A guest post by friend of The Roaring Girls and Accessible Rach blogger - Rachael Tomlinson.
When Johnson uttered those words in March 2020 to let the nation know we were going into lockdown, I did fear the worst.
As someone with multiple sclerosis who relies on a wheelchair to get out and about and hates relying on others for help, I had to very quickly swallow my pride and realise if I didn’t ask I wouldn’t be eating.
In the first couple of weeks, local groups appeared via WhatsApp and I was even invited into my dentists WhatsApp group but I still didn’t reach out.
Mum, bless her was still doing bits of shopping at the local shop and delivering but it was the big stuff I was missing out on. Eventually, after four weeks I managed to secure a click and collect at the local Supermarket and things have been fine since, even though no doubt you will agree prices have rocketed.
My social life since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis has been around watching Hull FC and meeting friends for coffee who I have met through my blog and social media.
Time to Chat
Lockdown brought an end to that and after being involved with some of the wellbeing sessions with the MS Society they invited me to their new time to chat sessions via zoom. At the start, they would run for an hour a day every day including weekends, which provided me with an opportunity to chat to someone who was in a similar position and more importantly understood multiple sclerosis.
These were facilitated by an MS Society member of staff and we quickly created a new friendship group with people from one end of the country to the other, we would chat about how we were feeling, the weather, what we were watching on TV, just about anything while also supporting each other.
As we were getting back to a new normal and people were starting to go out again, these time to chats started to drop off, so a group of us who were regular chatters decided to start up MS Let’s Chat and we chat at least three times a week.
Therefore there are positives to come from lockdown, but one of the main positives for me is being so closely involved with my local area.
My Local Area Support
Living in a village in what was once the warden controlled bungalows I admit after living here just under a year I hadn’t mixed with anyone other than my next-door neighbour.
We have a community centre on-site and the neighbours and visiting wardens would hold coffee mornings twice a week. The ladies met in there on a Thursday evening and everyone met on a Friday night for race nights and card nights, and there was always a party if it was someone’s birthday. As many of the party nights were on Thursday or Friday I would be watching Hull FC so I didn’t get to attend many and if I am honest I didn’t make that much effort too either.
Come April the Council closed it down and we could no longer go in there but as the weather was getting better the neighbours started to meet outside originally for coffee mornings on a Tuesday but very quickly it turned into if someone was sat out we would all go out, some days drinking others with just a cup of tea, but this introduced me to everyone and I very quickly became part of our amazing little community. If anyone was going shopping they asked if anyone needed anything we got into a routine of knowing who was going where and when.
We held the birthday celebrations in one of our gardens, mainly my next-door neighbour as hers is the largest with being at the end of the plot, along with her owning the best furniture.
19 Crimes became our best friend while we drank and partied until the sun went down. I also found myself a photographer in Pauline my amazing next door neighbour.
But more than anything what lockdown created was a place around people that I know I can turn to if I need them as even being the youngest by a good ten years, they have taken me under their wing and took time to understand me and my illness, though I don’t broadcast it, they will check on me if they haven’t seen or heard me and that’s is invaluable to me.
Did I want to go into lockdown, no I didn’t, let’s be honest none of us did, am I pleased we did, in a way yes because it introduced me to my community and I know I am surrounded by people who love and care for me and will be here for me no matter what.
Time to chat has created friends for life and also opened up new doors for me that I believed were long closed.
At the time of writing we are about to enter lockdown 2, it will be a little different this time as it will be during the dark cold nights, but either way the support will still be here.