Evan Molloy talks to Annabel about his experience across the lockdowns. He talks about the impact it has had on his training as a professional athlete, how he has felt being away from family, and his concerns about the impact that developing attitudes in society are having have on disabled people.

OK. Hello, Evan. Nice to meet you. Hello

How are you? I'm great. Thank you. How are you today? Very well, thank you

Great. So thank you very much for agreeing to tell us about your experience of lockdown. Um, I'll just let you carry on and say whatever you would like to say to us

OK, thank you very much. So, um, as as you as you're aware, lockdown happened in, um, March of last year. And it was it was a bit of a surreal experience to begin with, because it was it was supposed to be a very big year in terms of me and, um, my sport that I do

I'm a I'm a great British judo athlete. And obviously there was the Paralympic Games. And for for the world, to be shut down and and just not knowing what was next was an extremely tough thing to sort of grasp in my head

And for for the first couple of weeks, I had a serious lack of mo motivation on what to do and how how to deal with the the covid situation. Uh, but the we started talking to our our teammates and our coaches and it was a they. They come up with a really good solution of doing our training and keeping as fit and as healthy as possible through zoom sessions and making sure that we're not gonna be, uh, doing things on our own As such

We're always gonna have people around us just through the computer, because we were training with all our all our teammates, just just online, and I feel like that was a massive that was massive mental mental, um, support. At that time, I'd say during the during the first lockdown it And in that first lockdown, I'd say, other than the first two weeks, we stayed very, um, mentally strong and very uplifting and very upbeat about the whole situation because I was like, No matter how things are now, it will get better. And that's the attitude I had through the first lockdown, which was just I think it was

It was the best way to be at the time. But in looking back on it, probably, um, maybe slightly unrealistic in in my head, because obviously they looking back on it now is we're still in the situation, aren't we? So it's it makes it quite tough. Um, but we we were allowed to go back to training in July

And, um, we had to We had to build back into our training because we were given exemptions on what elite athletes are allowed to do. So we, um, got back to training. We did, Did some really good work over the next few months

And then, um, the sort of a as we were building in to come into the second lockdown, it was it It was strange because the the consistency started to break up. And I'd say during during that during that time and possibly since I'd say I've I've struggled a fair bit with, um, inconsistency. And with with that inconsistency brings a bit more a bit more struggle to me

And when I'm training and I'm with my team and stuff and things like that, I I live in, uh, Birmingham. So I'm not I'm not with my family. I'm on my own up there and I'd say, going through going through these situations and not having not having your family there is I think it makes it so tough in it

I have so much sympathy because I've been I've I'm going through that situation and people in the first lockdown. That's all they had for the whole time. They just had themselves in their thoughts

And I think it is just It's just a not very not very nice situation to be in because there's just a constant unknown of what is coming next. And everything you see on the news is a worry because you hear, like the prime minister is going to go on the go on the news and make an announcement. You're like, Oh, no, what now? And you're never you're never you never think Oh, it could be some good news And I think I think that's that

That's hitting everybody in some way. And, um But I I'd say as it goes on, and as it um, the situation carries on, and I say It's just it's getting I've been through a struggle stage, and I now I now think I'm on the back of it in the sense that I'm realising that we are going back into a similar situation that we were in last in last year. Almost like we're allowed, we're allowed to do cer certain more things, but in in regards to the the severity of the situation and how people need to react to it

I think now, now it's more serious. I think it makes it. It changes your attitude because you realise you have a you have a responsibility almost to sort of, um, do your part to keep as many people safe as possible

Absolutely. And um so, yeah, I think that's that's sort of where we're at at the minute. But it I'd say ov overall lot

It's been quite tough because of the because of all the sit the situations and getting everything put in place for the country. Uh, some people are, um, losing their their patience a little bit with, uh, disabled people, I would say, because you get I get certain I I've had a couple of certain situations where, uh, I'm in a supermarket and I've been shouted at for not properly socially distancing and and there as a as A. And I was told that I should wear a necklace to say that I am visually impaired and, um, per personally, I'm I'm not a fan of those ideas because I don't I don't like the fact that I would have to wear a label to point out what what I am

I know that I'm visually impaired. Uh, because I I have been for 21 years of my life, you know, um and then I get somebody that's never met me before. Just go straight to that sort of thing and having a having a go at me when? Nine times out of 10

I'm probably absolutely fine. But now I've lost a lot of confidence in public situations on my own. So now I I rarely go into a supermarket or into a really public situation or on my own because of the worry of bumping into somebody and potentially hurting their feelings over me, Possibly not socially distancing

OK, and I I could I I can only imagine that I am. I'm not the only one that's been through something like that during this period. Absolutely

I would definitely agree with you on that. Yeah, so it's, um, I suppose it's just part of the situation that we're in now, and that's that's the way life life is at the moment. And hopefully it does get better and it will get better, but it's just a case of time, I think

And, uh, that's that's all we can hope for, I suppose. I just I suppose we can only hope for for things, things to get better. Yeah, well, thank you very much for telling me all of that

Um, and I think a lot of what you said people will resonate with. And probably like you said, Unfortunately, I shared some of the negative experiences as well. And hopefully, by sharing these stories and helping to people to understand what others are going through, um, raising awareness of a bit more kindness and understanding in different situations rather than jumping to the accusatory stance which, which you've, um, suffered from from people in the supermarkets just out of interest

Was it, um do you Do you happen to know if it's members of public or staff, or how was it? No, it was, uh, it was staff. And I I did When I when I got to the point, when I was getting served by the the particular woman at hand, I did, I did say to her that she really does need to take consideration for who she's talking to because she doesn't know their situation. And what what makes it worse for not so much had but the the companies as well

Is that how they are currently? Um, sort of making sure that they're getting their word out, that they are like they are supporting people with invisible disabilities through their through the Taos. And they're always saying, like, don't always make assumptions because not all disabilities are visible, but and then you have staff members that are not even following that, right? So they're contradicting. Yeah, uh, it's just it's just, um, a bit of a thing

I didn't I didn't make a complaint and I didn't do that. I'm not. I'm not that petty, you know, like at the end of the day, if that's the if that's the way she wants to be, then fair enough, but it it was just a bit of a, um there was a bit of a a taken back moment where it's not something I've necessarily encountered in that way before, but it just got into my head like that's just gonna happen more and more now because because the way people are in just the situation they? Some people are extremely, um, paranoid about the social distancing and and things like that, and it's a worry, and that that's that is fair enough

And, uh uh, I've had I've had I've had I've discussed it before. I think it's just something that people disabled people are gonna are gonna experience. I I feel like, uh the way that some disabled commun communities as a whole, whether it's visual impairment, whether it's a wheelchair and and things like things like that

I I think we have gone backwards in, like, sort of being able to get everything put out there, where people are OK with disabilities. I think it has gone backwards in that sense, but we can get we can, and we will get back to a place where it is OK to have disabilities, and it people won't judge you for it, or they won't treat you any differently for it. So, um, I just think again, we're go

We're gone back in time a bit, but it's just a matter of time, just like the the situation. Until we're able to get back to that place. Yes, absolutely

I share that hope with you And he is hoping that by sharing your story, it will help people understand how people with disabilities are having to cope with extra stresses and pressures during this time. Well, thank you very much for talking to me. Is there anything else you would like to add? Um, no, I think I think we're We're all good

OK, well, thank you. I'm just gonna stop the recording now, then.

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