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Covid: Six months' shielding 'enough to drive you insane'

By Amy Gladwell
BBC News Online

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image copyrightTuesday Gale
image captionTuesday Gale said she felt frustrated some people did not respect her decision to continue shielding

A young woman with a life-limiting condition who has been shielding alone for six months has said the challenges have been "enough to drive you insane".

Tuesday Gale, 31, who has rare immune disorder chronic granulomatous disease, has been largely confined to a one-bedroom flat with no garden in Newquay, Cornwall, since March.

She has relied on writing poetry and the companionship of her dog.

Shielding advice was paused in August, but medics advised Ms Gale to continue.

Ms Gale, who was told two years ago she "would be lucky to live into her early 30s", said shielding had affected every aspect of her life, including her physical and mental health and relationships.

image copyrightTuesday Gale
image captionTuesday says her dog, who is regularly walked, has provided essential companionship

The possibility of a bone marrow transplant to prolong her life has been put on hold due to the impact of the virus.

"All I've done is wake up, move from my bedroom to the living room and back to bed - it is enough to drive you insane," she said.

The government relaxed advice from 1 August for 2.2 million people in England who had been shielding due to being deemed extremely vulnerable to Covid-19.

But many, like Ms Gale, chose to continue on consultants' advice.

"It's like being punished for something that is completely out of your control," she said.

She "wanted to scream and shout" at some public reactions to recent national government restrictions.

"You can still go to the pub, you just have to leave at 10pm," she said.

image captionTuesday lives a short walk from Newquay's beaches but has had to avoid them all summer

Ms Gale described how the sense of community and camaraderie in lockdown had disappeared.

"My friendships have deteriorated a lot. We haven't seen each other face-to-face - their lives have begun again... but I am still stuck here in my prison cell," she said.

She has been "battling with feelings of isolation, loneliness", feeling judged by some as over-cautious, and "struggling to get mental health help from services".

Her shielding has no end in sight, she said, but there were rays of hope.

Joining a weekly online poetry-writing group has "fulfilled that human need of connection" and given her "distraction, confidence and new friendships".

One of the few social interactions she has had this year was a recent small family garden barbecue for her birthday - which she described as her "best ever birthday".

Ms Gale is due to move to a house with a garden this month and said she "cannot wait".

If you have been affected by the issues in this story, find out what help is available for mental health here.

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