As far as I was concerned, I'd done my time confined to my home. I've had too many spans through life where my world was kept to a bed, a sofa, an over shaded corner of my mind, a hospital ward... I've lived with chronic illness for as long as my mum can remember, in one shape or form, and while it has never been consistent, it has always been problematic.
In the last few years, my family and I have gotten into a workable rhythm that seems to fend off any 'serious' impact activity has on me, and while I'm still regularly, weekly, out of action, it's never for long periods of time.
Like most other people, in the lead up to all of this, we acted with a little more caution as we watched China, Italy, Spain and other regions around the world fight. We knew it was only a matter of time, and we didn't know how to behave about it here.
Except for those who judged hoarding loo roll and Calpol as necessary action, obviously.
Just as the proverbial hit the fan, the day after my birthday, as Darren and I read the articles and news, filtering through the scaremongering and the legitimately scary, it was clear Leo and I would have to fully isolate, and Darren would need to drastically up his caution as he worked and took care of essential movements like shopping.
The first few days flew by in a gentle haze of seed sowing, crafting and movies. Noah was already confined to the house so we couldn't walk him on vets orders while he recovered from both an eye injury and a paw injury on a particularly zoomy walk down the river the week before. It was cozy, rather than confined. It was alright. I was full of cheer from my birthday, seeing the colourful rhododendrons beginning to peek out on our birthday walk, sharing photos from the day and using new birthday gifts.
Midweek, we heard more news of the virus's impact locally. While we were already incredibly empathetic for the rest of the country, it did suddenly hit harder.
As a postal worker, Darren was included in the newly defined ranks of 'Key Worker' in this crisis as many other businesses shut. My aunt has had to leave her most loved place of work in Ethiopia for a great number of important reasons related to this virus not least because she has asthma and a heart condition, and thankfully she is now here and safe, in isolation herself, but it was a close call if she would get out. The panic over that was immense.
It's okay. While I grew in anxiety, I was still relatively level headed about it. I hoped Mother's Day would bring an opportunity to reach a safe expanse of land to breathe on. But as the morning arrived, and we saw the droves of families and groups heading out and filling every square inch of open territory (not an easy task in Devon!) we decided it would be safer to stay home. A decision that would have been easier to handle, if Leo hadn't started getting rattled by this whole ordeal.
Please understand, this is a child who, for years now, ends every evening with a cuddle, a prayer and asking "What's the most exciting thing we're going to do tomorrow, Mummy?" because we would fill our days with trips to museums, zoos, out in woods, church (and we have a REALLY fun church), to the beach, to the library, to friends houses, bird watching walks, or otherwise at home with my efforts to make life zesty while restful. Leo is a homey kid. But he's a homey kid who has the practical reassurance of companionship, sights to see, and things that tickle his heart and mind.
I can only serve that up so far here at home. He's actually been better with all of this than I have, but a Big Sad happened around night 6 when he realised he wouldn't get to cuddle his friends and family members beyond us in quite a long time, and for Leo, a long time before hugs is an age.
It knocked me. Hard. And the silly thing is, it isn't constant. I've been up, and ive been down. One moment i'm really enjoying it all, then the next, i'm not, at all. Nothing feels the same. I'm getting headaches from extreme sensitivity to sound, and i've started stimming again, twitching my eyes and flapping my hands.
Noah was allowed out on walks again after some video conference vet consultations, so as a family we strolled around close to home, and as we passed close to the garden centre, Leo and I looked longingly over at almost empty carpark.
Its open and accessible. Barely anyone there. We made the decision to go in. I needed to see something colourful. Darren could see desperation in us both, and as a family we agreed to make as much space as we could between ourselves and other people and not to touch anything, just for a short while. I cried. It was so cathartic and such a blessing. We spoke to people. We bought a new hand fork and some rolls of wire to form a fence around my cut flower row to keep Noah out.
It was deliriously appeasing to every sense but one. Even when we passed no where near another person, I realised I was holding my breath.
"It's like an Alter-Dimension of Birdbox, Darren." I jested. But frankly, that's the world we're in right now, monstrous without the monsters.
So I spent Sunday and Monday feeling pretty low and helpless about everything.
Until last night.
I was lying on the sofa working on digital art work with the dog across my lap and a movie on the TV. I'd exchanged messages with friends, and the relief was huge.
I had been told that I was missed. I had been told that they were finding it hard too. I had been told that I was loved.
And then, we turned the movie over to the news to watch Boris give the latest.
And I felt... lighter?
Now that, was WEIRD.
So that flicked a switch for me. Why on earth did I feel more comfortable that we're on Lockdown? Because it kept people in that were still gathering in crowds and spreading the virus, of course, but it was more personal than that.
It clicked as I got into the bed. Smearing my serums across my face I turned to Darren.
"I don't feel as lost any more. Somethings a little clearer. This is our new life for a while."
Darren nodded at me, probably wondering why I hadn't clicked into this yet.
But it was deeper than that. The lockdown had made it feel less temporary, less exclusive to few.
It had given us a measurement, if not of time, then at least of reality.
"It's my brain, I think." I said.
That's why I'm feeling agitated, sound sensitive, up and down with extremes, stimming, and keeping away from the things i love like painting and crafting. I'm channeling everything into the garden right now because its new territory and feels safe. I wondered if other autistic folks were having the same experience as me.
And now i know what to do, what I always do when I don't have a healthy sense of control.
I hack the situation.
"I know what to do now."
Now, while I'm well aware I can't change my environment, I can reproduce what gives me the sensory experiences, the mental experiences, of safety, wellness and spirit.
Things that somehow, had slipped from my reality.
Prayer. I have been praying, but I haven't been immersed in a while. I haven't been using my Battle Binder. Back at it now.
Scent and colour. I'm hugely motivated by them at a neurological level. I realised i had been rationing my wax melts and candles and not putting them on. By chance, yesterday my wax delivery came and last night I relaxed into a world of Rhubarb & Rose and the glittery swirling in the melter. I need to put on my music, we need to dance again, we need to up the exposure to humour.
Connection. I need to see my friends and families faces and hear their voices. I need to keep up good, healthy boost.
Affirmation. I don't necessarily need a pat on the back every two minutes, but as my love language, I find it encouraging. So what's the remedy here? Instagram. I'm not kidding. I don't need towering likes and comments, but the interaction is affirmation enough. I hadn't been posting at all. I'd fallen off. Time to get back at it.
Structure. I'd stopped planning. I always feel better with a plan and a list.
I have all this time, time that I usually yearn for. Leo and I keep busy throughout the morning and into early afternoon, then he seems to feel better just mooching in the living room or his bedroom, playing on Minecraft, Lego in front of a movie, playing games on his tablet, etc, and right now, of all times, he can be granted flexible screen time!
And with that, brings opportunity to work on my paintings, to work on earring stock and hello world, how about i finally get writing again?? Is this the season I finally finish my novel?!
I'll keep gardening of course, but frankly, there's no windowsill space, and the nights are below zero again, so I need to hold my pretty pink horses on that a little and pace things out.
My hope is also that, if my mood improves, Leo's will follow.
Let's see how things go. It's the morning of Day 9, and strangely, I feel fresh, and renewed, and blessed.
Come what may.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7