How a family of five struggled with lockdown pulling them apart

Last year we took the testimony of ordinary everyday people about their experiences of the lockdowns; to ensure their opinions could be placed in the public domain we are publishing them over the coming weeks. This is part 5about one family’s experience…

“Please stop this, please commit to a way out, please reassure us that lockdown will never be used again. Give us back our lives, they are not yours to take.”

“SINCE EARLY LAST YEAR we’ve all been bombarded with negative fearmongering and propaganda from nearly every media platform, and more concerningly, from our own Government; how can such a psychological assault even be legal?

What must this be doing to our children? It is utterly grotesque! None of the messaging has been supportive, positive or hopeful. It is a constant diet of doom and gloom with no hope in sight. I must say it feels very much by design and very sinister! Why would a Conservative Government want to scare the public so much? One must conclude, it is done to achieve compliance and acceptance of every freedom and liberty stripped from us. It is disgraceful.

At the start of 2020 my family and I were optimistic in our new home, it required renovation and we knew we had a few months of pain ahead, we did not realise what was coming.

News of a virus started to reach us, but it never crossed my mind that the UK would entertain such a draconian idea as a national lockdown; this kind of thing only happens in China or North Korea, right? I happily got on with stripping the house whilst five of us were living cramped upstairs, with a makeshift kitchen in a bedroom and washing dishes in the bath. The ground floor had been stripped and I’d removed the glazing and demolished an external wall which would later become an extension.

Suddenly we were required to lockdown for three weeks, we now know this became three months! During this time my house was not secure, it was wide open with no glazing or side wall. Yet my family (My wife, our 15-year-old, 12-year-old and 7-year-old) were all living in the house. Obviously, I had to do my best to board up the gaping hole to make my family feel safe. During the first three-month lockdown we had to chase off an intruder twice!

I called the Police and reported the intrusion, explained the situation and even offered a bag the man dropped containing an axe, and an excellent photograph we managed to take of him. The Police never arrived or followed up my report, they asked me to email the photograph! As you can imagine this was worrying my wife and children a great deal, but what could we do? Where could we go? It turns out, however, the Police were happy to attend calls for so-called illegal activities such as someone not wearing a mask in a shop. What has gone wrong? I asked myself.

During this time the children were out of School for months, locked up in a building site and not permitted to go anywhere nor meet anyone until the summer. Tensions were high, emotions were high, relationships strained and education was very difficult.

The eldest child became aggressive, bullying his brothers, uninterested in schoolwork and during the summer of last year has taken to using drugs and alcohol. He previously played football and the guitar, which he has now given up on. This led to even more issues in the home with his behaviour which culminated in an attack on his brother and smashing a door. This became too much to cope with on a daily basis, and the youngest was now soiling himself daily, which we attribute to the tension and arguing happening in the home.

We had to take the tough decision to remove the eldest child from the house to protect the others from him, and to bring calm back to the family home. The eldest had to live with his Grandad for nearly 6 months, which in itself, presented a challenge as Grandad is of course considered to be vulnerable at 70-years-old, but he offered to take our eldest in, as he could see how destructive things were becoming; my wife and I were naturally arguing too because of the actions of the eldest boy. I should mention the middle child is Autistic and is already a vulnerable, needy boy.

What then became apparent was that my youngest was also becoming very insular and angry. Every time I tried talking to him, he would be upset, angry, even hysterical and regularly shout at me; telling me to leave him alone. I’d say simple things such as “I love you” or “would you like a drink” yet he would reject any of my love towards him, which was deeply upsetting.

One particular day as we were taking our daily exercise, my youngest stopped still, looked at me and said “Dad, I’m so sad, will I ever see my friends again?”

I have to tell you as a loving father of my dear, beautiful boy, my heart was broken, I nearly burst out crying myself, that one sentence cut me deeply as I felt powerless to make my child happy. He was looking to me, his Dad, to ‘save the day’ and make everything ok, but what could I do? I tried to reassure him that it will all be over soon, six months on and it is not!

We are fortunate that we’ve managed to keep our jobs throughout this nightmare, but for us as parents, seeing our children suffering in this way is deeply painful and concerning. We’ve tried everything we can to ensure they have structure and receive education. The eldest has returned to our house, with the renovation works nearly finished, yet he is now using drugs almost every day, refuses to go to School when any opportunity has been available, and totally given up on education. He says “There is no point” or “Can’t be bothered”. He should be moving on to college this year, however, this now seems unlikely. What of his future?

The middle child has managed to get on with his schoolwork, thankfully, but is missing his friends and all the activities he enjoys – in some ways his autism has enabled him to be indifferent to the world outside.

The youngest has stopped having accidents, yet his moods are very unpredictable, he often becomes angry, rude or uninterested in exercise; we’ve had many battles to get him outside. He previously went to climbing club, boys brigade, running club and scootering.

Worryingly he has now developed a habit of rejecting every bit of clothing we try to dress him in, he says everything is ‘itchy’ or ‘annoying’ and throws off his socks, trousers or t-shirt- it seems clear to me that this is his way of having some control over his life. For his age he is emotionally mature and deep thinking, but I don’t expect he understands his emotions at the moment or knows how to deal with them, therefore it manifests this way.

I really do not like to use the term ‘mental health’ for children who were once happy, carefree, vibrant and busy. It is, however, clear that lockdown has taken its toll.

As for my wife and I, we too are exhausted, drained, deeply worried, and anxious – not about the virus, we are worried about the response of Government, the prospect of perpetual lockdown and loss of rights and liberty. We are worried about the future for our children.

I’ve never been prone to anxiety, I’m very much the opposite, a positive optimist. I hike, mountain climb, play music, work hard etc. Yet all this has been taken away with no end in sight, no hope. I must confess, I’ve never felt this low, never felt the anxiety I now feel on a daily basis, have trouble sleeping, worried for my family and their future, searching for hope.

If I have one message to Government it would be this: Please stop this, please commit to a way out, please reassure us that lockdown will never be used again. Give us back our lives, they are not yours to take.”

To read more Testimonies go to Part 1 here / Part 2 here / Part 3 here / and Part 4 here.

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Photo of imaginary family of five by pololia from Adobe Stock