“I have just entered week four of isolation – but we’re all in this together”

09 April 2020
Ian hart at home.
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Most of us are staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but for many people with longer term health conditions, these measures of self-isolation are more extreme.

We know lots of people with arthritis have been told to ‘shield’ but getting your head around the idea of not going out isn’t easy and adjusting to a new set up at home can be difficult.

For the latest updates read our COVID-19 information and our guidance for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. You may also find the following content useful:

Ian Hart has psoriatic arthritis and he tells us about his experience of isolating at home, as well as some great tips and advice for how to manage and keep a positive mindset.

Meet Ian

I’m Ian. I’m married, 51 years old and have three children and two grandchildren. I work for the NHS in information technology and I have psoriatic arthritis, for which I take immunosuppressant medication (methotrexate and amgevita).

I’m a very keen (but slow) runner and was due to run the London Marathon for Versus Arthritis in April 2020. At some point, I will hopefully do just that.

Realising you are vulnerable

At the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, I realised I was likely to be identified as an ‘extremely vulnerable person’, so I started my isolation in mid-March.

By the first week in April I received my letter confirming this. It was quite a difficult and emotional moment for me as I considered the consequences.

Fortunately, the NHS organisation I work for has been very proactive over the last few years in ensuring that as many employees as possible have access to technology that enables them to work remotely, so I am used to working the odd day from home.

But within two days of isolation, I realised it was going to be a much harder than working just the odd day. Straightaway, the lack of the social connection with work colleagues became a challenge and it took me around 7-8 days before I felt I had fully adjusted to the situation.

It’s a big change, a big challenge

You must take stock and allow yourself time to adjust, and don’t panic. It does become easier as time passes, and you do adjust to your new way of working.

Remember your colleagues are going through the same changes, so it’s important to maintain a positive outlook and help them through. ‘Be kind’ is a phrase we’ve heard a lot lately – well I agree with this. It’s something we need to maintain throughout this period, understanding how difficult this is for all of us.

Staying in touch with family

On top of my work, the family side of things quickly became a challenge. I live with my wife and all the children have moved out, though they live locally. We noticed very quickly that relationships changed, and our day-to-day connections were gone.

The situation is unprecedented, so it’s up to us to adjust, to have ideas, to help each other and make best of what we have.

Social media has many benefits and equally can cause stress and anxiety. Used in the right way, I have found it be of huge benefit. There are many applications out there, so be careful which ones you use and how you use them.

On Facebook I have found great comfort and happiness watching some of the LIVE coverage. Chester Zoo live along with some individuals from bands doing live music from their living rooms has been fantastic and is a release from the day to day stresses.

A healthy dose of news is good

It’s important to keep up with that’s going on but try not to let this be the only thing you are thinking about and watching. Too much can cause unnecessary anxiety and we definitely need different outlets – TV programmes, reading, social media.

And more importantly, most of us need some form of social interaction. Although we can’t meet in person for now, have a think about how else you can do it. Get on the phone, Facetime, use social media messaging. Whether it’s seeing family, friends or work colleagues, take the initiative and reach out.

We’re all in this together, so be aware of those around you – it’s tough for them and equally they will want to know how you are so let’s not be shy.

Keeping up a routine

I never thought I’d say this but keeping up normality is so, so important.

For the first 10 days I was getting to lunch time, then suddenly remembering I hadn’t brushed my teeth, and after 10 days of wearing the same t-shirt, I had to draw a line (joke – honest).

I realised I needed a routine, or I’d simply forget about things. So, I sort my hair, brush teeth, sort my medication, shower, change… you get the picture. Having this in place has helped a lot, and ensures I don’t miss key things in this odd situation we find ourselves in.

Shopping has been difficult

Shopping has suddenly become very difficult. As an “extremely vulnerable person” I’m not supposed to visit any shops, so what do I do? Well my wife does a lot – she is the best and has looked after me so much, I’m very lucky.

But big supermarkets are also in the process of receiving information from the NHS on people identified as vulnerable and are making delivery slots available for them as a priority. So, if you have an account, check to see if they have identified you yet, if not then get accounts set up with the main supermarkets.

Getting the support you need

I’ve found the Versus Arthritis website brilliant for providing vital and up to date information to people with arthritis, and they’re always there to help in what can see like a minefield of information.

Another outlet for me is pictures. Photographs or pics online – I love to look back at memories, celebrate occasions and remind myself of how lucky I am to have a beautiful wife, family and friends.

Keep taking pictures – I’ve already taken a few from my home office. We can look back on this time and celebrate how we got through to the other side.

It’s an extremely difficult time for all of us but please take care, listen to the advice and continue to support yourself and those around you.

We’re here for you

If you’re feeling isolated from family and friends during these uncertain times, we’re here for you.

  • If you would like to talk to someone, you can call our free helpline on 0800 5200 520 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm)
  • Talk to COVA, our COVID-19 virtual assistant, 24/7 - follow the purple circular icon at the bottom of this page
  • Join our online community
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Share your story

If like Ian, you’d like to share your experience with self-isolation or how COVID-19 has impacted you, email mystory@versusarthritis.org to get in touch.