Self-isolation: Harry's story (age 21)

Last published 24 April 2020

Being stuck inside for two weeks straight is a daunting proposition for most people but I found from first-hand experience that it’s not all doom and gloom.

I've just come out of a period of isolation with my family, one of whom tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In our case, the symptoms were very mild, and there was no recorded secondary transmission. My mum, dad and younger sibling are all healthy and starting to get back to our normal routines – or as normal as they can be given the present situation.

Explosion of questions

The news that we would have to be isolated was delivered straight after we had the positive result, which was late in the evening. My parents, who I had rarely seen flustered before, were on and off the phone to Public Health England, family and close friends. When I was first told, I had an explosion of questions running through my mind. I have an anxious disposition at the best of times and, as you might expect, I did find it difficult not to panic, despite the reassurance that everyone affected only had mild symptoms.

I thought about my family members, my girlfriend and the friends I’d recently seen. I was desperately worried that the virus could have been passed on to someone else and I couldn't help but think that they were going to be angry or upset about the situation. This turned out to be a misapprehension.

We followed the advice of our contact at Public Heath England (a doctor with a lovely calming Irish accent) and only told people about the situation if it was absolutely necessary. A few of our family and friends who had been in contact with us were also put into isolation until it was two weeks since they’d had contact with my dad. For the most part, they were hugely understanding about the situation, and those who were worried certainly didn’t blame us.

Opportunity to spend time together and learn new things

My younger brother was very briefly upset when we told him why he wouldn't be going to school the next morning. I chatted with him about our worries and what was going to happen and I found that this helped me begin to get my head around what was going on. He quite quickly realised that he wouldn't be able to carry on life as normal. "Wait a second... we can't even play football then?!" he asked me incredulously. I couldn't help but laugh.

I found that after worrying for hours the night before, his reaction made me slightly less worried. Although I was still very anxious about my health and that of everyone else affected, humour was one of the things that made the whole experience much easier for me.

For the first few days, I was devastated at the thought of staying inside for so long. I’m generally quite an extrovert and I had found before that staying inside and not socialising wasn’t beneficial to my mental state even once in a while.

The prospect of being stuck with my family was troubling enough, even without the added stress of the situation. We decided that we would make a plan each morning, to keep busy, and give some structure to our days. Of course, we didn't stick to the plans, but it was nice to feel like we had something to do.

I found it comforting to keep my routines as normal as possible – showering and getting ready for the day ahead. My brother would have spent the entire time on the Xbox if he had his way but we tried to explain that it might be a good opportunity to learn some new, exciting skills. I don't think he quite got the idea behind that and he moaned every time we turned FIFA 20 off.

I’ve learned how to cook something other than pasta, taught myself new songs on the guitar and managed to spend some time together, which we all enjoyed. We would sit together most nights and watch a film or some TV, which we rarely do as a family, and we also made up some games to keep us entertained. A favourite was 'How far can you pass a football up the stairs without mum noticing?', which I'm sure wouldn't pass any health and safety checks.

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