Self-Isolating My Family in Southsea: Day 15, Supermarket Challenges

Local parent, researcher and writer, Maddie Wallace, continues her daily diary describing the experience of self-isolating with her children in Southsea. It’s Day 15, and Maddie finds inspiration in human kindness at the supermarket, as she wrestles with anxiety.

I’ve spent the weekend struggling with unpredictable anxiety spikes and a pounding heart. I woke up Friday morning – the first day S, Z and A were all away at the same time – in the middle of a panic attack. It took most of the day, and every mental health strategy I’ve learnt over the years, to bring myself back down to a manageable level by the evening. But the next morning was the same. And the next.  

It’s a bit like that cliché of waking up and for those first few moments you’ve forgotten what’s going on, but then bang! It hits you that life has changed, all the fears and worries from yesterday are still there, and today isn’t really going to be any better. In fact, we’re being warned that things are about to get a lot worse.   

It took me most of the weekend to work out that the anxiety was increased because my children were away, and I couldn’t ensure that they weren’t taking any risks. My instinct is to have all 4 of them here, safely tucked up in the nest, but H wasn’t here when we had to self-isolate with Z’s cough, so she has had to avoid us. Her and her boyfriend are staying with her dad so he’s not on his own. I’m not worried about her, she’s 22 and being very safe. S, Z and A, on the other hand, might not be washing their hands. They might have been out somewhere they shouldn’t have been. I might be a control freak.  

A is back today, after an extra night away so that I could do a supermarket shop. It’s bizarre having to consider the risk to your child from doing something that a couple of weeks ago was totally normal. The most thought I’d have given it was probably around how to keep A away from the toy aisle. Not that I go to the big shops like that with her anyway, she hates them as they’re too stimulating. The thought of her lying on the floor in the pet food aisle having a meltdown because I won’t let her eat cat treats is too much right now.  

My generalised anxiety is further fuelled by the need to treat even a trip to the supermarket like a military invasion into enemy territory. This morning I went from thinking about going to Tesco to wondering if I ought to write my children letters just in case I die. It took me so long to produce a list of what we needed, (everything), and decide whether I ought to wear disposable gloves and tie a scarf around my face, that by the time I got there, the queue was snaking all the way up and down the carpark. The social distancing refugees who’d survived the weekend intact had all had the same idea as me; go and get supplies, restock, refuel, and then hunker down.  

I tried Asda and it was the same story. Lines of people standing 2 metres apart patiently waiting to go in and not be able to buy any tinned tomatoes again. I drove to Sainsbury’s in Commercial Road trying to remind myself to be grateful that I have the use of a car right now. Thankfully it wasn’t busy, but I didn’t have a £1 coin for the trolley. I asked the assistant on duty in the foyer, whose main role seemed to be directing the traffic in and out of the shop so that people could maintain their distance, if there was a way to unlock a trolley without a coin. There wasn’t, but the kind lady behind me offered me a pound and we did a little distancing dance while we both tried to work out how she could pass it to me. I tried to smile at her every time we passed each other in an aisle, pressed as far as we could get into the shelves on opposite sides of the social distance chasm. When I’d finished and was returning the trolley we met again. I asked her if she wanted the pound coin back, and she laughed and said to leave the trolley unlocked for the next person. 

All the way home I imagined that trolley being a bonus for people using Sainsbury’s today. I hope everyone is kind and leaves it unlocked for the next person. I hope no one takes that pound unless they really need it. And I hope that all this makes us more like that kind lady, or like the two Red Cross workers I kept passing in the shop who were getting bits for vulnerable people stuck at home. Helping others is a reminder that we’re all human and we’re all in this together.  


Image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay.

Maddie will be sharing her experiences every day on S&C – you can find each day’s diary and all of Maddie’s previous articles for S&C here.

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