COVID-19 has certainly presented the world with an odd and extremely inconvenient situation to say the least. It feels apocalyptic. Busy roads now empty, small business going bankrupt, everyone living in fear of this invisible miscreant. Except, it doesn’t feel too bad for me anymore.
You must be thinking ‘wow, she’s finally lost it…!’. I believe there’s actually numerous reasons for me to be coping better with this than most would have thought me to. As the way my life has gone, I have had to learn how to adapt swiftly. After having lived in 14 different houses/flats, 6 different schools and 3 different families, you have to. So often would my biological mother move house that I would not have finished unpacking from the last. I got to a point where there would always be one box of items that wasn’t in regular use so always remained packed and ready to go. I think the shortest we ever stayed at one house was about 3 months.
Sometimes, these regular home changes would mean a new school, hence the 6 different schools. Generally, my mother would find an area that she settled in for a little while and simply moved house around said area. There was one place where we had barely moved up the street. There was even almost a 7th school. I was so fed up of moving and was finally settled at this place that I refused. I preferred a daily 5 mile walk over a 20 minute walk to the local school.
The biggest change of it all was certainly the families. Going from living with these same people your entire life with their mannerisms, routines, behaviours only to completely move away from all of that into families of different class is certainly a shock to the system. In these times, I always clung onto the school I was at beforehand. After all, you need some kind of continuity to keep you sane. Dealing with all of this fine tunes you to be able to adapt to almost any and every situation with a moments notice – including the crazy conditions we are all currently under.
Another reason I believe this hasn’t been too bad for me is because of my past experiences. I have felt much more imprisoned in some circumstances than I am now. For example, I remember one time where I was confined to my bedroom. I hadn’t yet started school. I cannot remember my age exactly, I would have been about 4 or 5 years old. No older than 5. Because I had problems with going to the toilet (I now know is a common reaction to childhood abuse), my mother was very frustrated with me. She was trying to get this to stop and was determined to do this by any means necessary.
So what was this ‘confinement’ exactly? I was not allowed to leave my room unless I needed to go to the toilet or have a drink. The bathroom was the only room I was allowed to visit, if I had so much as one foot out of my bedroom and into the hallway I would be told off. If I remember correctly, when I needed to drink I would have to use the bathroom sink taps with nothing but my hands. We had blackout curtains that were not allowed to be open. Sitting in darkness was part of this ‘punishment’. Every day I would see my sister come home from school and beg her to play with me or at least speak to me. Every day she would apologise with a sadness in her eyes – until she got more used to it and wouldn’t utter a word. I think even I gave up trying to converse. I remember every night my dad would bring up a bowl of tomato soup for me to eat, left in the doorway on the floor. I don’t recall being fed other than that.
I do not know how long this went on for, it felt like an eternity…
All of that time I spent locked up in my room like that was worse than a prison. Even prisoners are allowed daylight and time outside. I wasn’t even allowed artificial light – a child too young to even attend school yet.
A lot of people have described quarantine as prison. As much as it does resemble one at times, for me it doesn’t feel so bad in comparison. Part of me feels like I am lying in a way as a care leaver. I should be part of the group that is struggling the most. I am struggling, I’m in rent arrears and living off of food parcels. But somehow, it doesn’t feel quite so bad. I have been in thousands of pounds worth of rent arrears in the past and relying on food parcels to eat. This time is not as extreme as that.
When I go outside and I see less people in the streets, there are less threats. I do not worry as much about random men kidnapping me and abusing me because those men are not around to trigger me. I no longer see unusually large groups of drunken men stumbling along, shouting. I feel safer when the streets are empty.
The really big one is that yes, I am isolated, but it is not as bad as when I was living with my ex. Slowly manipulating me into the idea that all of my friends were monstrous and those he could not convince me with I was simply not allowed to see. I had left work because of him. I hated leaving the house without him because I knew deep down I could not trust him so staying inside was easier. He even got me to change my bloody social worker. Never was I as isolated as I was then.
You see, all of the issues a care leaver may be facing during lockdown has most likely always been an issue. It is simply that this situation has brought it to light, people have finally realised the importance of recognising the most vulnerable members of society. I feel fake because none of this is impacting me anywhere near as much as it should. However, I have suffered through way worse.