'After almost 19 weeks in self-isolation, our decision to venture out was a good shout – we made it all the way to the pub'
Julie Walker writes a column for the Bishop's Stortford Independent called Parkinality, about living with early onset Parkinson's disease...
After my rants and rhymes about leaving the house and 132 days of self-isolating, I had to venture beyond the end of the road.
When I write "had to", the local constabulary hadn't issued me with an 'Integrating Back into Society Warrant'. I had to go out because, to be totally honest, the self-isolation was getting to me more and more. I realise that some people have a lot worse to deal with. But, and this is a big but (no double 'T' please), everyone is different.
Self-isolating meant The Wise(ish) Man and I didn't leave the house for the first three months, not even venturing onto the pavement outside.
We weren't instructed to shield and, in theory, could have gone to the supermarket during their vulnerable hour. However, with the very real potential of Parkinson's disease (PD) symptoms, freezing and dyskinesia kicking off, we were extremely reticent. Fortunately we were able to avoid food shopping with the help of family and friends.
However, by July, although potentially stressful, even a supermarket trip was starting to sound like a social extravaganza. Worsening PD symptoms plus the feeling of losing touch with society were bringing me down.
After taking advice, we decided we needed to begin venturing out for our physical and mental wellbeing. The first walk when we saw another human was both exhausting and stressful. Gradually, over the past few weeks, we have tried to take a short walk almost every day, building up both confidence and stamina.
Then on Saturday, finally, after a particularly bad day, at around 4pm when The Wise(ish) Man and I could both 'operate', we went out.
Parkinson's briefly distracted, I grabbed my walking sticks and pre-packed bag, with new improved 'sanitising section', and we left the house. Unsure of how far we would be able to walk, we were ready to call a taxi if things got difficult.
The first win was that we walked there and back and I made use of my new gadget, a hygiene hook, to press the pedestrian crossing button.
Our boost of energy was possibly helped by the excitement of chatting (shouting) to friends we saw as we walked. Me yelling "132" (referring to the number of days since we had been out, not the cricket scores) was followed by "Was that so and so?", squinting to see who I had just shouted at.
The second win was that we made unplanned visits to the Star and Bridge House pubs for a swift pint, almost like the good ol' days. I say "almost" because there were changes; no queuing at the bar, no beer balancing, no need to hover for a spare chair and no singing.
It was early and both pubs were quiet. We were greeted at the door and shown around, our host explaining the rules. Both had a one-way system with separate entrance and exit, various sanitising preparations and touch card payment. We were shown to our own table, told we must not leave our zone and drinks would be brought to us.
We both wore masks, socially distanced, stayed in our seats, sanitised hands and I used my own straw for my drinks. I people-watched while The Wise(ish) Man savoured his first proper pint for months. We were home before 7.45pm.
So, how do I feel?
Being out was wonderful and it was lovely to see old friends. Inevitably I have feelings of anxiety about going out. But then, over the past few months, whilst staying in, I have been worried about the post, supermarket deliveries, the occasional restaurant delivery and whether the virus is transmitted in the breeze.
I have to try to think rationally. We have been following the rules and doing everything that we can to try to stay safe.
As restrictions swing between being enforced and relaxed, we must remember that this virus is still among us. We need to find ways of maintaining our mental and physical wellbeing.
Briefly rejuvenated, we will now return to self-isolating. We don't plan another trip out immediately, but hope to venture out again before it is time to collect the Christmas tree.