Reflections on Covid-19 lockdown from a former hostage
At the start of 2021, the work of Hostage International continues apace as we remain in the midst of this global Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen a rise in the number of former hostages reaching to us for support.
The coronavirus initially took the world by surprise resulting in millions of us having to be in lockdown for weeks on end. Now, for some countries, we are there again.
Having survived being a hostage where I was in solitary confinement for six months, the thought of going through any kind of confinement was something that initially frightened me and not knowing when I would see my family and friends again triggered feelings I hadn’t had for many years.
However, sensibility took over and I began to reflect on how I got through my ordeal back in 2011 and told myself that any confinement here in my own surroundings with all the different distractions and stimulation that mobile telephones, television and social media provide meant that I was never going to be as isolated and lonely as I was thousands of miles away in a dark room somewhere in Somalia.
The need for structure
When I was a hostage, I forced myself to create a structure, so that is what I have done over these past months at home. I have created a focus to each day. In Somalia, I walked around whichever room I was in for half an hour every hour; I made lists, I created games and I wrote a diary, as it was important to keep my mind and body as healthy as I possibly could. So I tackle lockdown in much the same way. I have made sure I shower and get dressed every morning and make the most of the day.
An important thing for me was not to allow the situation to overwhelm me; letting oneself be overwhelmed can induce fear, and fear can be debilitating and destructive. I learnt that from being a hostage. So, I don’t watch rolling news reports and I don’t read many newspapers as they all seem to be full of Coronavirus.
I find myself living in the moment in a world of my making as I did when I was a hostage. I give myself time to connect with myself, which is something that in this busy world we rarely have time for. It is important for me to reach out to my family more often than I would normally do and I have mastered the art of Zoom, Skype and FaceTime! I hope that will continue when this is all over and our new normal is up and running. I ensure that I cook healthy meals for myself based around the restrictions of certain food; my house has never been so clean and I am fortunate that I have a garden so there is always plenty to do. When I was a hostage, my daily mantra was “this situation is temporary”; this pandemic will also be temporary.
Many across the world are back in lockdown, with the vaccine bringing some positivity. But I hope that people will be able to find time to process what our life has been like over these last few months.
Let’s remind ourselves of all the good things in life, the simple things, and having our freedom. Because freedom is not something we all have. Today there are many people being held hostage in countries all around the world. Let’s spare a thought for them.
Being a hostage and or the family of a hostage is a very challenging and frightening situation to be in. Even when a hostage returns home, the challenges don’t end there, which is why I became involved with Hostage International. I know first-hand about the difficulties of navigating reintegration and the importance of having someone to support you and help make sense of a different way of life. That support makes the journey a lot easier for the returning hostage and their families.
In order that we can carry on the important work of Hostage International, particularly in these difficult times, we rely on donations. If you can help us, you will be helping individuals and families for whom lockdown is an additional constraint on top of an already harrowing experience.
Hostage International Trustee
Judith is due to be joining Terry Waite and John McCarthy in conversation in June 2021. Find out more about the event.