24 hours with... a woman shielding who hasn't left the house in a year

The Editors
·8 min read
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett | Getty Images
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett | Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to run rife in the UK, we’re back in lockdown again. We’ve all been instructed to follow the same rules (more or less) - but how that actually looks from person-to-person is surprisingly unique. With so many different living, working, and personal situations at play, each week Cosmopolitan invites a different reader to share a glimpse into their life over a 24-hour period….

Anisha is a 37-year-old Mental Health and Employment Service Manager from Buckinghamshire. She has been shielding at home - where she lives with her parents and sister - since the pandemic began, as she's lived with ulcerative colitis for 13 years and is classed as clinically extremely vulnerable. In her spare time, she's an inclusive dance and Zumba instructor, and an ambassador for 'We Are Undefeatable' and 'This Girl Can'. Anisha has found the pandemic a real challenge both physically and mentally, having suffered high levels of anxiety about navigating this new way of living and the potential risk the virus poses to her and her family (who are also clinically vulnerable).

Photo credit: Jessica Lockett | Getty Images
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett | Getty Images

7am: My alarm goes off. It’s Thursday which means it’s also Zumba class night! I have a body clock alarm which mimics the sunrise so my body is already waking up by the time my actual alarm goes off. It’s a game-changer for me, particularly during the winter months as I’m not a morning person at all. My sleep has been unpredictable during the pandemic as I’ve often found it difficult to switch off.

7.10am: I get out of bed and begin my morning routine. I go to the toilet (pooping is a highly talked-about topic when you live with ulcerative colitis – when I’m in a flare I can be going as many as 20 times a day!), brush my teeth and jump into the shower.

8am: I catch up on the news. I do this at specific times during the day to manage my mental health. I say good morning to my dad, who is up and about doing things around the house.

8.30am: I turn on my laptop and start work. There’s no commute as I’ve been working from home since March 2020 because of the pandemic. We have regular conference calls first thing in the morning to discuss anything COVID-related affecting the service (I work for a third sector organisation within the NHS). We’ve recently been talking about the vaccines. As a health and social care worker, I could be offered it through my work or I could wait until I’m contacted through my GP for being on the shielded list. Either way, I plan to get the vaccine when I’m offered it.

Photo credit: Jessica Lockett | Getty Images
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett | Getty Images

9.30am: I grab breakfast. I have porridge with dried fruits and a cup of tea. I tend to eat breakfast whilst I’m working because I find it difficult to eat early in the morning and until my bowels have settled. Diet is a key part of managing ulcerative colitis so over the years I’ve worked out what works best for me.

10.45am: I have a quick stretch and walk around the house. Aside from a few medical appointments I haven’t been anywhere since shielding started in lockdown 1.0. In the summer months, I would go out into the garden to exercise, get some fresh air and vitamin D. But now that it’s winter, it takes me too long to put on all my layers to nip in and out of the garden for a break.

Parts of my life feel like they’ve been put on hold due to coronavirus. I’d been planning to move out of the family home, but once the pandemic hit, I knew this wasn’t going to be possible for quite some time. It's frustrating that I can’t move forward but it doesn’t seem practical or safe to do.

11am: Interview for a vacancy in my team. This is conducted online due to the pandemic, and although it's harder to get a gauge of the person via a screen, I wouldn't want to do it any other way at the moment. At this stage, the thought of reintegrating back into the world and ‘normal’ life feels terrifying, mainly because I can’t control what other people do and whether they will keep their distance and follow the rules.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

12.30pm: Quick break and I join my parents on Facetime with my sister (who doesn't live with us) and 1-year-old niece. We’ve found it really hard not being able to visit them and we’ve missed out on key milestones such as my niece beginning to walk and celebrating her first birthday together in person, as well as supporting my sister who is a first-time mum. Both my sisters live with multiple sclerosis, which means they are classed as clinically vulnerable and have had to be very careful in the pandemic too. My parents are now singing songs to my niece, so I join in with an impressive rendition of The Wheels on the Bus - actions and everything. Then it’s back to work.

2pm: Lunch time! My parents cook fresh each day and this has really helped me to manage eating well with my ulcerative colitis whilst working from home. We eat aloo saag (spinach and potato curry) with chapatis and natural yoghurt. Yum!

3.15pm: My colitis medication injection delivery arrives. I was receiving infusions in hospital every 8 weeks but since summer 2020, I’ve been self-injecting every fortnight instead. I travelled to the hospital once for an infusion during the pandemic and whilst the staff were excellent, I found travelling and being in hospital highly stressful. Administering my medication at home has given me greater freedom and kept my anxiety levels down.

4pm: I hear the shopping delivery van pull up outside and give a wave to the driver. We have access to priority slots due to shielding which has meant we’ve been able to get food through online supermarket shopping. We would have struggled to access food without this. Shopping is now a big task that has become more time and energy-consuming, because everything gets cleaned and/or emptied before it’s put in the cupboards. In some ways it feels like our independence has been taken away, not being able to go out to the shops, but we need to ensure we stay safe.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

5pm: I’ve finished work now but the afternoons are usually more challenging for me due to fatigue. It’s one of my most debilitating symptoms, so I have to be mindful how I pace myself in order to manage all that I do. My eyes feel heavy and my body aches, so I have a power nap.

5.30pm: My family and I move the furniture around the living room to set up for my online Zumba class.

6pm: Everyone starts to log in. I can’t wait to see everyone! We always spend the first 15 minutes chatting. We sometimes troubleshoot people’s problems which are related to the pandemic, particularly as I have students who have disabilities, are shielding, key workers or people who have lost their jobs.

6.15pm: It’s time to start dancing! I feel a bit nervous as I have new routines and I’m feeling quite mentally tired from the day, but my students are fantastic and understanding. I really appreciate having the stability and routine of my class as we go in and out of lockdowns.

7.15pm: We finish the class with a cool down and stretch. I’m hot, sweaty and feeling great! Everyone thanks me for a great class and say it’s just what they needed. Dancing has been a lifeline for all of us to stay connected. I miss seeing everyone in-person but this is the next best thing.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

8pm: I’ve had a shower and get myself a hot drink and a snack. I drink a mug of warm milk and have some cucumber and carrot sticks, olives and some home-made bread (thanks Mum!)

9pm: I catch up on my Whatsapps, emails and dating apps. I've matched with lots of interesting men throughout the pandemic. When I told a couple of them that I was shielding, they said they didn’t want to spend time getting to know me anymore if they couldn’t physically meet me through social distancing. The first time it happened, I felt disappointed and hurt because it’s not my fault I’m shielding. But it just wasn’t an option for me to meet a stranger during a global pandemic (even if it was socially distanced).

10pm: I watch a bit of TV and then brush my teeth, ready for bed. Before I get into bed, I spend some time looking out of the window at the night sky, reflecting back on my day and clearing my mind. I often find it difficult to switch off as so much happens in a day, and it can be draining dealing with the emotions from being in a global pandemic like frustration, worry and sadness. But I also feel grateful and I find it quite calming seeing the stillness outside.

10.15pm: I finally drop into bed. I can feel my muscles aching already. I have to be mindful of pacing myself during a dance class but I find it easy to get carried away when the music is on and I just want to dance my cares away! I put on a night-time meditation to help ease me into sleep and I slowly drift off.

Follow Anisha on Instagram.

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