Claustrophobia

I haven’t really wanted to talk about Lockdown, because there are a million voices all talking about it, and far more eloquently than I am about to. But I do think it has finally started to get to me. Next week will be one year since I walked out of work and into Lockdown. Okay, it’s not been Lockdown the whole time since then, but it’s been (oh God, kill-me-now) The New Normal. There, I said it once, it won’t happen again. Also, while I am on the point, Lockdown comes up as a spelling error. How has this not been added to the dictionary yet? It’s not like we haven’t had time….

Normally when I write it’s because there is some strong emotion going on, but that’s really not the case right now. I’m definitely on the numb side, sort of drifting along. Everything has become a bit surreal really. Life as it used to be is starting to feel like a distant memory, slightly unbelievable. It used to be when I was dissociated (detached from reality) I would go somewhere to reconnect with real life. Somewhere busy, with people living their lives, just so I could be sure it was still there and I would take comfort from that.

But now the dissociation is real – it’s not me. The real world has disappeared and no one gave me enough warning. I am constantly nostalgic for utterly banal things. My mind flies off to a hundred different places every day. Sitting in a multiplex cinema on my own surrounded by people and noise; driving through the city at night seeing crowds of people going from bar to bar; driving into town knowing I could walk into the library, or a cafe or a gallery and see people, going to work and knowing there would be someone in the staff room with time for a chat and a coffee (well, okay, we didn’t have time, we made time); getting on a train and getting off in Manchester Piccadilly. There would be people, noise, life, things to do, ways to connect. It all seems so far away. And I keep forgetting. I keep thinking it’s all still going on, just without me, but it isn’t. And when I remember that the tight feeling comes. Like polythene across my face. I can’t breathe, I’m trapped and there is no escape. My brain knows that these things will (probably) happen again one day, but my emotion says its a distant memory, or just an imagining that never was.

My life is sitting in this room. My life exists in boxes on zoom. Meanwhile my Dad is in the hospital and my Mum is in a home. Their house feels like the emptiest place I’ve ever been. Over twenty years of my life have been played out there, at least in part. It’s not just empty. Empty means zero. It’s missing them. It’s in minus numbers. Home is the place where when you have to go there, they have to let you in. There’s nowhere for me to go to any more. I’m sucking air through plastic.

I want to walk out of my life and find a different one, but it’s not allowed …. and there aren’t other lives to be had right now. Every day feels like a battle of wills to stay calm – like that momentary heart jolt, hot flush you feel when a lift door doesn’t open. You tell yourself to just wait, stay calm, press the button and you’ll get out. But there is no out. Not at the moment. So I just keep taking shallow little breaths under the plastic and try not to panic.

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