TW: covid-19, suicidal ideation, violence, alcohol abuse
This is my worst nightmare. I find everything both sides of the lockdown debate say infuriating. I can’t oppose it, and I can’t support it. I’m stuck in some kind of angry limbo in which all I can do is try and pretend reality doesn’t exist and deny my own emotions or they’ll overwhelm me. This doesn’t feel quite real, but more like the middle of an apocalypse movie where all one has to do is wait for the heroes to come along and magically save the day.
Around ten years ago, I remember comparing possible crises and rating them on a scale of whether or not I’d be able to cope with them. Pandemic scored the lowest on my coping scale. I was right in my analysis of my own abilities, even as a young teenager, because this is my idea of hell. In fact, it is worse than I anticipated, because there’s a duality to my current situation that I couldn’t have predicted.
On the one hand is what I saw back then: I’m terrified of germs and getting sick. I don’t cope well with even a common cold, I can barely function, I don’t want to speak or move or eat or sleep or exist. I had a bad flu over Christmas 2019 and I was making dark half-jokes about how all I wanted for Christmas was death. Even before all this, I didn’t like people touching me and I’ve been looking for an excuse to wear a face mask since I discovered that it’s socially acceptable in some other countries.
So naturally, given this, I want it stamped out as quickly as possible. I don’t want to take any risks, and I am furious at everyone breaking lockdown – a sentiment common among the disability community online. It follows on from this that I should support a particularly strict lockdown for a particularly lengthy period of time, and oppose all efforts to lift it within the UK, and I should be thanking any deities that may exist that I am not living in the United States where there hasn’t been a proper lockdown at all in many places.
Yet there’s another side to my situation that makes this rather more complex. I do not feel entirely comfortable going into explicit detail on all of this, but there is something that is worse for me than the fear of sickness – and that is being constantly bombarded with loud, disruptive noises I cannot escape from. Probably most of my friends that I speak to regularly have heard me wish destruction on my local area.
First, my neighbours. I live in a suburb where everyone is incredibly competitive to have the newest amenities, the nicest gardens, etc. This means that they have viewed lockdown as the perfect time to bring out ALL THE POWERTOOLS. It’s near constant whenever it’s not raining heavily. Lawnmowers, electric hedge trimmers, hammering, drilling, sawing, grinding metal… it’s a cacophony of loud noises. It doesn’t help that something in my past means that construction sounds are a trigger for me.
Next door has, on several occasions, been using something so loud that I can hear it through my expensive high-quality noise-cancelling headphones. I’m having a meltdown a day, which I haven’t had since before puberty. It sometimes feels like they’re conspiring to psychologically torture me and I’ve just had to go out because otherwise I would end up hurting myself – or someone else.
Then I’m extremely sleep deprived as well because a member of my household is continually purchasing alcoholic beverages which he then consumes which cause him to make rather loud screaming noises in his sleep. So, neighbours all day, screaming all night. If lockdown lasts much longer, I will not survive it. I am hoping to move out but money could be an issue, and I’d really need to live alone because of my sensory sensitivities.
So, despite my terror of getting covid-19, I’ve still ended up going out, sometimes doing things that are technically against the rules. Protests for one thing, going indoors to a friend’s house, and I have travelled more than five miles before they stopped that. And I know I should feel guilty about this, but I would be in an even worse situation than I am mentally if I hadn’t done that.
It’s a careful balance. And what is awful and tragic is that no matter what we do, we won’t be able to save everyone. If we lift lockdown, the virus will kill people. If we keep strict lockdown, people with poor mental health will deteriorate and the suicide rate will jump up more than it likely already has. This is an awful no-win situation, and I pity everyone with the misfortune to currently be in government and needing to make these decisions.