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
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.