To bare or not to bare, that is the question . . . . . whether to bare one’s soul and reflect on life in not-quite-lockdown . . . .
As a VIP (Visually Impaired Person) it is normal to feel isolated in daily life. The inability to drive and get out and about to shops, see friends, join in with groups or visit beauty spots. The inability to see faces across the room or read facial expressions or see the gestures that enrich any conversation. The inability to sit down and read a good book or read a newspaper, or do a crossword puzzle.
It is normal to panic if you have to go to unfamiliar places or, eg, travel on public transport. Will you get on the right bus, or be able to work out what is required for paying your fare, or count out the money correctly (always useful if you know in advance how much money you need in your pocket). Will you be able to identify where the doors are to get into shops, or miss the sign that says ‘use other door’?
It is normal to feel inhibited when going around supermarkets and other shops, when you have to rely on someone else to tell you what it on the shelves and stalls. Have they sold out of toilet rolls, or just put them in another aisle? Is the packaging still the same or has it been transformed, or just mis-read (and you have a cupboard full of lentils instead of kidney beans. Exciting recipe opportunities).
It is normal to be unaware of other people on the street, as one is too busy trying to identify where the edge of the pavement is, or any uneven surfaces, or the unexpected looming of street furniture.
So, you stay home, you rely on phone calls, you don’t get to see your family and friends as often, because at some point in your VIP life it is too logistically complicated and too exhausting to organise all those aspects of travel or ‘hostessing’ that go along with ‘normal’ socialising. But you do your best, and you try to be upbeat for other people, because they may be having a bad day, and life’s gremlins may be sitting on their shoulders too.
So, when the rest of the world is suddenly in lockdown, people cannot travel, cannot go on holiday, cannot socialise as easily or see their family, are in panic about the unknown, you can understand some of what they are going through. Your normaility continues, with the added ingredient of not being able to use public transport or have someone with you in the shops (only one person per trolley).
Things did improve of course, and local volunteers, sunflower lanyards, kind neighbours etc all helped you get along.
And there was one amazing silver lining in the cloud. Devon Insight offered group calls on a Wednesday morning. A chance to talk to other VIPs, share tips and advice on how to get through the new normal, share laughter, reflect on the week’s happenings. Something to look forward to as a regular item. No need for anxiety about travelling to a meeting point, no need to leave a sick husband and worry if he was ok on his own whilst you were out of the house, no need to worry about finding your way around an unfamiliar place.
It was uplifting, the group got to know each other, ably facilitated by someone who listened and encouraged, who googled as we chatted to locate information for us, kept us up to date with developments. Sharing our good moments, our daft moments, our ‘would you believe it ‘ moments A refuge in a period where, quite possibly, we had had conversations with our loved ones and said early ‘goodbyes’ . . . . . just in case.
Not only was it something to look forward to – that one hour of ‘normality’ in difficult times – but it recharged the batteries, and better enabled some of us to support those we loved who may have been even more isolated because of ill-health, shielding, solitary living.
So, please don’t ever think it was just a chance for a bit of social chit-chat. Laughter can hide much pain and depression. Mental health issues are not necessarily discussed, but they lie there all the same. It enables us to support each other, AND enables us to offer strength and support to others too.
So thank you, Devon Insight, for that lifeline.