As part of our Mind Yer ‘Ed series, Steve Sherry, chair of his local LGBT group in Bolton, shares his experience of the coronavirus pandemic.
Steve, aged 59, has been shielding since the first lockdown in March to protect his parents and has seen the pandemic completely change his life.
Here he tells us what life has been like and how helping others has given him a source of strength and achievement.
“I’m was used to being out and about nearly every day. Before the pandemic, I would be here there and everywhere and I was in town nearly four or five times a week for meetings and focus groups. I was meeting people all the time and I’ve gone from that to virtually nothing.
“My father is 80 and I’m also living with my mother but she’s not in good health either. She’s 70 but she’s not physically capable of looking after my dad.
“When we got the shielding letter, the GP came to visit and advised us that we should avoid going out for a time unless absolutely necessary because the risk was so big and that’s what we did.
“Mental health-wise, there’s no two ways about it, it has affected me. I’ve had a lot of days and periods where I’ve been extremely down but when people from the LGBT group contact me, I’ve got to pretend that I’m coping while I’m trying to help them with their issues.
“Helping others does give me a sense of strength and achievement, though. The other week I was able to help a member of the group who contacted me about issues he’s been having with his housing.
“This person was struggling with their mental health and in the end, we managed to sort everything out and that was quite empowering. It felt good to help him and I’ve done this probably about 20 or 30 times over the course of the pandemic.
“As part of the LGBT group in Bolton, we’ve had weekly Zoom meetings. We can have about 10 or 15 people on there, but some days it might just be three of us. It’s a lot better than nothing at all but it’s just not the same as a normal face-to-face meeting.
“I’m the LGBT advisor Greater Manchester Police and Bolton Council and I’ve been having about five or six zoom meetings a week. Just keeping yourself occupied does help.
“But for a couple of weeks, I was very down and frustrated we couldn’t get a shielding letter and set up priority food deliveries and medication. It was really getting to me.
“Once this was sorted out, I gradually started bringing things back into my life. Now I’m having more Zoom meetings than I had actual face-to-face meetings before the pandemic.
“I also manage to get walks in a couple of times a week and they lift me. I live less than a mile from Lancashire and if I walk about five minutes, I’m in the countryside.
“Before the pandemic, I didn’t have much time to go out for a walk and now that I have that time, I appreciate it a lot more. After the pandemic the walking won’t stop. It’s easy to do and you can commit to it whenever you’ve got time. I’ve found it extremely useful and way more calming and therapeutic than I ever thought it would be.
“I think the pandemic has brought an awful lot of people together because we’re all in the same situation. A lot of people are looking out for each other and hopeful that will continue after it’s all over.”
For more information on how you can keep well in both body and mind, get advice from Independent Age here.