This is why my first trip back to the town centre after lockdown wasn't easy

This is what is was like to go into the town centre for work for the first time, seeing the high street empty and getting on public transport.

Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 2:09 pm

Like many other people, I have been working from home since March but today was the day I took the plunge and headed back into Doncaster town centre.

I spent a long time debating if I was ready and got up extra early for my first commute in months.

As someone who has suffered from anxiety all my life, the last few months have been hard on my mental health.

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I matched my mask with my dress for my first outing to town.

As the world started to open back up I’m afraid I have not been able to enjoy the experience as much as my friends and family.

It took me until mid-June to venture out on walks as I had heard horror stories about my local park and I didn’t visit a retail shop until the end of July.

I had one really jarring experience whilst going to the doctors for a cervical cancer screening which made it really hard for me to want to be out and about.

Bus seats are taped off so that only one person can sit on a row of two.

I believe it’s extremely important to get tested so I forced myself to go, booking the day off work and mentally preparing for an uncomfortable experience.

Unfortunately, as I had to wear a face mask during the procedure I was unable to breathe properly which led to me having a panic attack.

Which as you can imagine in that circumstance was more than a little embarrassing.

The nurse was lovely and understanding but it took a long time to be able to manage my anxiety and get my breathing under control - not the best experience for a first time screening.

Doncaster Minster which sits in Doncaster Town Centre.

I completely and utterly believe that masks are necessary and important but during this experience, it was certainly a hindrance that I wasn’t expecting.

After that my anxiety was sky high and I have been fearful of having another panic attack in a mask ever since.

So when I say it took a lot for me to leave my house this morning I’m not over exaggerating.

It felt weird actually getting ready in a morning and not just rolling out of bed and turning my laptop on.

I was nervous to get back on public transport and to return to the hustle and the bustle but I was surprised to find it mostly empty.

The town centre was quieter than I had ever seen it before and it felt eerie to walk down the high street and only see one or two other people.

My anxiety was high because I thought maybe people wouldn’t be social distancing or wearing masks but I was wrong I didn’t see anyone flouting the rules.

If anything it was a much more friendly experience as those people you did pass in the street said a quick hello or smiled.

Not all of the shops have re-opened and there are a lot of shutters down both in the Frenchgate and outside in the streets.

But the outdoor market had a few customers and the owner of a fish and chip shop stood shouting ‘half price today’ at anyone walking past.

It still feels like a centre of activity but not as we knew it before.

It was honestly great to speak to people in the flesh as I think I have been missing that from my life in the last few months.

Like a lot of people, I have only seen close friends and family and the thought of meeting strangers had become impossible.

I had no problem getting there and back on the bus which as a daily commuter gave me great relief.

In fact I quite like that now no one can sit next to you makes the ride much more comfortable.

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