Post-isolation and mixed emotions

post-isolation emotions

Post-isolation emotions render me vulnerable and anxious, mixed with relief. There’s joy. My family and I can visit and talk to face to face. There’s a downside, as well. Ten weeks of restricted activity changed my view of the world. My fitness suffered although I walked every day. But unless I swim regularly, my arthritic joints complain bitterly.

I’m less sure-footed than before and avoid steps because I need to use the handrail, and won’t. Caution has become my second name and hand-sanitiser my secret pocket-companion when I leave the apartment.

Less interaction with others left me diffident, less inclined to venture far from home. My first trip to the hairdresser for a much-needed trim felt like an adventure. I’m suspicious of strangers who might forget to keep their distance or even bump into me. Smiling at strangers as I pass them takes an effort.

Curious, I watched other older people as they also began to emerge from their homes. Some looked tentative as newly-hatched butterflies as they negotiated the supermarket shelves. They moved slowly, hesitated often.

Prolonged isolation and the protection of our homes and families rendered us all less confident.

Or perhaps that’s just me.

Coming out feels even more tentative because we have an eye on considered health predictions. Authorities warn us to expect new clusters and even spikes in the number of cases of COVID-19. Even while numbers remain low, danger lurks in the community.

The shops have changed. There’s sanitiser at the doors. Wipes to clean trolleys and baskets. Spaces marked on the floor. Notices. Signs. Perspex shields at the registers and less assistance.

Different reactions post-isolation

Some of my friends seemed to take up their lives almost where they left off pre-COVID-19. Back in the swing of things post-isolation, they lunch with their families and different groups of friends. They play cards and lawn bowls, enjoy shopping and sit-down-in-café coffee. Some talk eagerly about the day when they’ll travel overseas again.

I no longer talk about the movies John and I watch. Those that cause me to weep. Or sob. Post-isolation blues, I call it. Why else would a comedy make me cry?

Support from family

John and I relied heavily on our families while we were in isolation. Our daughters and sons encouraged and supported us, although one or two thought we were a bit over the top.

We’ve weathered a few epidemics and a pandemic or two in our long life-times and we’d prefer to die with those we love physically close to us.

We take COVID-19 seriously. I hope our children and grandchildren know how grateful we are.

(I’ve written blogs about other epidemics. Details at the end of this post if you missed them.)

We kept in touch with our siblings while we isolated. I loved the frequent, often crazy exchanges with my brother, sister and brother-in-law. However, if we had to do it again, I’d insist we used Zoom.

People have joked about our compliance with self-isolation and asked if my family has let me out yet. It takes effort not to show anger. I’m sad they don’t know me as well as I thought they did. They sound ageist but they’re my age.  How does that work?

Why do people presume that older people don’t make decisions for themselves, decisions they believe to be in their best interests?

Ours is truly a blessed country

We’ve experienced excellent political and medical leadership. Our world-class hospitals, doctors and nurses prepared for a major surge of critically ill and contagious patients. High levels of personal cooperation developed as people heeded restrictions to protect ourselves and others. The curve of contagion has been flattened.

We have begun to come out of the first stage of the COVID-19 pandemic with relatively few cases and fewer deaths than most other countries. Until a few days ago, there were just two active cases in the whole of Western Australia.

Society has begun to stretch itself after two months of being shut down. Groups of ten people can socialise and exercise together. Cafes and restaurants can now open. They’re permitted to serve twenty customers at a time, suitably distant from each other. Those I passed had fewer than that. Others had not yet opened.

Post-isolation alert

Now attention has turned to the economic disaster caused by the pandemic. State and Commonwealth governments haggle about closed state borders. The focus shifts from the health crisis the economic one.

Meanwhile, ten people in Western Australia, all recent arrivals from overseas, test positive in two incidents over two days (25 and 26 May 2020). A family of two adults and two teenagers returning from Doha submit to isolation in a hotel in Perth en route to their home in Victoria.

A ship from the United Arab Emirates docked in Fremantle to load sheep for live export. Six crew members tested positive to Covid-19. More will probably follow.

As a country, we’ve had enough of ships with contagious passengers and crews tying up in our ports. Surely this should not have happened?

My immediate response – irrational anger. Just when we thought we had weathered the crisis, this! It feels like a personal affront.

Hey, folks! Remember January 25, when the we heard about the first person diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia? With well over 7000 cases across the country since then, the majority infected overseas, we must have learned a thing or two!

Mixed bag of emotions

Relief, sadness, vulnerability, anger, gratitude, pride, pleasure, fear, tenderness … such a mixed bag of emotions in rapid succession can be quite tiring. I look forward with enthusiasm to regaining my equilibrium.

But after ten weeks out, it will take time to get back into the swing of ‘ordinary life’, whatever that will mean. I look forward to our new normal, when we are way past post-isolation.

Other posts

Here are two about epidemics.

Scarlet fever: Scarlatina: My brush with a once deadly disease

Poliomyelitis: Poliomyelitis epidemics in Western Australia

And one I wrote last week, about life after isolation: How to gain momentum after hibernation

As always, I’d love to read your comments about this post.

Join the Conversation

20 Comments

    1. Yes it’s been tough for most of us, Louise. I’ve read your amazing Facebook posts about the work of your husband and daughter early in the COVID-19 events in WA. I can’t believe she has graduated, it seems like yesterday when you went with her to Melbourne for the first time. Six plus years ago.

      Interesting times ahead for all of us. Stay safe and well.

  1. My observations seem very similar to your own. Some people have “shot out of the box”… eager to either “get Covid or not”… and ready to get on with their lives.
    Others…. myself included…. feel incredibly uneasy. Wary. Anxious. Scared even.
    My kids have barely been out, and on the one occasion we did venture to a remote, outside restaurant for Mother’s Day… it was incredibly stressful.
    I feel I may be overreacting, and I’m kind of ok with that. At over 1000 infections a day and heading into the third month of 30-40 deaths a day – here in Texas- I’m nervous.
    But….. and it’s a very big but….. people need to work. They need to support their families. Pay their bills. Put food on the table.
    So, with trepidation, I put on the big girl pants. And try stay as safe as I can.

    Thank you for doing the same. Xxxx

    1. Yep, this is definitely big-girl pants time, Claire-Helen. I’ve given up responding to people who think we should all be out partying. They just don’t get the idea of real and present danger. Who cares if we are over reacting? And you have even more reason than we do in Western Australia. You have every reason to be nervous. I also understand the need for people to work… such a dilemma for everyone.

      I’m really grateful for the support John and I have had from your mother and my other children. They make it much easier.

      Please give the kids a kiss from me. Stay safe and well.
      Love you. M

  2. I started a reply to your blog but I think it has disappeared through my hitting the wrong key. What I said is that I agree with you completely about post-virus jitters and mixed feelings. Friends and family tell me I am overreacting and even believe the virus has gone. I feel guilty until I say to myself – its my life and I want to enjoy it a bit longer. Thank you for putting MY thoughts and emotions into words.

    1. Dear Lorraine, it’s good to know that other people feel the way I do. I thought it was just me, and very vulnerable when I decided to post the blog. But it seems I’m just the loudest voice in the room when it comes to writing about it on my blog. Wish I had this much courage when it comes to singing!

      It seems ridiculous to me that people can think the coronavirus has gone completely. Our health authorities tell us to be careful and to self distance because of the probability of cases in the community which can cause further outbreaks. But in some odd way, I feel shame about my behaviour around other people and actually prefer to keep out of the shopping centres and busy streets.

  3. Hi Maureen

    I can understand why you are feeling as you are. I think our homes have become such a safe refuge these last ten weeks that it seems strange to step outside. When you do it looks nothing like it used to. Many of the empty shops and half open cafes resemble ghost towns creating an atmosphere that is both uncertain and unwelcoming.

    Take your time and do what suits you.

    Moira

    1. Hi, Moira
      Yes, the ghost-town feeling of the suburbs is unnerving after the pleasant security of home. I love your advice to take my time and do what suits me. Thank you, M

  4. I understand your trepidation. The older folks over here are still advised to stay home I didn’t need any persuading, I’ve no intention of going anywhere for quite some time. I enjoy not having to go anywhere and not having demands on my time, and I’m happily settled in my new routines. But when I finally do venture away from home and it comes to the new routines in supermarkets, I’m sure I’ll be the one standing there wondering what I’m supposed to do!

    1. Thank you SueW. Some of my labile feelings stem from the knowledge that vulnerable people do need to take care of themselves, and should stay home, but with live opening up, there is also the expectation that we will stop being wimps and get out and about. Confusing!

      1. I know exactly what you mean, Maureen.

        I’ve always found it easy to cut myself off from other people. I accept invitations because it’s expected and rarely is it because I want to be there, the exception is my family, I always enjoy their company. Self isolation has been great for me, I can finally be myself and be alone which I realise sounds very odd. That said, I meet the family in the garden for tea and cake (not all at once) and we stay at the required distance. Even the little ones remember to keep the safe distance.
        We’re not actually allowed to meet at home, but when you have as much outside space as we have here, common sense says just go for it.

        I’m glad you’re able to go out again because I know you have missed that.
        Thank you, Maureen

        1. Hi again Sue. Yes, things are opening quite quickly across Australia, although there is no doubt that the evil virus is still around, and will erupt in unexpected places until a vaccine has been found and done its work. We plan to be very circumspect about where we go and with whom we meet. I do miss my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but visits will be limited and in the open as much as possible.

          I really understand how much you enjoy your own company. I lived alone for many years. My first husband and I divorced when I was 38. I raised our six children alone and when the youngest left home lived alone until I met John and married the year I turned 70. I didn’t imagine how stressful living with someone would be! I had loved my life, work and home and completed a Masters Degree in Writing before I retired. When I retired I did a PhD in Writing which took two and a half years and resulted in the publication of a mainstream book.

          That was only possible because I lived alone and had time to be introspective and organised. I really did enjoy that.

          1. I admire you immensely for all you’ve achieved in your life, you are an inspiration!

            From Monday we will be allowed to meet up in groups of six, but only in the outdoors which can be our gardens but we must maintain the social distance. I have to admit that I was concerned but in a selfish way because I realised my family would likely be meeting up with their friends. And this makes the risk of coming into contact with the virus even greater.
            Everyone thinks I’m making a fuss over nothing. No doubt I am, maybe I’m one of the wimps!

            1. Thank you for your kind remark, Sue. I’ve been very blessed with many opportunities and a decision I made in my early forties to accept challenges and go with my heart. It made for a full and interesting life!

              I absolutely agree with you that we need to protect ourselves. I also feel that the more people our friends and families come in contact with, the more risks they take. I was hurt when someone asked me if my family was letting me out yet. My family had nothing to do with my decision to be as protective of myself and John as I want to be. We are not yet ready to socialise with more than two or three people who are as aware as we are of the risks and limiting contact. I don’t think it’s making a fuss, but being sensible. Not wimpy at all!

  5. Yes, Maureen,we definitely live in a lucky country.

    Post isolation blues? My bout comes mainly from not knowing what normal will ever be – was there ever a normal – is that a word we need to throw away – if not, what shall it look like? Despite everything, all the issues experienced over he past couple of months, I have learned something that does help me rise above. Have learned to appreciate the ‘small’ things in life: lovely phone calls from family and friends, opportunities to appreciate a walk in the park, to meet with a friend, enjoy a take-away coffee in the sunshine. Life can be simple, it can be delightful when I do appreciate simplicity.

    I have been able to get back in the pool – yes, i have to book in, have to keep distance, even in the pool. but it is so good to be back – back it does help, my back that is.

    Always love your posts Maureen. You are a gem. And a very precious friend. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your lovely remarks, Elizabeth B. I treasure your friendship, too.

      I, also, loved the simplicity of being in isolation and discovered how grateful I was for so many things. Life seemed uncomplicated and gentle. However, once things changed, including my own and others’ expectations, I became less sure of myself. This, too, will pass. I’m looking forward to swimming again, stretching out my muscles in the warm water. Lords pool seems to have started later than others, but they are open now for bookings.

  6. I am so sorry for business owners-I am sorry for the loss of employment-I am not thinking however, to let the economy influence my judgement on practices. I will continue to isolate until further notice. I enjoyed your post-and I agree with your views. Best wishes love Michele

    1. Dear Michelle, thank you for your comment. I am also feeling sorry for those whose livelihoods have been disrupted and even disappeared. But I think health considerations come before economic ones. I’ve had a little while in a fairly safe environment in a country which has been lucky. But my husband and I plan to be quite reclusive until we have been reassured that there are no longer dangerous pockets and clusters of the virus. Stay safe. Mx

        1. Good to hear, Michele. But I’m sure you are beginning to feel it is tiresome as I do. Stay safe.

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