As an NHS psychiatrist, my pandemic summer was shockingly busy. Home became a mess – and a haven

During lockdown, I was getting emails from friends saying: “We’ve done all the DIY, we’ve been spring-cleaning!” I was like: “My house is just a mess, the garden is a mess, and it’s getting worse.” I had a sense that other people were making these really fundamental changes – doing projects and finding new interests – whereas home became much more functional for me.

I was working even more hours than usual in my job as an NHS psychiatrist, so I spent less time at home. Before lockdown, I would always have people round; home was quite a sociable place. That all had to stop. It’s become more secluded – just me and my 18-year-old daughter.

The lockdown felt like Groundhog Day; feed the dogs, go for a run, go to work, come home, eat, sleep, repeat. On the plus side, home didn’t become somewhere I really wanted to get away from, like it did for many of those who felt they’d been cooped up. It felt like somewhere I could just relax and be myself. It became a bit of a haven away from the pandemic.

At work, it was pretty much all about the pandemic. We had staff off self-isolating. At its worst, there were three medics on my ward and two of them were off with Covid-19. I was having to cover their work as well as my own. I was coming back feeling really tense. Home has become a place I cuddle up with my dogs after another day on the ward. I appreciate it more now than I ever did before. I’ve become better at unwinding: cooking dinner, lying on the sofa, watching Netflix.

At the height of the pandemic, I would phone my daughter on the way home and say: “Can you start running me a bath?” That was obligatory when I got home in scrubs – everything went straight in the washing machine and then me in the bath. Then she’d bring me a gin and tonic, which she is now excellent at making.

My daughter had been working at a local cinema, but she was furloughed, so she’s mostly been at home. Much of the housework, cooking and dog care fell to her – and she has been a star. It’s been really nice for me – I don’t know about her – having some company and having another human being in the house.

We did have a sense of being a bit more of a team; getting through it together. We would eat dinner together each night and I’d try to make weekends special, so we would watch a film together on a Friday and eat pizza. We tried to make it feel as normal as possible.

My house is still a mess and the terrier sports a terrible home haircut, but who cares? We are alive and we are well.

Sarah Barrett is a pseudonym

The Guardian

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