My Old Friend, Isolation

It’s interesting to see how everyone is coping (or not) in this uncertain, worrying time. The young, old, rich, poor, the vulnerable. Waking up one day and everything they were sure of is now uncertain. Being told who to see, what to do, what not to do, where to go. Restricted from seeing friends and family. Financial uncertainty. Lock-down.

At the same time, it’s beautiful to see that there is worldwide acknowledgement for the mental and emotional detriment that this is causing. There is even community support like nothing I’ve seen before. Isolation has brought about recognition, improved community ties and woken the government and local authorities to the impact that isolation has on individuals.

"I speak for many care-experienced people who are no strangers to isolation."

Sitting in the park today I thought, “Oh, the irony!” I speak for many care-experienced people who are no strangers to isolation. Some self-imposed for safety and self-preservation, some forced through circumstances out of their control, some naturally occurring. The silent pandemic within wasn’t televised, reported, acknowledged or even supported. The detriment suffered as we clambered around a flawed system was only realised at the court door or in the hospital ward, and for too many, in the morgue.

Isolation has always been a friend of mine. It’s a comfort zone and an uncomfortable place to be in all at the same time. It’s a saving grace and a toxic alliance. Doesn’t make sense? No, it never did to me either.

For many care experienced individuals, this period of isolation is no different to the isolation felt when your social worker drops you off at a stranger’s house and tells you that you’ll be there indefinitely. It’s similar to the isolation felt when you move to your third new school. It’s also similar to the isolation felt when you either run away or are thrown out of your family home for the umpteenth time in the middle of the night with no money and no idea where to go.

Interestingly, isolation may look like be a symbol of strength. It looks like coping. It looks like independence. It looks like you are getting on with things, overcoming obstacles. It looks like you don’t care. Doesn’t make sense? No, it never did to me either.

In the current climate, isolation is necessary to save lives, save the NHS, protect the economy. It’s vital to our wellbeing and survival. It’s causing depression and anxiety for people who had never previously suffered with these conditions. It has undoubtedly exacerbated the symptoms of those who have been living with these conditions.

"It’s also similar to the isolation felt when you either run away or are thrown out of your family home for the umpteenth time in the middle of the night with no money and no idea where to go."

One day, this pandemic will be over and isolation, depression and anxiety for many will be that horrible time when they experienced something that care leavers have experienced their whole lives and many will continue to, long after Corona has done its deed.

My last thoughts as I sit at the top of the hill and stare into the horizon: isolation is nobody’s friend. It is an extreme measure to be used in extreme circumstances. It’s not healthy for the rich, poor, old or young. Thankfully, the fear, depression, anxiety, the loneliness will be over for many.

For a care-experienced person, isolation is simply just an old friend coming to say hi, or even the friend who never left.

Shevonne Riley LLB

Shevonne is a law graduate working in the Civil Service.

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