What feels like now a eternity ago even though it has only been a few weeks – we are now in 2021. 2021 was supposed to start with positivity and indeed, it did. The vaccines are finally being rolled out now across the UK. But in retrospect – despite this we are now back to square one and 50 times worse then we were back in March 2020. We have returned to a full scale lockdown.
How did it come to this? Last time I wrote to you all, I was preparing for Christmas and really looking forward to the prospect of finally being reunited with close family which was my brother Martin and his fiance Phoebe. With only two days until I was due to depart, on a cold Saturday night as everyone prepared to spend a unusual but at least a positive Christmas in minimal groups – both Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon very unexpectedly at 5:30pm that evening announced that the planned relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions over 5 days between 23rd-27th December were to be scrapped and all travel across the UK was to become against the law. This was absolutely soul destroying! The reasons were understandable, a new variant of the virus had been discovered which is much more transmissible and forced the government to take drastic action. Yet why on earth in the first place did they even agree to relax rules for Christmas?! By doing this whilst it was nice to be considered gave people the chance to get excited, plan travel, buy presents, buy food and be ready for a great Christmas – then 5 days before the big day, the relaxation is scrapped and only allowed for Christmas day only and in addition, Sturgeon announced that Scotland would move into Level 4 which nears a full lockdown.
I was broken hearted. Never before in my lifetime had I been alone for Christmas or not seen any family. But my wide circle of friends did not betray me and graciously ensured that I was not alone on Christmas day and invited me to join them for Christmas dinner. It was a emotionally hard day on Christmas day, waking up alone, opening presents under my tree on my own and opening the traditional bottle of Prosecco on my own. We are lucky now to live in a world of such technology that things like Facetime, Houseparty, Messenger and Whatsapp means we can connect to the world. I spent all morning on Christmas day phoning and video calling literally half my phone book! Back in the World War, none of that existed.
One thing however I learnt – I am lucky, as in so incredibly lucky to have such loving and caring friends who live nearby and who came to my aid over Christmas to ensure I was looked after. But I also knew that many many others would be worse off – some were students who couldn’t get home and had to stay with flatmates, some tested positive and had to self isolate, others were completely alone with no one and some had young children and no income. So I decided to do something about that and bring both Christmas joy and indeed community spirit to Edinburgh.
I decided to make soup! I love soup, it’s like the greatest food that warms you up and I think you could describe it as “happy cure of depression food”. So I posted on The Meadows Facebook Page which is a community group of over 46,000 members and offered to make soup for absolutely anyone who needed it asking for no payment but simply to click “like” on Autism on the Water. The response has been unbelievable – the community of Edinburgh have given me nothing but kindness and good vibes and since Christmas I have cycled 100 miles around the city and delivered around 60-70 containers of soup to people. In just 4 weeks, Autism on the Water went from 3100 followers to now over 6000! Seeing these people smile and get looked after by me makes me happy because my family and friends have done that for me all my life and continue to do so today. We all need a little love just now and I will repeat over and over again – you need anything, you ask!
We faced such a strict Christmas – but only a week or so later, our lives became more stricter. We are back in lockdown, laws have been passed to make non essential travel illegal, shops are shut except the essential ones, supermarkets are fully enforcing things such as facemasks unless exempt, schools are closed, takeaway pints are now banned, click and collect and going inside a takeaway restaurant is now illegal. The virus is now A LOT worse than last year, cases are in the thousands everyday, hospitals are now starting to become overwhelmed and very sadly deaths are rising. Where did we go wrong with all this? Nearly a year of this shambolic handling of this pandemic and we are nowhere near returning to what used to be normal. Look at New Zealand who got it right from day 1, they shut their borders, they imposed a super 10 week strict lockdown, came out in stages opening up here and opening up there and the end results after little under 3 months have returned to pretty much full normality. The vaccine roll out is indeed positive and I think we all have to take this into account – vaccines will give us a way out – but the overall question is how much longer realistically can the government keep these restrictions going? We need lockdown, we need to protect the NHS and keep us all safe and save lives – but the people’s question is “how long”? No one knows, that is the simple answer.
I have strongly advocated for autism over the past year throughout the pandemic, trying to raise awareness of the rights of autistic people such as exemptions from face coverings, social bubbles etc. Much of that has been met to me by people who call me selfish, accuse me of endangering people’s lives and how I should be locked up until this is over. Seriously I really don’t know why some people have nothing better to do then bully someone online about opinions of this pandemic. You are entitled to your opinion but don’t you dare ever turn round and ever accuse me of “endangering people’s lives”. I am a tolerant human and I try not to lose my rag at nonsense like this, but I will if anyone ever says that to me again. I play my part like many others in protecting others from this virus and following as much of the guidance and rules as I physically and mentally can. And now this brings me to my next point………MENTAL HEALTH!
January is usually a tough month for everyone but it is NOTHING compared to normal January. We are in a full and stricter lockdown where even people’s bubbles are being more cautious which they are fully entitled to do – but and this is where people as well as waking up to the reality of Covid need to wake up also to the vast reality of mental health. The government has completely ignored mental health of those throughout this pandemic – it affects everyone in so many different ways and whilst these restrictions are needed to protect others and protect the NHS, it sadly is also resulting in the loss of people through suicide. A couple of weeks ago on the program “This Morning” it was reported that four 17 year old teenagers took their own lives because they could not cope with both lockdown and isolation. That is someone’s son or daughter who had their whole life ahead of them and ended it because they could not cope with this. Has the government announced any recognition of that? Sadly not. Mental Health is so badly neglected right now.
What could I do to help? How could I show the world exactly what life is like being alone in a lockdown and how the mentality of this can drive someone to end their life or fade away? I have suffered from mental health severely over the last few months and continue to do so today. I thought back on the last 4 months in particular and everything mental health wise I had been through and what I was currently going through. This processed onto me spending 13 hours creating a film called “Life in Lockdown”. The film is randomly made with no script, it is all made up as I went along. It tells the story of my life in lockdown and reenacts sections of what mental health has done to me as a result of being in lockdown. Each scene is acted out and as a warning some of the scenes are distressing – it was emotional for me to return to these experiences and act them out – but it is needed! So many are alone right now. I have no one right now, no family nearby, no bubble – just me and Hey Google who I refer too as “Sheryl”. The film starts off very dark and sad but ends with positivity with a important message at the end “Stay Home, Protect the NHS and save lives……….but check on those who are alone even if it means breaking a lockdown rule slightly”. One knock at the window could save someone’s life.
Since making that video – it has been seen by 4.2K people! I have had messages and emails from friends across the world and total strangers thanking me for sharing such a powerful story. No thanks are needed by what is needed is more realisation that mental health can also lead to sadly more younger deaths and tragically last week – I was unfortunate to be in the thick of this.
A friend of mine on the autistic spectrum, only 22 years old tragically took her own life. We were talking on the phone and she hung up on me and despite 20 odd attempts to call her back, I could not get through. I had to make the devastating call to the ambulance and even more tragically I did not know where she lived. By the time they had found her address and got there, she was dead. That dark and cold Sunday night will forever haunt me for the rest of my life. I wish beyond anything that I could have done more to save her. I could have but sadly it was just too late. I was up all that night crying and in shock that she actually took her life. On Monday morning I had to go to the police station and make a statement about our final phone call. The police were so kind and caring and they did not rush me through any of the process and reassured me that nothing could have been done. I send her family my deepest condolences and love at this extremely difficult time and once again appeal to the world to please please check on anyone who may try to do something similar. It is not much to ask.
Time is a great healer. I will never forget my friend and I will honour her memory by continuing to raise awareness of both Autism and Mental Health through the remainder of this ongoing pandemic. If there is one benefit of lockdown right now, its a perfect chance to tell a story. I have spoken to multiple newspapers in recent days such as Daily Record, The Student and Deadline News about my soup initiative and Autism on the Water. The response again has been fantastic with more likes for my charity, more people reaching out about their mental health and in general more people are starting to understand. If all of us could leave behind a legacy it is to be more understanding and think before you say and respect that the answer your seeking may not be the one you want to hear.
Aside from newspapers, BBC Radio Scotland even got in touch with me to come on their show via telephone to say a few words and thank some special people. “Mornings with Kaye Adams” was a privilege and honour to a part of a great opportunity to thank The Meadows Share and my friends Gerry, Graham and Katie for all their help and support. If you want to listen, here is the link – scroll to 1:30:00 to hear my bit.
I encourage all of you to once again please check on those who are living alone and just simply make sure they are okay. Please watch my film and keep sharing it – the link you can find below.
As always I like to thank people in my blogs or post but for this one – I want to thank a new friend of mine and that is Katie. Katie is a sailor and a wonderful influence currently in my life. She and I chat everyday, we send postcards to each other and we are there for each other virtually when we need it. We all need that special someone in our life and Katie is that person to me. But you don’t need one special person, we can have as many special persons as we so wish. So if you need me – I will be your special person. Thank you Katie 🙂
I also want to pay tribute to a dear friend of mine who is currently ill with Covid right now and has even spent a small amount of time in hospital. Whilst taking into account mental health and all the frustrations our lives our facing, please always bare in mind the dangers of this virus and do what you can to protect each other. If you can’t wear a mask for example be that little bit extra careful in the shops. Remember your pass if your exempt!
For now however, please stay safe all of you, protect NHS, stay at home etc. but check on those who are alone and help them if you can. If you can do one positive thing just now even with everything being so bleak – Fight what is happening in the Present and Plan for the future because one day this will be over and when it is we will remember those we lost and we will rebuild our lives and society TOGETHER!
With love to everyone!