Life in quarantine

It’s day 3 of my 10 day stay in Managed Isolation and Quarantine in New Zealand (otherwise known as ‘MIQ’). I landed on Tuesday 11 January (day 0) and it’s now Friday. All being well, I’ll be out of here on Friday 21 January and able to reunite with my husband and three daughters, after nearly four months apart.

Walking into my room for the first time felt like walking head first into a wall. I was suddenly hit by the reality that when I closed the door behind me I wouldn’t be permitted to open it unless there was an approved reason. I walked to the window and looked out, thick glass separating me from the outside world. The air conditioned air felt artificial and cool, whilst outside the blue sky taunted me and the Met service reported temperatures in the mid twenties.

I felt a bubble of emotion coming up from my gut, but decided not to allow it to surface. I pushed back the tears and told myself to focus, to set myself tasks, to write a list of things I’d like to do with the time, to set routines to help manage my mental health.

And now it’s midday on Friday and up until this point I have surprised myself with how I’ve been coping. I loaded up an audio book and managed to walk 5km in just over an hour, pacing the room and listening to a story, glancing out the window and waving at children in a building opposite. I’ve done an online workout and some yoga, started to read a couple of books, and written a blog post about the day Mum passed away (probably not the best thing to do whilst I’m in a room by myself). I’ve talked with friends on video calls and made sure to take care of myself and keeping my room tidy, little tasks that bring a sense of normality.

Pacing my room for an hour, listening to an audiobook.

The hotel room’s telephone rings a couple of times a day. Reception call to ask for my food choices for the next day (thankfully, the food is really good).

The nurse phones once a day to check I’m okay, to ask if I’m eating normally, sleeping well and not experiencing any covid symptoms. I get notes pushed under the door instructing me to expect a phone call for a covid test and to be available between the hours of 9am and 12pm. I obediently go down for my test. I’ve already had two tests in the time I’ve been here (one on ‘day one’) and my second this morning (day three). After my day one test I received a ‘blue band’ to wear – to indicate that my test was negative. The blue band allows me to book one walking slot in a 24 hour period.

I received my band on the afternoon of day 2 and booked in a slot for later that day – unfortunately ‘Custom Lane’ wasn’t great… it was a covered laneway with barricades at either end – with only limited air-flow… so a huge disappointment – still it felt good to stretch my legs in an area bigger than my room – even if it was walking in loops, in a clockwise direction, making sure to stay 2 metres behind the person in front of me.

I made a phone call to try and book a slot in the other exercise area, on the deck on level 2. I was given two options – 6:40am or 9:30pm. I went for the morning slot, as I’m waking really early at the moment. I thought the fresh air would lift me up – and it did – for a moment – walking under natural light and feeling a gentle breeze through my hair – but all too soon the half hour was up and I was back in the artificial containment of the hotel and that small taste of freedom tormented me rather than appeased me.

I’m working so hard to be positive. Friends video call and message, checking in on me. Talking with them is wonderful and definitely makes me feel better. People say they’d love ten days by themselves, with all meals provided, and in theory it sounds wonderful – but to be confined to a room with no opening windows is incredibly stifling for someone who relies on daily walks in nature for their mental well being. I am surrounded by inner city sounds and the constant hum of the air conditioning unit in the room. One friend sent me a lovely video on my first morning in MIQ – she was awake early, listening to the dawn chorus and sent me the sound of Tui singing. It was such a lovely sound to hear. I’d had to put in ear plugs the night before, as ‘boy racers’ on the streets like to rev their engines for fun, sirens blare and the sound of drunken voices carry through the thick glass, where air doesn’t.

My favourite time of day is the evening, when the sun works its way around to my side of the building. I have a couple of hours when the sun blasts through my window. I sit on the window seat, watching the light bounce off the buildings and the people going about their days. I close my eyes and absorb the warmth of the sun through the glass, imagining I’m lying on a beach or in a beautiful garden.

There are some beautiful heritage buildings near me, one in particular is directly opposite. I envy the people in the apartments, with their windows thrown open. I watch their curtains billowing in the wind and imagine how that air must feel.

Today was the first time I was struck with ‘the blues’ – totally unexpectedly – kind of like the 3 day blues after child-birth, without the physical pain and leaky boobs! Basically, big ugly sobs that keep coming and bubble up without warning, for no reason, other than that there’s a whole lot of feelings being carried within a single person that are too much to contain!

Reception phoned to ask me what meals I’d like for the following day, but as I looked at the menu I started to cry and couldn’t make a decision, tears came from no where and I started sobbing. The receptionist was so lovely and asked if I was okay (as clearly I wasn’t). I briefly mentioned about my situation and how it had all just hit me…

I’m grieving the recent passing of my Mum, processing the feelings of sadness in leaving my Dad, sister, family and friends in England, whilst sitting alone in a room. I haven’t seen my husband and three daughters in nearly four months and every day in this room feels like eternity. I simply can’t wait to give them all a very big hug when I get out of here on Friday 21st January (all being well!). I guess it’s okay to not feel okay all the time. I’ve allowed myself to crawl into bed this afternoon and watch a movie, I still feel weepy, but I’m hoping I’ll push these clouds away and be a little more positive in a few hours.

One day at a time.