I share the lockdown depression - but there is an antidote

Esther Rantzen at her Hampstead home after she was made a Dame in the New Year Honours 2015.

Esther Rantzen at her Hampstead home after she was made a Dame in the New Year Honours 2015. - Credit: John Stillwell/PA Archive/PA Images

Funny, the things we used to spend our time worrying about. 

What time should I set the alarm tomorrow morning? Will I find a good parking spot when I go to this meeting or that event? What time should I visit my grandchildren? Where should I plan my next holiday? What’s good on stage, or film, should I book a table in the nearest restaurant? And what should I wear?

Lockdown has obliterated all those decisions. No alarm needs to be set, I’m going nowhere. Not even for my second jab (as I’m eighty I had my first Pfizer just before Christmas). That has been postponed, I’m glad to say, since I hope somebody working in the NHS or a care-home, or delivering my post and my groceries will have my jab instead of me.  They have earned it, they deserve it, and we need them.

I do realize I am very lucky. My work is possible virtually, via the internet. None of my nearest and dearest has suffered badly during the pandemic, although some have tested positive and felt very unwell, none has been hospitalized, touch wood.

So I don’t feel nostalgic about my old normal, I quite enjoy being a hermit, or I have so far. Television fills the entertainment gap, Zoom enables me to join meetings and events without the worry of parking and congestion charges, and holidays are off the agenda at the moment. My greatest decision is which of my three woolly onesies to wear today.  

But I do miss the people, my children, the grandchildren, the loving friends, the fun of dinners together in our fabulous local restaurants. These are lonely times. Whether it’s the grey skies, the afternoons as dark as midnight, or the lack of buzz in the city streets, I share the depression I recognize from my conversations with isolated callers to The Silver Line helpline. But there is an antidote.

My daughter has encouraged me to get a large glass jar, and some scraps of paper. Then you give yourself some topics, for instance, something lovely you have seen in nature, a happy surprise, a favourite memory, or something that has made you laugh. Every morning, along with your first cup of tea, write down your answer on one of the scraps, and stick it in the jar. The discipline has been really good for me, reminding me of the good news we never hear broadcast. And it’s amazing how fast that jar fills up.

  • Dame Esther Rantzen is a journalist and broadcaster, and founder of Childline and The Silver Line.

The Silver Line is the only free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Call 0800 4 70 80 90 or visit thesilverline.org.uk

Childline provides help and advice about a wide range of issues. Telephone 0800 1111 or visit childline.org.uk/

READ MORE: Esther Rantzen on the Ham&High Podcast

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