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Samantha in a mobility scooter wearing sunglasses and holding her dog

The end of lockdown and why it’s ok to be cautious

Samantha Henthorn

The last twelve months have reminded me of when I had to finish work. And I refuse to return to how I felt back then.

Writing about the end of lockdown in the UK may be premature but it is worth thinking about. A word I heard on the news the other morning was ‘caution’. This got me thinking. Especially as during my phone appointment with the MS nurse last month, she reminded me to be careful about anxiety when ‘things start getting back to normal.’

I felt like I was losing my identity

I’ve got MS and I lost my twenty year nursing career. I was a band 6 community psychiatric nurse, and when I stopped working I felt like I was losing my identity. My sense of self was stolen, and this wasn’t my employers fault – it was how others treated me.

I’d been so ill. The worst relapse ever. My complete right side stopped working. My right eye was blind with optic neuritis and I had a weird pins and needly pain in my right arm. My right hand was completely useless. I couldn’t even put my glasses on without hitting myself in the face. And I couldn’t walk.

I looked the same, though. And that’s where the problem began. Because I didn’t look any different, people thought I could still do the things that I used to be able to do. I can’t, listening to people talking is draining. If it wasn’t, I’d still be working. Likewise, we should be careful not to expect everything to quickly return to ‘normal’ after lockdown.

Getting used to a new routine after diagnosis

Since my diagnosis of MS in 2005, I have worked really hard to follow the advice of the neurology team at the hospital, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

But even when I was still off sick, my life quickly became a stressful series of visits – people ‘popping round to see how I am’. I was so ill I did not feel strong enough to say ‘leave me alone’. Actually, when I did say ‘please don’t visit’, people ignored my requests and still knocked on my door. This is what I don’t want to return to after lockdown.

It took a long time for me to accept and move on. And I’m not letting my new life go. Now I have a routine of physiotherapy, rest in the middle of the day and work in the afternoon. I now write books instead of being a nurse.

Before lockdown, if I wanted to see my friends, this would be at the weekend – especially as I need my husband’s help to get around. Not Sundays though, Sundays are for completely chilling out.

It’s ok to be cautious

Since the start of the year, people have been hinting at breaking lockdown rules and ‘just popping round’. Even though, last week it was announced that people with some risk factors should shield until the end of March. I felt I was right back where I started, when my house was full of people, not strong enough to say no. But that isn’t true anymore. I am strong enough now to say ‘do not flood me’.

When things re-open, let’s support local businesses and go to the pub or café instead of ‘popping round unexpectedly’. We can all (gradually) have a safe and enjoyable summer.

Because even though we all look the same as we did, there is no denying that things are different now. Let’s learn from this, and adopt a new routine – with caution.