As the world is forced into self-isolation, many aren’t coping, both physically and mentally; but there are some (introverts not included) which to them, it is a way of life; many not by choice or design and I am one of them.
It has taken me a time to write this, because I was not sure what to really say on the matter until now, purely because up until now, I didn’t think much of the world would understand the frustrations and things that I do in self-isolation before this moment in time. Now I think or rather hope, that I would become crystal clear in what I am about to say and with a depth of understanding from those who are now forced into a similar situation by forces not of their own design too.
The isolation I have been forced into throughout my life by my mother, is entirely different to this pandemic, there was no fatal disease which could have affected me during that time, nor was there any government ruling set about to enforce my mother’s commands, though saying that, to me (at the time I was living with my mother) her word was law and any deviation from that law was harshly punishable.
My life in isolation day to day was like this;
There was no real schedule outside of dinner time, my day to day life was higgledy-piggledy and often turned upside side with the craziest stuff going on most of the time, there was in a word (insecurity), there was no predictability in my day. The only things I could rely on to be part of my day were, cleaning and eating dinner at 4pm on the dot. I was taught there was no comfort or security within the home, because nothing would remain the same day to day – in a literal sense. My mother suffered from OCD which meant she cleaned everything thoroughly and demanded that everyone in the house do her crazy cleaning rituals too with her, with the exception of dad because he worked – even if I went out to work occasionally on the times she allowed me to, it didn’t apply to me. Cleaning wasn’t so bad, but her obsessions to have a constant supply of household projects were both wasteful and sometimes downright silly. She would move the furniture around the house a lot, just for the sake of it and often she would end up putting the furniture back in the same way it always is by the end of the day unhappy with her new lay out – sometimes those lay outs would last for weeks, but often it would go back to the same old design. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a table now and again, but it was entire rooms being moved in one day! You was never warned when this would be, sometimes it would have started before I even woke up in the morning, sometimes it would start after dinner and there were even occasions she started it around midnight!
She would also have decorating projects, where she would re-carpet, or laminate a room and expect it to be done in a day maybe two days at most, painting walls was very popular with her, we did this more often than we should have. Redesigning the garden was another love of hers, constantly moving plants around and then wondering why her favourites die so easily. She never liked to leave the house more than three times a week herself for shopping or visiting, but would often insist in going out every day even for 20 minutes for walks. Funnily enough even when we had dogs, the dogs would usually be left behind whilst we, the owners go for a walk without them – which was something that never made sense to me – as a consequence our dogs were usually classed as obese by the vet.
When going for walks, other than the neighbourhood gossipers, mum wouldn’t talk to anyone no matter how friendly they seemed. Often she couldn’t be bothered with the neighbourhood gossipers and would literally drive to another street within a 3 mile radius and walk around there, so she didn’t have to talk to anyone. But one or twice she would walk the same places so often, their own local gossipers would come out and talk to her, thinking she was another neighbour from nearby, when that happened, she would avoid the area for several weeks. My mother never liked me standing with her when she was talk to other people, even when I was an adult, she would often require me to walk away and come back occasionally and she would give me secret hand signals to tell me roughly how long she will tolerate this person and what the conversation might be about. She had her secret codes to talk to me, so others never knew how she was controlling me and my actions and even my own conversational input.
I was taught this by her aggression after events happened, she would tell me what she did and how I should have reacted and often told me that other people in the world would understand what she did, but because I don’t go out and is active in the world, I haven’t learned these basic social instincts. I learned through my therapist that what she said was bullshit.
Sometimes mum would catch herself out, if we had a visitor sometimes she would absent-mindedly call me into the room, give me her secret signals which were both hand movement, sitting positions and various snorts which could be mistaken for her clearing her throat but I was taught that was a sign of displeasure and to please steer the conversation for her. Sometimes people were so used to the idea that when they visited I was the tea maker that if I was called in and mum didn’t say anything to me about the tea or spoke to me at all, that they felt they had to remind mum to prompt me to make more tea for them as obviously, that was the reason she called me in, wasn’t it? As rude as it may seem, they often did this; most of our visitors were family or rarely long-standing friends and Jehovah Witnesses.
Although we had visitors and talked to neighbours my life was socially isolated in that I was only allowed minimal conversation with them and was often shooed away with mums secret language to me, we would visit one person a week on average, sometimes we would visit more depends on either what mum wanted from them or what the person was going through at the time. Again, we could be sitting at another person’s house for several hours and during that time I would probably have said less than ten sentences in all of that time by mothers prompt. It was usual though that she would encourage me as entertainment occasionally, where I was made to play spiritualist as it were. As I have a clairvoyant talent and I also do various readings, such as tarot and things. This was the only time I was allowed to talk as much as I liked to whomever I was supposed to be entertaining. Another thing I was allowed to do was to talk as much as I liked about philosophy, religion and spirituality; but even there, there was a limit to how much I could say and for how long. Sometimes mum would give me permission to mock her, be cheeky to her to liven things up and make it seem like I had a personality of sorts.
It all may seem very strange to those who have had a normal life and upbringing, but to me at the time, I thought it was normal stuff, because my mum would often tell me, that this is how the world is. Everything is finite, there is a finite way about people that as someone who is not worldly, doesn’t understand and that is why, when I socialised independently I got myself into embarrassing situations because I misread the person. Often I reacted to other people based on how my mother interacted with me and the other person, obviously being unaware totally misread me or felt I had a split personality as I would often drift in and out of conversations quickly, thinking I have displeased them in some way, but no one understood what I was on about and to be honest, they shouldn’t have as it isn’t normal.
My activities also included gardening, I gardened a lot, I would garden a small collection of flowers but most of the florals I wasn’t allowed to touch or even learn about as my parents were possessive of them, as strange as it is, they would not teach me a thing about them at all, not even their names. My main gardening duties were the fruits and vegetables that my mum wanted for that year, I was also allowed a small area entirely of my own which included herbs and a couple of small tightly controlled trees, which at the time I never knew would have been called a bonsai version – which generally just meant heavily pruned and small in size. I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody that I did the gardening as much as I did, I was only allowed to mention my designated section, not the other work I did for my parents – that was their glory and they fiercely protected their reputation for being amazing gardeners. So I had learned from an early age that I had to swallow my pride and see all my hard work as the credit to someone else other than me, I even had to lie for my parents to make them sound amazing and even praise them for the work. Basically I knew, that I was praising myself but mum was prompt in reminding me when visitors had gone that I was not to feel proud of myself for what they had said, because I would never have done it if it weren’t her wishes for me to do so, so I had no right to take pride in my work because it wasn’t really my work. I just cared for it for her that is all, the credit will always be hers.
My dad was very sweet, he would occasionally tell people that I did it and taught them whatever about certain things, but mum would often attack dad for it when visitors were home as she felt shown up.
I was taught to cook for my family from the age of seven, everything from full English breakfast, lamb stew to meat and potato pies. I would cook the main dinner for the house approximately three times a week, sometimes more, but I mostly made lunch which would be anywhere between 11am and 3pm depends. Come what may, main dinner was always 4pm, except for Sundays and special occasions, where it would then be a 2pm dinner. Some Sundays I would visit my paternal grandmother and would have to consume two full roast dinners in one day, one with gran around noon and another when we get home to see mum around 6pm, because mum would anticipate we were fed at grans, so would knock Sunday roast dinner back by 2 hours.
My other gran didn’t have a specific day for being visited, because she was a fully mobile and energetic old lady who would quite often visit us and stay the night, or sometimes she would manage to steal me from my mother for the day or for a night at her house; which I loved, despite the very different and contrast environment of her home compared to my mums. My gran was the total opposite of my mum, not house-proud at all, just saw home as a place to sleep and store stuff she liked.
When I was with my gran, she demanded total independence from me. I had to be responsible for myself and as she was elderly, I had to help her, which meant going out alone and fetching things for her, walking her dog called Star and giving messages to other relatives around the area as they were all more or less neighbours within 10 streets of each other. I had to make her tea too and occasionally she felt that if I had a problem with how messy and unclean her house was, then I should deal with it how I see fit – which meant I was housekeeping for two people – my mum and my gran. But with gran, it was a choice, it wasn’t expected. At least with gran I got recognition and whenever I finished anything she would comment that I am such a good girl, now how about treating yourself to something from the chippy and getting me something to eat too?
I liked it when gran stole me from mum, because sometimes it would be for a few days at a time and gran never liked staying indoors for long. She was an early riser and out the door within half an hour of waking up, going to random places, visiting other relatives on a whim, going to car boot sales and whatever, wherever, anywhere within a 4 hour car drive one way, was doable in a day! Life was an adventure with this gran. Where my mother was obsessed with not going out much unless necessary and cleaning and decorating her house, my gran (her mother) was obsessed with going out, living day to day and avoiding housework full stop!
I think my gran had such a carefree attitude to life because she nearly died on several occasions throughout her life, she was born with a heart condition, lucky to live, had her first open heart surgery when she was 14 and has a new operation approximately every 2yrs throughout her whole life, more heart attacks and deep vein thrombosis than you could count along with haemophilia because of warfarin use. To say my gran was a very lucky person is an understatement! This includes finances too, she wasn’t rich, but she was never put in a situation of being too needy as she had the luck of the devil as she calls it. At her direst she would often feel it is time to go bingo-ing and would often win big prizes, sometimes she didn’t even have to leave the house, as she often did government bonds and would get letters proclaiming big prizes, once for 20k! I was one of the 5 grandchildren gran offered to take to Florida’s Disneyland but mum wouldn’t let me go, so she chose someone else, gran was angry about that as I was more into Disney than the other gran kids. But what made gran more pissed off was the fact that mum put it about the family that she never even asked me! Mum often lied, but was rarely caught out.
It is hard to stomach hearing someone slag off at every opportunity someone you know to be almost super hero like in quality to you, always spilling nasties out about them to someone who doesn’t know them. Mum absolutely hated my gran, but only tolerated her because of a promise she gave to my grandad on his death bed, when grandad begged mum to look after my gran for him. Grandad knew the hatred between gran and mum, mum never forgave grandad for putting that on her. As mum said, if it wasn’t for what he said, she would have abandoned gran the moment he died.
People often asked why tolerated gran mum if there is so much contempt, but mum would never answer them, she used to use me to steer the conversation to something else. The contempt was plain to everyone, because mum constantly spoke down to my gran and I think gran only tolerated it because of two things, she knew I needed a break from mum occasionally and stayed for me, and secondly, nobody else would tolerate her either as they were too busy.
Sometimes mum would try and stop my relationship with gran for a while, by sending me away to other relatives to live, so our relationship stalled. Gran caught mum out a couple of times as she would drive all the way from Burnt Oak, North London, to Market Drayton in Shropshire to visit her daughter and to see me, just for the day, which is why mum decided to concentrate more on dads family.
When I wasn’t required for entertainment, cleaning or companionship, my days consisted of playing games on my PlayStation or the internet, writing vampire stories and reading horror books and books on spirituality.
Basically, I was kept too busy to harp on the fact that I was both lonely and stuck indoors most of the time, which I think is a key thing for self-isolators to learn.
As my mum often did, she did a spring clean of the whole house once or twice a week, gardening, if you don’t have a garden do window box or window sill gardening. Read books, knit, sew, make your own clothes, draw, paint, write something, read magazines, play your with pets, do something with your kids, re-arrange your furniture. There is always something to blooming do, so do it.