‘If it wasn’t for lockdown’: lives that changed for the better | Coronavirus | #facebookdating | #tinder | #pof


Buying a house together

For Rose de la Font and Aagash Vadera from Altrincham, Greater Manchester, lockdown has been a “really good acid test” for their 11-month relationship. “We figured out how to live together and resolve all the things you encounter when two lives become one,” said Vadera, 28.

The couple met on a dating site last November and were matched when both were in the same pub in London even though Vadera, a doctor, lived in Manchester and De la Font, a singing teacher, in London. After two months of speaking every day, they met in person in Stratford-upon-Avon. “We wanted to meet somewhere that was new for both of us, and it ended up being really nice,” said De la Font, 26.

Their long-distance relationship was cut short when De la Font stayed with Vadera in Manchester during lockdown. “The pandemic meant choirs were impossible, so I thought I’d focus on one-to-one teaching. We got on so well that I thought I should just leave London for good. It was a lot easier than I expected.”

“I was super excited and in disbelief that things had moved so fast,” added Vadera.

De la Font felt “really lucky” that they met. “So many people at this time have experienced loneliness. Aagash is very supportive and if we didn’t have lockdown I don’t think we’d be together. We’re now looking at buying a house.”

The dog that staves off depression

Karen with Sidney the dog
Karen on Sidney: ‘We’ve been inseparable ever since.’

“When he first arrived all I felt was love and tenderness for the poor wretch,” said Karen Mitchell, 53, from Kendal, Cumbria, of her dog Sidney. “At first he was scared but within 30 minutes he was sleeping on my lap.”

Before lockdown Mitchell, the chief executive of a sustainability charity, was commuting 20 miles a day to an office in Penrith. She had wanted to get a dog but felt she couldn’t because of work. In June a friend sent her a photo of Sidney from the Facebook page of an animal shelter in Spain.

“I was instantly energised and inspired,” she said. “I now work from home, live alone, I’m single with no children and knew that I needed another living thing in my house besides spiders.

“The process was remarkably easy. I sent a video of my house to the shelter and within an hour I was told I could have him.” Transport was organised and two weeks later he arrived at her doorstep. “We’ve been inseparable ever since.”

Mitchell has recently been diagnosed with depression and said she felt she would be worse off without Sidney. “I have to look after myself in order to look after him, and whatever happens we’re in it together. He’s the reason I get out of bed in the morning.”

Studying for another degree

Rachel, a cinema worker in Leeds, has decided to return to university to study part-time. “Lockdown made me realise I need to keep focused on something productive for the foreseeable future instead of worrying about things I can’t control,” she said.

Rachel, who is in her 30s, was furloughed for most of lockdown. She is now back at work and studying for a masters in psychology of sport and exercise. “I’ve struggled with anxiety throughout my life but with uncertainty over the future of the cinema industry, I thought it would be a good time to focus on myself.”

“There’s a growing sense of anything could happen and studying again opens up the possibility of taking on another career. I feel really motivated to make the most of what I can right now.”

Paul Fowler
Paul Fowler: ‘It was like flipping a switch.’ Photograph: Paul Fowler

A belated diagnosis that provided clarity

For Paul Fowler, a 51-year-old IT worker from Sheffield, working from home during lockdown was difficult. “I was struggling to complete even the simplest tasks,” he said.

Six weeks into lockdown he decided to try something different. “It was like an erectile dysfunction of the mind,” he added. “I tried exercising more, going to bed early, and making sure I was getting more than my five-a-day. I even stopped drinking for over a month but it had no effect.”

Fowler was confused but when he started reading about ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) he felt he may have found the answer. “I recognised I had the symptoms. I think I had developed coping strategies to get by but lockdown was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Shortly afterwards Fowler was diagnosed with ADHD and has been prescribed medication. “I was kind of elated that the diagnosis would have a positive impact on my life,” he said. “It was like flipping a switch. Overnight my ability to work and function improved massively. If it hadn’t been for Covid I would’ve just continued to muddle along.

“Most importantly I’m rekindling my relationship with my ex-wife. It’s painfully obvious that many of the problems we had in our marriage were a direct result of my undiagnosed ADHD. We went on a family holiday for the first time in a long time – we have another one planned. It’s a work in progress, but it’s been illuminating.”

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