As part of our open call to Share your Story, we received this #SpiritOfLockdown account from Frank. Although he struggled with isolation and anxiety, he found ways to connect with others and get creative during this difficult time.

Origami figurines

Setting the Scene: Life pre-Covid

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, life for me was all about day to day survival. With constant upheaval and unexpected life changing events happening on a regular basis, living on a knife-edge had become routine. I live on my own, with no family support, no close friends, a social relationship with people had all but disappeared.

Loneliness and local isolation had become severe.

Initial support was provided by a local charity, who then sign posted me to further help. Running in parallel, I joined a government backed return to work scheme, and was put in touch with my Local Area Co-ordinator (LAC) nearly two years ago.

A working relationship based on trust was painstakingly built up over many months between myself and my LAC. I do not trust people easily.

During this time, we worked through many possible solutions to overcome my chronic local isolation. Not an easy job. Local volunteering suggestions investigated included, a local food distributing charity and a practical workshop for men. Unfortunately, neither felt comfortable to me, so they were not pursued further.

We discussed how important it was to me to open my social circle, so I don’t feel so isolated, but I do find this difficult. I spoke about this with my LAC who suggested some volunteering and groups.

An introduction to a college has provided me with low level wellbeing courses and some social support. The atmosphere has always been positive and friendly. With an interest in education, my LAC suggested I enrolled with a local adult education centre as a volunteer, this is now on pause due to the Covid-19 crisis. Finally, after much hesitation, I was convinced to try visiting a local social group. The group Chairman made me very welcome. He was very sociable, inclusive, and non-judgemental.

How glad I was that I had taken the leap I had discussed with my LAC for months and attended this group just before we went into lockdown.

Enter Covid: The early days of lockdown

A few days before the Covid-19 UK wide full lockdown was imposed, I got really concerned about the developing situation. The following days I couldn’t sleep, my emotions were all over the place and I was constantly watching the news for developments. I managed…. just!

After the lockdown was imposed and once things had settled, contact with my LAC gave me reassurance.

The Chairman of the group also contacted me, I thought just a one-off call, but no, he phoned me every week for at least the next 12 weeks – that is dedication!

Thankfully, we still have regular phone contact and I can’t say how much this connection has helped me feel at least connected to somebody.

Over the first 3 months of the lockdown, everybody was in the same boat, everything had stopped, I felt very calm, relaxed even, as long as I was behind my front door. The social anxieties I often feel were no longer there because there was no social pressure.

Over this period the only person I spoke to face to face was the check-out operator at the supermarket once a week.

When restrictions were eased, an outdoors face to face meeting with my LAC was arranged, stress levels descended rapidly. As things started to return to a “new normal”, anxiety reappeared with a vengeance, loneliness, lack of mobility became very apparent again. My confidence in using public transport is non-existent, even though this is a potential life-line for me. Therefore, my isolation from the few social contacts I did have, continues.

Taking Stock: What I’ve learnt

On a positive note, during a chat last year with my LAC, I shared that I enjoy making complex origami models, which I learned via YouTube tutorials.

Inspired by her reaction, and to keep my mind active during this pandemic, I continued to make them, creating small projects to give me an end goal (e.g. 32-piece chess set).

She also encouraged me to display them via social media and make more people aware of my talent. I am currently making Christmas origami decorations for a local Christmas food box project my LAC linked me to.

To summarise, during this pandemic I have felt like a skydiver, calculating the parachute opening will lead to a soft landing, thus preventing a catastrophe happening. So far, I have prevented a catastrophe but I am still struggling, still just surviving.

Having phone contact and face to face meetings with my LAC, and local social group throughout the Covid-19 lockdown has made life more bearable, keeping me in touch with reality. Local group weekly online meetings have been useful, but I feel like I now need face to face contact more than ever.

Shaping the Future: What I want to take forward

Covid-19 has raised all sorts of extra difficulties, compounded existing problems, introduced additional risk, with some solutions found with the people who are able to support me and some solutions yet to be found. Many of my year 2020 plans to move my situation forward have been thwarted by Covid.

The difference now is, after a punishing period of my life, I am not totally alone! It has taken a long time to get here, but I do have more than one person I can depend on in my life now and that makes such a difference to me. I’m still here and I’m still fighting.

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