As part of our open call to Share your Story, we received this #SpiritOfLockdown account from Simon, a resident of Swansea. Although he faced loss and isolation during lockdown, he kept his spirits up by making friends online and relying on his supportive community.

My spirit of lockdown in a nutshell:

Lots of zoom calls and films, missing my friends and valuing seeing them more, and people helping each other more. Boring! 

Setting the Scene: Life pre-Covid

My main focus pre-Covid was on spending time with my mum and brother. They were the only close family I had in Swansea, so I loved spending time with them; these were the relationships I paid most attention to. I love my family and miss seeing them now. They were so caring, brilliant and fun, and I felt very close to my mum and brother.

Pre-Covid, I also spent my time going to different groups – I went to different groups nearly every day of the week. I loved going to these to socialise and meet new people.

These relationships were fun and I valued seeing these people lots; they care about me and understand me, which makes me feel comfortable with others. Pre-Covid, I would have also go shopping with support worker each week – I am now unable to do this – she has to bring my shopping to me instead.

My relationships with both my family and my friends at the groups were mutual. I loved spending time with them, which made me feel good, and I could also help people at the groups who were similar to me. These were very trusting relationships and I miss seeing everyone a lot.

I can be myself with these people, so not seeing them feels strange – they really build up my confidence.

Enter Covid: The early days of lockdown

The main thing that changed for me in the early stages of lockdown was that I was unable to see my friends and family at all. I also had to stop going out shopping with a support worker. All of my weekly groups stopped, and I had to spend all my time at home alone. Most importantly, my brother passed away to Covid this year which was awful and a real shock. 

I felt very depressed following this, as I missed my brother, and couldn’t spend time with my family during this difficult time. I didn’t like not being able to help my mum when I knew she was so upset. A couple of months after this, I then also lost my mother. 

This made me feel a lot worse, but my extended family kept in touch with me, and my friends from my weekly groups kept in touch and checked in with me on a regular basis. It was even harder not being able to see people then, as I had nothing to distract me from thinking about the loss of my family members. I don’t want to remember this part of lockdown.

I almost feel that my relationships with my friends got stronger through lockdown, as people were making more of an effort to keep in touch. I had more phone calls and video calls than I had ever had before. I stayed in regular contact with my support worker, the people who ran the groups I went to, people from the church, and my friends from the groups.

I think we supported each other by checking in regularly and making sure everyone was ok. Just a simple phone call really helped.

I really, really missed human contact in the early days of lockdown, and I still do – it is hard being in my house all day on my own.

But, I learnt that my relationships are stronger than I thought, and I am closer with some friends than I was before. That being said, I also learnt that some of my relationships were less strong than I thought because some friends put less effort into keeping in touch than I expected.

Taking Stock: What I’ve learnt

Overall, the main things I am proud of after this year are that, for the most part, I have managed to stay positive and healthy, despite the difficult circumstances. I am also proud of myself for continuing to keep in touch with my friends, even when I could have easily isolated myself because it sometimes felt hard to talk. I am proud that I have also learnt new skills through lockdown; my ICT skills have improved a lot – I didn’t know how to video call people before this year.

I am also proud that I am still here and still healthy.

I am most disappointed by the fact that I have lost my brother and my mother. This was the worst thing about the lockdown. I was also disappointed that I couldn’t go out and socialise, as this is something I love to do. I love seeing my friends, so having this taken away was hard.

Constantly being on your own isn’t nice. I was also disappointed that on my particular road that I live on, there were not many people out walking or stopping to chat outside; I would have liked to see people chatting from a distance with neighbours on their street. My key relationships feel a bit different now because I lost my mum and brother.

I now pay most attention to my relationships with my extended family, who I rarely spoke to prior to lockdown; they are now the only family I have. I also pay more attention to the friendships I have made at my groups; these are even more valuable to me now, and I can really relate to some of the people there.

I have bonded with one or two people from my groups who have also lost a loved one during Covid – it’s nice to talk to someone who knows what I am going through, and who can relate to what I feel now. I feel that most of my relationships with friends and family have become stronger because I now speak to people on the phone more regularly. I also have more time to spend talking to people, as I am not in a rush to go anywhere, so I have been speaking to people for longer.

My relationships feel deeper now and they go beyond just small talk.

Shaping the Future: What I want to take forward

I would like to look back on 2020 and remember how much time I had. There was no rushing around trying to fit things in – I had no deadlines to meet, which was quite nice.

I would also like to remember the way that most of my relationships have changed for the better, in a positive way.

I have connected with people more by talking to them more regularly and for longer amounts of time. Finally, I would like to remember the opportunity that lockdown gave me to meet lots of new people.

I joined some new online video support groups and met lots of new faces at these, which was great. The main online group where I met new people was a self-advocacy group. This was fun as we sometimes watched films together on zoom, which I really enjoyed.

The main thing I would like to maintain in the future that has come from lockdown is the 2-metre social distancing rule. This is because I am partially sighted, and it means that when I am out and about, I don’t bump into anyone.

This makes a real difference to my experience of being out in public, and it makes going out a much more positive experience for me. Something as small as this made such a difference. I would also like to maintain speaking to people more regularly, even if I am able to see them in person in the future. I have enjoyed these longer chats. Finally, I feel safer with people sanitising and washing their hands more regularly, so I hope this continues.

Lockdown has made me appreciate going out way more, which is good.

For example, one baker in the area was delivering me free fortnightly homemade cakes, for no other reason than to just cheer me up. I always looked forward to this day.

Furthermore, another local woman was cooking me hot dinners on a regular basis, as she knew I was on my own – she also did this for my mum at the start of lockdown. This same lady is cooking me a Christmas dinner on 21st December, which I am really excited about. These little things made everything easier to cope with and made me feel less alone. Lockdown was very hard for me with the passing of my mum and brother – this will be hard to remember, especially as I could barely see them before they passed away.

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