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Tips on Getting Through the COVID-19 Lockdown From Someone with a Chronic Illness

an image of the author in the hospital and outside juxtaposed together
Having a chronic illness means Malhotra often has to pick and choose what she can participate in on her good days. Photos courtesy: Ritika Malhotra

Mental Health

Tips on Getting Through the COVID-19 Lockdown From Someone with a Chronic Illness

Many with chronic illnesses have to learn to stay indoors and find ways to cope.

Isolation and social distancing for most seem like temporary changes to their daily routine. But, what about those who like me live with chronic illnesses and are used to staying indoors for indefinite amounts of time?  

With the COVID-19 lockdown, millions of people around the world are now at home and it’s only normal to feel a myriad of emotions including frustration, sadness, and anxiety. I know because I went through the same thing when my freedom to move was taken away. 

I have gastroenterology intestinal problems which mean I’m hospitalized quite often. Since childhood, I have been living with structural and functional small intestinal disorders — the malrotation of intestines and motility disorder is the primary cause of my illness. I have been through several procedures, surgeries, and require prolonged and intermediate hospitalizations.

For the most part of my life, I’ve been cooped up inside for long periods either at home or at the hospital which is why with the COVID-19 lockdown underway, I don’t feel like my daily life has changed much.

As a chronically ill person, I must always choose my activities and where to focus my energy because the good days can often be rare.

It’s become second nature for me to forgo events, extra-curricular activities, hang out with friends, or just carry on with a normal routine because my health can often come in the way. I used to be an avid runner during my school days. I always aimed for the finish line and I’d run to forget my worries. But due to my deteriorating health condition, I dropped out to focus on my well-being. As a chronically ill person, I must always choose my activities and where to focus my energy because the good days can often be rare. I am an extrovert by nature, but suddenly I had to get used to living in a confined space. It was tough initially and it took a toll on my mental health as I battled with depression. Over the years, I’ve learned to turn to coping tools to get me through the rough days. 

Here are the lessons I’ve learned from my time at home which can support you through social distancing and the lockdown. 

Make space to grieve 

After grieving comes acceptance, but it’s important to allow for space to grieve. I had to adapt to my new normal just as many of you are now. Instead of suppressing any emotions, find ways to tackle and address them. Turn to therapy or online well-being resources. Find a trusted friend to listen to you or turn to journaling to guide yourself through your ups and downs. 

Look for the silver lining

an image of the author playing piano

I know this is a lifelong illness for me and it’s because of this condition, I’ve made friends with some incredible people from around the world who I’ve met during my hospital stays. The downtime at home or in the hospital has allowed me to pick up various activities, listen to podcasts, enroll in online workshops and training programs. I’ve had to adapt my way of life to make space for my health. Find your purpose, discover an activity that makes you so happy that you look forward to another day. I’ve learned resilience, and the bad days often fuel my determination to look forward to the good ones. To keep myself occupied at the hospital, I turned to art and writing like people are turning to cooking and working out now. I embraced meditation and Tai chi. I learned and experimented with beading, spirography, and wrote gratitude cards to help tide time. I also indulged my competitive side and turned to the gaming to give my adrenaline a boost and made time to practice the flute. Finding the silver lining was tough and took time, but it’s what get me through the rough days.

To learn when to ask for help

Early on, I realized I couldn’t get through this journey alone. While I developed resilience, I also learned when to reach out and ask for help. Even simple activities like playing a board game with my family would cheer me up. I couldn’t always see my friends when I was in the hospital just like millions of people now who are self-isolating by themselves. I missed the human connection and I learned to let my guard down and tell loved ones how I’m really feeling. Most importantly, I realized people aren’t telepathic — you have to sometimes spell it out and put forth your emotional needs. From Snapchat to video calls, I embraced it all. Schedule virtual coffee dates or play online games together to keep some form of social connection going.  


Also read: The Re:Set Guide to Supporting Someone with a Chronic Illness


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45 Comments

45 Comments

  1. Gehna

    June 15, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Love this, Ritika. More power to you ❤️

    • RACHNA KHARE

      June 17, 2020 at 6:31 am

      Bravo Ritika
      The Universe is with you sending positive energy always
      AND ME TOO . With plenty of good Chi as the Tai Chi tradition goes!

      • Dr Jayshree Narayanan

        June 17, 2020 at 11:01 am

        Ritika well written.
        You are indeed an inspiration for many!!

        You have been studying in our school from Grade 1 to 10.
        I adore your dedication and determination despite falling ill often in school.

        Kudos to your parents too.

        Keep up the spirit beta…
        God bless you😇

        Stay safe,Stay Blessed

        Jayshree ma’am
        Principal
        Gokuldham High school and junior College

    • Poonam Taneja

      June 17, 2020 at 5:56 pm

      Love this article and your spirit towards life. You are truly an inspiration to all

  2. Dr Meenu Tandon

    June 15, 2020 at 11:19 am

    Hi.Yes living with chronic illness of any kind is difficult. You have to re_style you way of living .This not only helps you health wise but also brings emotional stability.I am very happy and proud to read your article.Written from heart and very helpful to persons who are bound to stay indoor,may be due to any reason.Happy to see my little girl leading the path of needy.God bless you.
    W

  3. Aruna

    June 15, 2020 at 12:06 pm

    Hey Ritika
    You are truly incredible…
    💔you

    • Priyakee

      June 20, 2020 at 1:03 pm

      Ritika…. THANK YOU ♥️♥️♥️♥️
      For helping many out of their shell of self pity…
      salutations to you and your parents 💐💐

  4. Aruna

    June 15, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    Ritika
    You are truly incredible..
    Love you

  5. Meera uppal

    June 15, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    So motivating and keep moving.

  6. Shalini hegde

    June 15, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    Hats off Ritika! I love how you accept what life has to offer (whatever that may be) and how you turn it into your advantage…it’s a lesson all of us have to learn…the sooner the better!

    • Bela Mehra

      June 16, 2020 at 8:20 pm

      Thats written so well Ritika… Hats off to your bravery… Fighting with a chronic disease with such a positive attitude… Puts all of us to shame… Who crib about every little thing in life. You have written this so well that I feel you should become a regular blogger.. All the best to you

  7. Sahil Arora

    June 15, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    You are a strong girl and if people can learn and gain from your life experiences, they will surely be in a much stronger position to deal with life’s ups and downs.

  8. Rupa

    June 15, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Love this baby doll ❤️Love you my super girl 😘

  9. Evita Reny

    June 15, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    This is written so well and it just gives us insight on the little joys that we take for granted!I have always loved your spirit and I hope we all embrace life the way you do! More love and power to you😘

  10. Aditi Suryavanshi

    June 15, 2020 at 3:40 pm

    Lovely! You’re inspiring Ritika!

    • R.B.MALHOTRA

      June 15, 2020 at 6:55 pm

      You the brave young girl. No doubt you had
      Serious health problems at starting of your
      Life but with brave and strong determination
      You have face the health problems. You are
      brave young Girl with strong mind and strong determination. One day your all problems will
      be solved by the Almighty God. I have full
      Faith. Be brave.

  11. DR STUTI KUKREJA

    June 15, 2020 at 3:55 pm

    Ritika you are so sagacious for someone so young.Always proud of you.

  12. Rohita kajale

    June 15, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    So well written Ritika dear.. Proud of you.. Stay strong and remain mentally healthy.. Thats the only way❤❤

  13. Dr Raghavendra Prasada

    June 15, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Excellent Ritika!
    Happy to know about your progress and channelizing your energy in the right direction.
    Very nice write up

  14. Sonia Malhotra

    June 15, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    First you’re inspiring me now you’re on path to inspire the World.

    • Geetika kapoor

      June 15, 2020 at 8:12 pm

      Lots of love to you Ritika.Such an inspiring article.You indeed are a blessed child.You are talented and expressed so wonderfully,encouraging the people in the world to face all adversities.Love and blessings to you.God bless.
      Geetika Kapoor
      Lucknow

  15. Reeta hastir

    June 15, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    Excellent good job keep going.

  16. Kamni Mehra

    June 15, 2020 at 7:04 pm

    Strong Super girl Ritika
    God bless you dear
    You are an inspiration to everyone

  17. Rachna Monga

    June 15, 2020 at 8:15 pm

    Beautifully explained. Loved the conclusion- when to ask for help👍

  18. Shagufta

    June 15, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    Ritika you are a living inspiration for all of us. So mature and composed at this young age. You are blessed to be multi talented. You have expressed your self very well. God bless you and may the almighty return good health to you.

  19. Rajendra Sekhrajka

    June 15, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    Ritika darling
    You are like my daughter and rightfully I should be teaching you life lessons but after reading your article , honestly we are learning life lessons from you.

  20. Fr George Paul

    June 15, 2020 at 8:50 pm

    Wonderful young lady! It’s well written and well thought out. Your grit and determination to face the challenges and the positive attitude is very inspiring. Keep up the go in you . God bless you.

  21. Seema

    June 15, 2020 at 8:52 pm

    Each n every word is true in itself
    God bless you

  22. Jayashree Gorivale

    June 15, 2020 at 9:32 pm

    You are truly my inspiration my supergirl…

  23. SHIBU ABDUL RASHEED

    June 15, 2020 at 9:55 pm

    Dear Ritika,
    I dnt have any words to say to the inspiring words u have written.
    As an Academician I used to see thousands of children in a day.
    Nowhere I have seen a girl like you with such a strong mind who is ready to light lamp to others…
    My dear Ritika… God is with you and his abundance of blessings is with you. Might be he want u to b a torch bearer for others…B confident n smart as you are..
    All our prayers r there with you…
    Shibu Abdul Rasheed
    Principal,NIS,Doha ,Qatar

  24. Gauri Khanna

    June 15, 2020 at 10:34 pm

    Such an inspiring write up Ritika, god bless you always dear 💓

  25. Priya Girdhar

    June 15, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    Very inspiring 😊 You are a strong ,intelligent n mature girl who accepts life challenges with a smile n never let them overpower your positivity n determination…A Real Hero n beautiful creation of God to teach people many life lessons of being grateful, positive n motivating …Always Stay happy positive n keep spreading joy n positivity 🥰

  26. Parag Uppal

    June 16, 2020 at 7:14 am

    Super Girl with great will power and now helping others great job keep moving

  27. Mona tuli

    June 16, 2020 at 9:20 am

    Proud proud of u ,very well scripted. Ur moms words hv said it all.Many will take inspiration not to get depressed in this small time lockdown dt Corona…
    Zindadil hone kaa

  28. Sevanshi Kamdar

    June 16, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Very well written. So, so proud of you. Your story and you are an inspiration to everybody out there. Continue to shine, continue to amaze. God Bless.

  29. Sakshi Arora

    June 16, 2020 at 1:02 pm

    Dear ritika,
    Through these years I have seen you deal with these challenges as no one else could . You have always smiled and got through.
    I wish you more power and love always!
    Very well written.

  30. Heena

    June 16, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    Great job Ritika….super article by my super brave nd super loving nd caring Ritz….keep moving nd motivating others …love u loads

  31. Kanishka areem

    June 16, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    U are so inspiring honey with this how u are helping world with ur article stay blessed.

  32. Sapandeep Singh

    June 16, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    Hi Ritika, really a read where fluidity of your notions and the stark reality of life is nicely brought out. I have been talking about you with your dad another most wonderful person I have ever met.
    You are his pride and we simply adore you dear angel for the power of faith and love you so aptly have been blessed with.

    God bless you always.

  33. Poonam Taneja

    June 17, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    Kudos to you Ritika. A very well written article. You are truly an inspiration to all of us.

  34. Mandeep Kaur

    June 17, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    This is quite motivating, especially in today’s time.

  35. Harmeet Singh

    June 17, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    Stories like this helps everyone to see the silver lining in tough situations. Well written!

  36. Pooja Taneja

    June 17, 2020 at 10:11 pm

    Ritika your determination is truly incredible…very inspiring…God bless

  37. Yuko M

    June 18, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    Ritika, I love it! Very well-written and inspiring. Your sweetness, fun-loving, happy nature, and positive outlook despite the challenges are truly amazing. You are an alchemist who turn the hardship/rocks into the gold of wisdom. Love

  38. Seems Lamba

    June 27, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    You are an incredible girl dear Ritika. We all should take a leaf out of your self motivating journey. Kudos to ur parents for standing by you always. May you be an inspiration to others who are in similar states.
    Bless you beta, stay smiling,focused always and make your parents feel proud!!

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