Seven Days of Self-Isolation


Uh Oh. I’ve awoken with a slight temperature and what can only be described as “a new continuous cough”, which (in this day and age) means only one thing. Queue that irritatingly addictive ‘It’s Corona Time’ song… I’ve been got. However, as someone prone to anxiety and hypochondria, it is difficult to discern whether these symptoms are a genuine health concern or severe paranoia. I’m pretty sure it’s all in my head, but to be sure I check the NHS Online Assessment Tool. What sounds like an in depth virtual health assessment is, in reality, a two question quiz:

Do you have a fever?

Do you have a cough?

There is no option to inform the computer of an obsessive nature, or that your current condition may be more symptomatic of a minor panic attack than any virus. The tool tells me to self-isolate for a week, but I’m sceptical. I’m now 90 % sure this is all in my head. After consulting a few friends and my boyfriend, I realise the general consensus is to self-isolate to err on the side of caution. I still think I’m paranoid. It is not until I cry down the phone to an unsuspecting 111 advisor, hysterically giving her the history of my paranoia, that I realise how ridiculous I’m being and accept my condition. I let out a tell-tale cough and the very nice lady on the phone tells me I have to self-isolate for 7 days. After she hangs up, I make calls to my employers to let them know I won’t be coming in. In my usual existentialist demeanour, I commit the rest of the day to wallowing in self-pity.


My symptoms have already disappeared. I am 99% certain that yesterday’s ailments were a figment of my anxious imagination. Though I still cough upon occasion, this is rare and typically only when I think about how I haven’t coughed in a while. Due to an update in the government’s advice, my family now also have to isolate for 14 days, and I berate us for the very middle class problems that have arisen from this: Daddy-dearest is having to cancel this weekend’s dinner reservations because both my brother’s birthday and mother’s day will now have to be a stay-at-home affair. It’s likely that the Chemistry ball is going to be cancelled, which is a waste of a good dress, but I’m angrier about my non-refundable Megabus return. The family holiday to Cape Verde for mum’s 50th is no longer going ahead and – to top it all off – Waitrose only had farfalle left. Now this is what I call a crisis! I tell mum that I hope she’s got a good supply of high-quality toilet paper because, if she thinks for a minute that I’ll be downgrading to single ply, she’d better find somewhere else to self-isolate.


Anyone who has met my family can vouch for the fact that, as a collective, we are dangerously unsuited to spending large amounts of time together. This “quality time” trend is best limited to dinner once or twice a week, and the odd bout of chit-chat if anyone happens to accidentally assemble in the kitchen at the same time. It appears self-isolation will be a testing period for us all, with today being the first day that all eight of us remain home together (myself, my parents, my brother and sister, 2 cats and a dog). Throw into the mix that a flood back in November still renders our living room and conservatory unusable, there is very little square-metreage but a lot of room for irritation. And with schools set to close officially from Friday, it looks like we’re in it for the long haul – someone crack out the monopoly. My cough has worsened today but, to escape the confinements of the communal space, and to prevent a serious breakdown, I decide to venture out of the house for the first time since Sunday. I wrap myself up until the point where only my eyes are visible and cycle down to the local park, holding my breath for 10 metres either side of every person I pass – you know, just in case.


I’ve lost track of the days and am struggling to find the motivation to do anything except lie in bed and watch Netflix. I woke up with a migraine and the sweats, leading me to believe I am, indeed, infected. From this point it is a downward spiral. I turn off my phone in order to avoid covid-19 content, and focus on finishing my article on covid-related anxiety, which inevitably ends up triggering some covid-induced anxiety. The irony is more than even I can handle. Later, I struggle to fall asleep because my lungs feel as though someone is sitting on my chest, and my brain is thinking so fast it might spontaneously combust. Today’s highlight was a rumour that, in case of food shortages, the Ministry of Defence are constructing a giant lasagne the size of Wembley, which will be cooked through the underfloor heating beneath the pitch. There is hope yet!


Today I was supposed to implement some sort of routine; however, I don’t wake up until past midday, so I vouch to start tomorrow. Feeling somewhat recovered, I manage to convince myself to go for a run. Just as my lungs are about to burst into flames, I collapse on a park bench, and congratulate myself on this small feat. As it’s a Friday night, and I have no plans, I spend over an hour doing my make-up and enjoy a celebratory glass of wine whilst on Houseparty to my friends. With the government announcing the closure of pubs, bars and cafes (subsequently putting me out of a job), this looks like it could be the way forward for social interaction for the foreseeable future, and thus the virtual pub was born. A shoutout to BoJo for saying he’ll cover up to 80% of our wages – it’s not all bad news.


This morning is greeted with a new sense of optimism toward the situation. With this indefinite stretch of social distancing ahead of us, we better come to terms with it – and quick. Today is my brother’s 17th birthday; he should be somewhere getting drunk on WKD and cheap cider. Instead, we all traipse to the park for a kick around, before ordering a takeaway and playing board games. The pizza guy is gone before dad even answers the door, and my brother loses at both scrabble and boggle. My sister and I succumb to the trend and spend a few hours making TikToks. The end result is rather unfunny, but they’re hilarious to make and it kills some time. It’s not so bad this whole spending-time-with-your-family-thing, but it’s definitely not what I was doing on my seventeenth.


Despite today technically being the last day of my imposed 7-day self-isolation, yesterday’s positivity has disappeared along with the leftover pizza. The realisation that, without a job, this is my new reality: an endless vat of boredom interspersed with mildly bearable bonding time with my family, is a little depressing. Wholeheartedly, I believe that social distancing is the best way to combat corona, not just to protect ourselves but (more importantly) the more vulnerable members of our society. That said, I’m struggling not to succumb to self-pity. I feel so sad that I forget to eat all day, and watch an entire series of Friends. The FA have quashed the lasagne rumour and I feel truly hopeless. Tomorrow, I really must start that routine.

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