• heathergraham867

From shielding to surprises

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

Life-long gut disease? Check.

Boyfriend moving countries for a new job? Check.

Worldwide pandemic stopping air travel? Triple check.

Ashleigh Morrison, 29, last saw her boyfriend, Paul Moss, 33, in March just before coronavirus cemented itself in the UK.

Photo: Ashleigh Morrison

Until early 2020, the pair were living together in Dumbarton, Ashleigh's job involved travelling up and down the country to train engineers and Paul was in the Royal Navy.

2020 was the year of change though. Paul left the Royal Navy to pursue a career in banking, which landed him a placement in Germany for a year. At the time they were ecstatic with the new opportunity, but not long after he got settled, coronavirus made a beeline for the UK.

Ashleigh suffers from Crohn's disease, which affects the digestive system and there is no cure for it. Due to her treatment, she is in the high-risk category for coronavirus and has been shielding since March. So, visiting Paul in Germany was completely out of the question.

She realised the virus was going to impact her and Paul a lot more than she anticipated after receiving letters telling her to shield.

“I wasn’t allowed to leave the house or see my mum or anything, so when was I going to be able to see someone in a different country?”

After the initial shock of shielding, she decided to take a positive out of her forced solitude.

“I’ve never really been a person that enjoys my own company, but I’ve learned to love it. Now I’m making the most it because I will probably never get this much peace and quiet again… ever!”

One area in Ashleigh's life that has not changed dramatically is work. Many people have been furloughed or made redundant, but Ashleigh's managed to keep her full-time job and is working from home. Due to Crohn's flare-ups, working from home has been ideal for her.

“If I was fine health-wise then I would be dying to get back into the office but because of the nature of what’s wrong with me, having my bathroom next to me and my own toilet has helped a lot.”

Even if the country gets back to some normality in the coming months, Ashleigh will be one of the last to go back to the office. Between shielding on her own for so long and the everchanging rules of when she will be allowed to see Paul again, the lockdown has affected her mental health.

“I’m anxious about going out in public, I think I will have a bit of social anxiety when I’m allowed to mingle again. Don’t get me wrong I will do it because I’m dying to see everyone, but afterwards in the house myself, I’ll just have time to think about it.”

Since Ashleigh has been confined to the walls of her own home, she has had to rely on others to get her shopping and prescriptions, which she found difficult at first. Sometimes she would be so fed up that she would get ready to leave the house and Paul would talk her down and make her focus on her health.

Although in a different country, he has been good support for Ashleigh during shielding.

“I’ve had days where I’ve phoned him in tears, I haven’t been completely positive every day. I have had meltdowns, but I remind myself that it’s not that bad, we will get to see each other and there’s a lot worse that could happen.”

Paul is currently living in Germany and working in Luxembourg, where they have been out of lockdown for several weeks and he can wine and dine to his heart’s content. He has also managed to get into the office most days, albeit on a rotational basis. This is a stark difference from Ashleigh’s shielding life, but she has managed to come to terms with it.

Photo: Ashleigh Morrison

“Back in the day I would’ve been a nutter, but he’s good at keeping in touch and he’s always honest about what he’s doing. It’s because I trust him, and I just trust that he’s not going to be doing anything other than what he says.”

While Paul was in the Royal Navy, he would often go away for several months with no contact with the outside world. Although the couple never had to experience this together, Ashleigh thinks coronavirus has been a similar test for them.

“He’s so used to being away and not being able to speak, so this is a luxury that he can actually talk to me. I need to remind myself that he’s not sitting in the house constantly whereas I am, so he doesn’t have the same time I have. I think just being mindful and making sure we’re checking in with each other helps.”

She thinks lockdown has strengthened their relationship as they have never had to go through long periods of separation before. If they were living together in lockdown, there was always the chance to get on each other’s nerves, but being apart has ironically brought them closer together.

“The good thing [with lockdown] is that we’re not on top of each other, we would’ve just been in each other’s pockets doing each other’s heads in. I think it has been good because it’s made us want to have that time with each other.”

As the months go on, the need to meet up is only growing stronger. Previously due to air travel quarantine restrictions, Paul would have had to book at least two weeks off work to visit Ashleigh, but since the restrictions were eased on July 10th, the couple are hoping a reunion is not too far away.

For now, they are concentrating on all the things they can do when they finally meet again.

“We’ve just been excited to have a nice dinner and catch up and have some drinks. I think it’ll be nice to have a little bit of time to ourselves, but I’m excited to meet his new friends because I’ve never been able to meet them yet.”

And the surprise?

Last week Paul travelled back to Scotland in secret and proposed to Ashleigh on their doorstep.

“I was just so shocked that he was at the door that I didn’t even notice he was on one knee holding a ring!”

After spending some time together in Scotland, the couple are now planning their first visit to Luxembourg, where Ashleigh can see his new life.

Lockdown wasn’t wanted by anyone, but Ashleigh and Paul have managed to turn it into a positive experience and are now looking at a long, happy future together.

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