As we navigate our way through lockdown, thanks to COVID-19, I would like to share my thoughts on living in isolation.
Let me take you back to 2013; a time in my life when I had already spent around 10 years in isolation, due to a diagnosed Personality Disorder. The outside was so scary to me that going out into the world brought on extreme anxiety attacks. So inevitably, my home became my both my safe place, and my prison.
But life, such as it was, was about to change forever. Three days before my 40th birthday on 9th March 2013, my gorgeous, funny, strong big sister passed away. That day, after spending some time with her, gently removing her jewellery, holding her hand in mine, saying my last goodbyes and getting her ready to leave her home that final time, I headed home alone.
Walking into my little flat in Glasgow, it hit me – nothing in here matters! I could lose it all, and it wouldn’t even come close to the loss I had just endured. I wandered from room to room, desperately trying to find something, anything, that would give me comfort. Very quickly, I realised that the only thing which gave me any sense of feeling were my photographs of her. Nothing else held any meaning. The ‘stuff’ I had accumulated over my life was meaningless.
Staring at a picture of her brought me back to our last conversation, just a few days earlier. We had talked of Cornwall, of how I had loved it there, and how when I was there, I felt alive again, I could breathe; I was free. Free of the prison that had kept me safe in my darkest hours, free of the fear of the outside world. Cornwall with its vast beauty had become my saviour over the years, and my – all too short – visits to friends there had kept me alive.
As we talked, I said jokingly, that one day I would love to live there, I didn’t know how or where, but it was a nice dream to have. The thing she said next changed me. She said, in her typical no-nonsense way, ‘Sinead, F’*k it! Life is too short! Do what makes you happy! I know I will when I’ve beaten this!’
At the time, I had just agreed, never thinking for a minute I would actually do it, but walking back into that prison of mine on the day she died, I knew I had to. She fought with every fibre of her being to beat her ‘C word’ illness – how dare I waste my life rotting inside, watching life pass me by!
So that summer, I did the thing that scared me most of all. I left home and set off to Cornwall with all the money I had in the world, where I bought a little boat and had it taken to a boatyard where I could stay. I renamed her to include my sister’s name, and so began my recovery from isolation to life.
Within a year, I had done many more things that scared me, but from those scary things, something amazing happened. I made new friends, I came off all the horrible medication I had relied on so heavily for so many years, and I made a new life for myself. I started taking pleasure in the littlest of things; the early morning mist on the river, the dawn chorus, listening to the rain and feeling the incredible power of a storm, cups of tea with friends, and laughing.
It had been so long since I had laughed, and enjoyed so many other wonderful things, things you cannot buy; things that fill your soul!
A while later, I met my soul mate and left my little boat to start a new life together with him. We moved into our cottage in the sticks and I felt strong enough to get back to work. Luckily for me I had met a man who, when I told him I needed to find work, offered me a job, and so my journey with Bauer Group began.
Within a year, I was managing Redruth Enterprise Park, a brand new venture for the company. I was networking, organising viewings, negotiating leases, working with new tenants – all the things that had terrified me before, were now the very things exciting me and driving me forward. With every day I felt stronger and further away from those dark days of my past.
Four months later, and once again my world came crashing down and life as I knew it changed dramatically. But I was not alone, everyone in the world knew of it, and everyone was affected by it. Coronavirus! One word, with earth-shattering consequences.
One by one, my tenants withdrew to the relative safety of home and family, and I found myself alone. Very quickly, we were informed the country was going into lockdown. So, like so many others, I packed up my belongings and left, thankful that I was able to work from home. Soon though, the feeling of being thankful faded, as my old demons began to emerge.
Worry began to dominate my mind; my family, so very far away, my partner, still being asked to go into work each day, my tenants (how would they survive this?), the site I was so proud to work in (would I ever be able to fill it?), all the wonderful friends I had made networking, will their businesses survive?
I could see it happening, I was by now an expert on my own mental health and so I knew I could not let it take hold. I could not go back to those dark days. I had so much to live for now, and after all, I was doing it for my sister, I couldn’t let her down. So back to basics. Back to the little things. I started each day trying to find just one little thing that would make me smile, or take my mind off the second dreaded ‘C’ word to change my life.
So whether it is waking up every morning with my love beside me and knowing he is safe, or seeing him cutting the grass, our cat popping onto my lap for a quick cuddle, squirrels visiting, the birds singing in the trees, sunlight on my face, the wild flowers blossoming all around, or the many, many more little things that before I may have taken for granted. These are now the very things that enable me to get through each day and keep the darkness at bay.
These little things have led to bigger and better things – I have discovered that I can still network. I can keep in touch with all the people I had met through Your Partnerships. Not only that, but with online networking I can connect with people and business much farther away, and I can tell all of them about the site which I am so proud to manage. I have met so many more amazing people, and I am humbled every day by the support for each other, both professionally and personally, that I witness there.
All of this has given me hope for the future and for our re-emergence from the COVID-19 lockdown. I am taking this time to not only reflect, but also to plan. The future holds so many possibilities! For me personally, I have a life full of love to carry on, friends and family here to catch up with, trips home to Glasgow to hug family and friends, a life to live – and to live to the fullest!
My advice is simple, do the things that scare you. They may not all work out, but I am living proof that they can give amazing results. And find your little things, the things that money can’t buy; the things that feed your soul.
So, back to my question, can we survive living in isolation?
Well, my friends, that is up to you.