How lockdowns challenged the will to live

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 3.

“I’m at the point where I’d rather have Covid and die than carry on.”

“THE LAST DAY I WORKED was March 23, 2020. I was a taxi controller. A job I loved and suited me as I have disabilities. Unfortunately, it’s a business that cannot function without people having a social life and holidays.

The owner couldn’t afford to furlough me so that was it. I was unemployed and only entitled to Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) at a grand sum of £300 a month meaning I was at least £500 a month worse off. I only got JSA for six months. Then I went back to my job for September and October but only half the hours so that was a loss of £400 a month. Then lockdown again and I’ve not worked November, December and January and looks like February too so that’s a loss of £800 a month. Luckily, I had savings. Savings that had taken me two years to get, and I was halfway to being able to do my ‘bucket list’ vacation.

So how has the 10 months been?

Just awful. Stuck in the house almost 24/7, with a husband I could barely stand during the days he was home instead of working in the office. No friends or social life which I need for my sanity. I’ve had so many breakdowns where the tears won’t stop. My health has deteriorated because I’m not so active and especially my shoulder as that requires regular massages, but I’ve only managed to get one in 12 months. The pain and discomfort is awful.

I’m at the point where I’d rather have Covid and die than carry on.”

“I’m carer for a non-verbal man with learning disabilities. His life was full, he was fun, all I see now is a broken man…”

“(MY) LIFE WAS a carer of a non-verbal man with learning disabilities, who enjoyed day centre activities, family, friends, holidays and all motorsports.

I locked down on 11 March 2020, shielding him from the virus. I was unable to wear a mask as I was advised to do, it scared him, the man blows raspberries, unable to take him out we stayed at home. He was a lively fella and lots of fun, but as weeks went by I noticed a change. His daily routine trashed, not wanting to come out of his room, weeks went by and his mood was low, he would have a shower and back to bed, lunch was at a table in his room, I felt helpless. All the things he enjoyed were gone, lockdown was lifted but not for him, he blows raspberries and would not be made welcome in the community.

My life also put on hold through the summer. Come September and our routine still the same, my mental health in tatters worrying about him not coming out of his room to join in family life. I called for help from social services, who came and assessed our situation, I couldn’t go on any longer, if I’m honest I don’t know how long he could go on like it either.

We talked about it for a few weeks, making heart-breaking decisions that he would go into respite care, he left my house after caring for him for 28 years and moved into a flat. I visited a few days later and he was still doing the same thing, weeks later he’s the same, my heart breaks every time I think of him. His life was full, he was fun, all I see now is a broken man with a semi-smile if I’m lucky.

My heart breaks because I can’t explain that this was not me that has done this to him. I hope in the future life will get back to some sort of normality for him. Here’s hoping I can take him to all the places he once enjoyed.”

“I am considered ‘vulnerable’, but have felt more vulnerable to the restrictions imposed than anything else…”

“LET ME BEGIN by saying that I am considered one of the vulnerable. Over the past nine months, I have felt more vulnerable to the restrictions imposed than anything else. The climate of fear has greatly exacerbated anxieties that I was learning to deal with, and the sense that there is no clear end to this fills me with dread.

Prior to the lockdowns, I was rearranging my life into something that I loved, after years of difficulty with mental health. Although my access to work and therapy have been able to move online, this is a poor substitute for what I actually need. The face-to-face social interaction is essential to me being able to engage well with these vital aspects. The greatest difficulty I have had is with the reduced sense of connection. Connection through a screen might be useful in some senses, but it is no substitute for the benefits of interpersonal connection.

I was getting to know myself again, and now I feel like a stranger once more.”

“It is a daily battle and most days I am feeling suicidal now. Lockdown has taken away everything I hold dear with no sign of it ever ending.”

“IT IS A DAILY BATTLE and most days I am feeling suicidal now. Lockdown has taken away everything I hold dear with no sign of it ever ending. I am a key worker so have continued working throughout the pandemic, but I have no outlet for the stress. It has destroyed my marriage and taken away all my coping mechanisms such as the gym, travel, time with friends etc. Never have I felt so alone.”

“Made redundant… we are barely managing with our three children…”

“LIFE CHANGED MASSIVELY for my family and I since last March 2020. I worked for an established company for over 14 years in Executive Operations with a decent life balance and income. Been furloughed for 7 months until the company declared insolvent and I was made redundant. Now both my wife and I are working for very little money that is just about enough to survive and feed our three children.

We are barely managing due to working nights and, in the days, looking after my children home schooling. I’m fed up with life and really worried about my children’s future, as this is affecting their mental health and education.”

“I worry our lives will never be the same… I fear for the future of my children in this draconian existence we seem to be ‘living’ at the moment…”

“AS A NEW BUSINESS, I was without funding for 11 months. Only now this month have I received £2000. I’ve developed anxiety because of the financial strain we’ve been under as family. I’m anxious about the current response to Covid, not actually catching it. I worry that our lives will never be the same, and it keeps me up at night.

My two children have missed 9 months of school and they’re emotional, irritable and moody; they’re only 7 and 4. It breaks my heart. I fear for their futures in this draconian existence we seem to be ‘living’ at the moment.

I’ve had suicidal thoughts, but my children stop me from ever doing it. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the mental scars this pandemic has brought.”

Part 1 of the series of testimonies can be found here – and part 2 can be found here.

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