Since my blog post about how I’ve coped with the first lockdown as an autistic person (I published that post in July 2020 when I believed that there was still a lockdown albeit with eased restrictions), I feel that certain things have changed, some for the better and some for the worse. In this blog post, I share how I have been coping during localised lockdowns, Lockdown 2.0, Lockdown 3.0, the tier system in England and the roadmap out of Lockdown 3.0.
In September 2020, I had my first haircut since July 2019 in between the first two full lockdowns. I booked and paid for my appointment online, I wore a face mask throughout the appointment (although I had to hold the loops of my mask against my cheeks when the hairdresser washed my hair so that they wouldn’t get wet) and the hairdresser also wore a face mask and a face shield. I feel lucky to have had it cut at this time.
Also in September 2020, some county boroughs in Wales went into localised lockdowns including Newport on 22nd September. This was the localised lockdown that affected me the most because it meant that I had to return to London early after having stayed with my parents for just two nights (I originally planned to stay for five nights). At this time, I felt very upset and anxious because I missed out on going to some escape rooms in Cardiff and an afternoon tea in Abergavenny. Instead, I ended up moving my volunteering at home day from the Tuesday to the Wednesday (I had already volunteered from my parents’ house on the Monday) and had to put up with some disturbances from a tenant on the floor above me in my block of flats where he hit the walls and windows, shouted, possibly swore and laughed maniacally. Even though he was having some kind of crisis, I was worried that these disturbances would affect people who were working or studying from home and taking part in video calls. These disturbances went on and off until December 2020 when the tenant was reported to the police, arrested and was never to enter my block of flats again, much to my relief.
In October 2020, a three-tier system for England was introduced. London was originally put in Tier 1 (medium alert), but it was shortly put into Tier 2 (high alert) and remained in that tier until 5th November when England entered Lockdown 2.0. When Lockdown 2.0 ended on 2nd December, London was put pack in Tier 2, but shortly went into Tier 3 (very high alert). During the second lockdown and the tier system, I had doubts about seeing my family over Christmas. When the government announced that up to three households could meet from 23rd December until 27th December, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope because these were the dates of the Warner Leisure Hotels Christmas break at the Holme Lacy House Hotel in Herefordshire that my family and I were planning to go on. I even decided to take the initial government advice to self-isolate for five days if I was planning to spend Christmas with my family but I stopped after the second day due to a sudden change of government guidelines.
On 19th December 2020, the government announced that families could no longer meet over the dates that were originally planned due to a significant rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the U.K. and a mutated form of the virus in London. An additional Tier 4 that had the same restrictions as the first two lockdowns was introduced in some areas, including London, and people in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 could only meet with their loved ones on Christmas Day. I felt stressed, frustrated and disappointed about no longer being able to see my family over Christmas and I didn’t think the Christmas restrictions were planned very well, but my parents very kindly drove all the way to my block of flats to drop off most of my Christmas presents (they sent me my remaining presents in the post along with some other things in February 2021 – one of my cousins also very kindly sent me a Winnie the Pooh tote bag that she made by herself). It was just my bad luck that whenever I planned to see my parents, lockdowns and Tier 4 got in the way! I even felt like I wanted to take a break from using social media when the new Christmas restrictions were announced due to the kinds of posts I saw about them, especially on Facebook and Twitter. I was also initially jealous of those who got to spend time with their families on Christmas Day, especially those who posted Tweets that affected me the most. On Christmas Day, I took part in a few video calls with my family, opened my presents during two of those calls, made my own gammon Christmas dinner with whatever I could find in my local convenience store and watched Home Alone. Although Christmas 2020 wasn’t quite the same as previous Christmases I have had, I actually found spending Christmas Day alone less stressful than spending Christmas 2019 with my family in person because that Christmas, I was so worried about not enjoying the trip due to personal issues I was having at the time that I made myself ill on my first night. Despite this, I enjoyed the trip bar the personal issues and I was happy to be able to have a healthy Christmas Day alone in 2020.
In January 2021, Lockdown 3.0 came into effect. I was more relaxed about the introduction of this lockdown because I wasn’t planning on seeing any friends or relatives in person then, but I decided to take control of my social media consumption again because some social posts I saw at the start of the third lockdown were just as bad as those I saw at the beginning of the first lockdown. I blocked, muted and unfollowed people who I thought were getting overly political in their social media posts or made posts that I simply couldn’t even resonate with as well as those who had offensive usernames and profiles. I also stopped listening to some new podcasts after a short period of time because they contained wording that I didn’t think was appropriate for the podcasts’ self-care and mental health themes. The third lockdown has originally made me uncertain about attending the weddings of two of my other cousins depending on how many guests would be allowed or if travelling to them would be worth it, but I have decided to attend one of them at the end of July because an unlimited number of guests should be allowed by then. I have no idea when the other wedding will take place.
On 22nd February 2021, the British government announced plans for a roadmap out of Lockdown 3.0 in England, starting on 8th March when all pupils and students can return to school and college (on my way home from my first COVID-19 vaccine, I saw some pupils leaving a school that they must have attended if their parents and guardians were essential key workers). Although I have decided not to stay with my family over Easter and my mum’s birthday just like last year, I am hoping to see them for my birthday, which is the very day that people from two households of groups of six can meet indoors again in England. It also depends on what the Welsh government will say because my immediate relatives live in Wales.
With regards to shopping for essentials during Lockdown 2.0, Lockdown 3.0 and the tiers, I thought that the shops were mostly better stocked than they were before and during Lockdown 1.0 despite having read news articles about people panic buying or stockpiling before Lockdown 2.0 and my local convenience store being out of certain items I was planning to buy for my Christmas dinner when it was still open. In between Lockdown 2.0 and Lockdown 3.0, I was lucky to be able to upgrade to a new phone in one of my nearest EE high street stores despite a confusing visit (for more information, please read my Trustpilot review for EE). Due to being unable to get a Waitrose & Partners delivery slot at the beginning of the third lockdown, I booked a click and collect slot instead. The manager of my block of flats accompanied me to the supermarket and very kindly helped me carry my shopping to my flat. Towards the end of February, I managed to get a delivery slot from Waitrose & Partners and have my shopping delivered to my home.
One thing that has annoyed me about going out and about during the second and third lockdowns and the tiers is people not wearing their face masks properly (i.e., the masks cover their mouths but not their noses) whether they were bus passengers, customers in shops, COVID-19 vaccine patients or even sales assistants – I even sent the chain of my now-defunct local convenience store a DM on Twitter to complain about two of its shop assistants not seeming to wear their masks properly. It is also annoying when people dump their used disposable face masks in the street.
During the second and third lockdowns and the tiers, I have had a lot of strange and vivid dreams. A lot of them involved me going shopping and using public transport without a face mask on while some were about me visiting a museum and seeing my family.
On 24th February 2021, I had my first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Before the vaccine, I was sent a consent form to complete if I live somewhere that the NHS would classify as a care home (even though I perceive it as supported accommodation) and I booked my appointment online. The vaccination clinic had safety measures in place such as hand sanitiser; signs to remind people to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing; and clear plastic curtain-like things (similar to Perspex screens) between the chairs. I had my vaccine a bit before my booked appointment time and I had to sit down for 15 minutes in order to recover for a bit. My left upper arm started to ache shortly after the vaccine, but I have had no other side effects. My paternal grandparents; my brother, who lives in a care home due to his severe non-verbal autism; and my dad’s cousin and her husband also had their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in February 2021.
In conclusion, I was disappointed about leaving my parents’ house early in September 2020; I was initially stressed about the sudden change of being unable to see my family over Christmas; I found myself being more sensitive to certain social media posts again; I had to stop listening to some new podcasts due to my concern of the wording in them; I was initially uncertain about attending my cousins’ weddings; I got annoyed by members of the public not wearing their face masks properly; and I had some beyond bizarre vivid dreams. On a more positive note, I was fortunate enough to have my hair cut and upgrade to a new phone in between the lockdowns; have a peaceful Christmas alone in my flat; and have my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. I also have potential to see my family on my birthday; attend at least one of the weddings; and go to Gran Canaria and the Warner Leisure Hotels Holme Lacy House Hotel.
My other lockdown/COVID-19 inspired blog posts
Coping with Lockdown 1.0: https://stompgal87.blog/2020/07/25/how-ive-been-coping-with-the-lockdown-as-an-autistic-person/