

The problem…

“I have a chronic lung condition, which means I am one of the people forced into shielding due to the pandemic. I’m divorced and live alone so, as you can imagine, it’s been really hard as I’ve not seen anyone face-to-face for weeks.

My daughter delivers my shopping to me and leaves it outside my flat, so I don’t even see her. If she brings around any other bits and pieces, she rings the bell and then goes and stands behind a glass partition so I can’t hear her.

“At one point, I was going so mad, I did take myself out for a few short walks but only very early in the morning when no one was around. I have had to learn about video conferencing and although it’s been wonderful to see and talk to my daughter and grandchildren, it’s really not the same.

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“Once it was announced people living alone could form a ‘bubble’, I thought I would be able to be with my daughter and her family again, but no. She thinks that, with the children going back to school, it’s just not safe and the risk is too great for me.

“I’m getting desperate now for some human contact and whilst I understand my daughter wants to keep me safe, I am honestly thinking I’d rather have this virus and be done with it. I’m not a hermit but I’m being forced to be. People aren’t meant to live like this.”

Fiona says…

“I know a number of people in the same position, with health conditions that mean they have to be shielded and believe me, many of them are feeling the same way. I also understand how you must feel that getting the virus over and done with might be a good idea. But – and it’s a big but – we do know how badly it affects the lungs and yours are already at risk and possibly damaged from your existing lung condition. If you are seriously saying you would rather be dead than live in isolation, then please call the Samaritans on 116 123 and talk to them.

“I hope this is just an exaggeration because you are struggling with these very challenging circumstances right now, because you clearly have people who care about you. The fact your daughter is visiting you from behind a partition and that she cares so much about you should certainly make you stop and think. Your family cherishes you.

It’s not the same but making use of phone and video calls does help (iStock/PA)

“Billions of people are cut-off from their normal lives; the situation we are all in is unprecedented. People living alone need to try to stay connected – safely. Now we can theoretically join a bubble, perhaps you could consider getting together with someone in the same position as you? Although, I would advise you seek advice from your doctor about how to stay safe now, as the risk of infection is still present. Think about people you feel close to and see how they might feel about forming a bubble – obviously people with children may be more risky, as might those who are in contact with others, but do you have any single friends in the same boat as you?

“We’re all getting used to using virtual communications more so while you’ve been video conferencing with your family, try asking friends if they can access this too. Just seeing a few more people – even virtually – might help. There are a number of experts who have suggested ways we can avoid feeling so lonely too: if you look online you can find examples. The Government is aware of the problem and the effects isolation is having on mental health and has launched the Let’s Talk Loneliness website (letstalkloneliness.co.uk). Advice on there includes keeping a journal of how you feel and taking note of those things that make you feel happier or more fulfilled.

“Go on your local council website too – there are a number of schemes in place to help people in your situation, but you need to register for help. There are also charity befriending services – for example, Age UK (ageuk.org.uk) organises ‘befrienders’ for older people living in isolation.

“Above all, be kind to yourself. We know being kind to others can improve our self-esteem but it’s important to be kind to yourself too. Showing yourself compassion and gratitude can really help during challenging times – and this is a very challenging time. We all have to accept that events are beyond our control right now, as hard as that is, but deep down, you know that separation from people and things we love and care about won’t last for ever.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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