Coming Out of Lockdown: A Comparison

11 May

As it appears that we might be gradually coming out of the unprecedented “lockdown” situation, there seem to be many people who are not comfortable with this, perhaps even considering that the situation should not change. I can understand the fears of such people following everything that we have been shown on TV etc. over the past couple of months. I am sure that the vast majority of these people are perfectly law-abiding people who are simply concerned and confused.

I refer to these people as being law-abiding to differentiate them from people who have at some point in their lives been caught up by the law and been sent to prison. These other people know perfectly well what it means to be locked up, not in their own house, but in very unfamiliar and unpleasant surroundings.

I have never been to prison, but I have had similarish experience. I have been put on section five or six times, resulting in having to spend two or three months in hospital. On the most recent of these occasions, around four years ago, I had to spend the majority of the time on an ICU, a locked ward which I could not leave for the majority of the time, except for very occasional assisted outings. While on the ICU, I was not allowed access to my phone except for around a fifteen minute period once a day.

The reason given for being sectioned is essentially in order that I do not cause harm to myself or others, which is obviously similar to the reason why the Government has imposed “lockdown” restrictions for fear of the corona virus spreading. But while this is all well and good in principle, what you have to bear in mind is, throughout this period over the last couple of months, we have been given very conflicting and confusing information about what we can and can’t do.

If you cast your mind back a couple of months, you might recall that although people in the main understood and accepted the reasons why lockdown restrictions might be introduced, people were initially quite frightened of the prospects of this, wondering if police or even the army would be patrolling the streets to enforce restrictions. Fortunately this did not happen so you might consider we were placed on a “soft” lockdown, which I might compare to being on a regular ward in hospital as opposed to being on an ICU.

In time, people have become accustomed to lockdown restrictions. Spending more time at home is after all not too difficult a thing to do, although maybe it can be a bit annoying or frustrating at times. Similarly, once you become accustomed to life on a hospital ward, you can learn to live with it – you get meals provided for free, after all. You might be pumped full of medication, but you can accept this.

Similarly, throughout the time that we have been on lockdown, we have been given all kinds of directives and instruction, been told statistics etc. which reassure us that the measures imposed are for our own good etc. I could compare this to being constantly told by staff and doctors (particularly psychiatrists) that I need to stay in hospital for the good of my health, that I am “not well” etc. And yet, throughout this time on lockdown, people have spoken all the time about the stage when things will “get back to normal” (ie. lockdown restrictions being lifted), which could be compared to being taken off section and being released.

In my experience, getting off section usually comes about after getting increasing amounts of leave, and again, the comparison would be the Government now telling us about a staged lifting of the lockdown, with certain people being allowed to return to work, and then following that, perhaps schools being allowed to re-open, and then eventually pubs and restaurants.

But due to everything people have been told, many people are now scared of the prospect of things “returning to normal”, even if this might be what they really crave. This does not generally happen to me when I’m on section, but there are cases of people in hospital who are scared to leave because they’re not sure if they’ll be able to cope once they’re allowed back into society. The whole situation of being on section might have been so overwhelming for them that they do not believe they are ready.

I’m trying to get to my main point. My main point is that when you have your freedom restricted by people of authority, you will be told many things by them to encourage you to believe that you need to have your freedom restricted. Some of these things will be true and justified. But equally, you might be told things simply in order for them to justify what they are saying. Not necessarily untruths, but just things to maintain the situation.

It’s for this reason that if you are eventually allowed off section, it can be strange to suddenly be told that you are now “well” and free to return to society. You may not feel any different in yourself. As for the outside world – that’s a strange one – it can feel similar/familiar, but at the same time, can also seem very different and odd. It can take a couple of months to settle back into the world that you once knew well, and during this time, you will probably have to have guidance by professionals (probably a different team to those people who had previously placed restrictions on you). The very real comparison here will be the Government and the media trying to give reassurances that the virus is under control and it is now safe to venture out etc.

And just as for some, once they’ve been released from hospital, there is a danger of relapse and having to return, if the virus re-emerges, or if we are told that easing of the lockdown is not working, we may be encouraged to go back to how things were.

But for now, people should accept that there is the possibility that we are going to be able to gradually return to living a “normal” life. This transition period may take a couple of months. It doesn’t matter to what extent you believe everything about the virus, just as it doesn’t matter to what extent you believe everything you are told about having a particular mental health condition. Once you are set free from the grip of being controlled by an authority, it is really then up to you how you go about living your life. You can continue to isolate, or you can venture out more, it’s up to you. Just bear in mind that before all this started, you probably spent only a fraction of your time being genuinely concerned about what authorities told you about how you should live your life. Getting back to living your own life following an extended period of restriction is very much a learning process.