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Why is isolation freaking me out so much?!

Kate Middleton photo Kate Middleton · 12 Nov, 2020

So the other day I was in school when we got called out of lessons and basically me and a couple of other people got sent home on isolation - someone who was in a class with us tested positive and so the 4 of us who sat at the same science bench are now stuck at home for 14 days.

I'm so upset and I don't know why. Since it happened I can't stop crying and I feel really freaked out by it. How can I stop being such an idiot? I bet no one else is reacting like this?!

Tilly, 14

Hey Tilly,

So - you are not the only one to be having this experience this week I bet! In the last week I've heard of three or four teens sent home to isolate for the same kinda reason - including in my own household!!

And the thing is - this is one heck of a shock. I mean one minute you are plodding on through normal everyday life and the next EVERYTHING has changed. All your plans, your routine ... and yeah I know maybe you didn't have THAT many plans except going to school, but your brain uses routine to feel in control and keep stress low - because when things are happening the way they always do you don't have to think about it. When everything changes - that needs your brain to do some work and think differently - and to make that happen it triggers emotions like anxiety to focus attention and get the analysing, clever bit of your mind whirring away.

And there's other reasons this weird moment holds a lot of emotion. I mean - there's a theoretical risk here - could you have caught Rona? And even if the risk to you is low, or the chances small, again you know how your brain grabs your attention and gets you to think about that? Anxiety! What about whether this means anything else that is important to you might be affected? Visited Grandma recently? Your mind starts buzzing, was that before or after this person would have been ill ... again - your brain gets buzzing because it uses anxiety to wind itself up.

And another thing - isolation isn't the same as lockdown. If your story is anything like the ones I heard you were pretty much frog-marched straight out of school!. And then you're not allowed to leave home AT ALL for the rest of the time. The only context we have in our minds to compare that to is being in prison or punished, or maybe trapped, shut in? They are not good stories or comparisons to make - so guess what? More anxiety!

So all in all, this moment triggers quite a BIG hit of emotion - so its TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE you are feeling it. What can you do? Well emotion's job is to get your attention so you can think it through and when you've done that and done anything you need to do to sort stuff, the emotion will settle. But when the emotion feels bad and we don't want to think about difficult stuff we get stuck in a pattern where the emotion bobs up to the surface and we push it down ... and it bobs up again - like trying to keep a beach ball under the water in a swimming pool! If you want the feelings to vamoush you need to find a way to give them headspace. Can you chat to someone about it? It doesn't need to be full-on - just talk it out, get it out of your head. Ar try writing it down? Or just let your mind go there, and try to hold that anxiety - its ok to feel it, nothing bad is gonna happen ... let your brain hover around it a bit, then move on. The more you can do that the more it will settle and then you can start to figure out how you're gonna pass 14 days so it feels more treat than terrible (hint, in my family it has involved a LOT of pyjama days ...).

Oh and one other thing - I bet you're not the only one feeling like this! Dare to share? I bet if you are chatting with the others who got sent home and ask them what they're finding hard about it, they'll have stuff to say. Not the same stuff as you necessarily, but everyone will have things to process in this moment. So don't feel bad for feeling. It just means you are human - which trust me is a good thing ;)


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