No series on COVID19 and Chronic Illness would be complete without pointing out the differences between what most will experience as social distancing and what we, who struggle with chronic conditions, deal with.
You’re not sick: Many of you who are dealing with limiting your social interactions and confining yourselves to your homes don’t also have to deal with having chronic pain or fatigue or a host of other issues that go along with our everyday life dealing with illness. You’re free to spend your time cleaning, reorganizing, cooking, exercising, or a myriad of other activities that we find exhausting.
Many of us find that we are doing even more activity as our children are home from school and our spouses are home full time. This means more laundry, more cooking, more dishes, more cleaning, and thus, more pain and more fatigue than we usually deal with.
You’re not sentenced to life: Your incarceration is short term. However long you think endless social distancing means, it’s likely much shorter than we who have been on the inside already. In the past few yrs, I’ve been home alone most of the time until my husband came home from work (which was often pretty late) or my son had been home on spring or summer break (which he had to spend some amount of time attending to his own life) or when we went to church or out to dinner on the weekend.
Most of us with chronic issues have spent months or years at a time alone or without the ability to leave our homes. As so many on social media had been pointing out Anne Frank and her family’s isolation, we who have chronic illness, have experienced this to a great degree first hand.
Others will understand: As you face time sequestered in your homes, many others who have to do the same understand what that means for you. You have friends and family who “get it.” We don’t. Most of our friends and family have no idea what it means to be alone in our homes for years. Or what it means to be fatigued or in pain on a chronic level. You can commiserate with others. We don’t usually have that luxury unless we come together with other fellow chronic illness sufferers online.
You’ll get back to normal one day: One day soon, Coronavirus will be handled and life will go on about as it has been prior for most people. However, the very nature of chronic illness is the chronic part. It means there is no cure at present. There is no parole for good behavior. Our sentence will not be commuted and we will likely only get worse with age.
A small percentage of people with one chronic issue will only have one chronic issue in their lives, but most of us have been collecting diagnoses like some collect stamps. I, myself, have several chronic illnesses and conditions to contend with.
You may have economic difficulties that last well beyond the time when we will no longer be confined to our homes, but there will be those that understand and will make allowances. There already have been. Many companies are not requiring payments for a while. Some landlords have told businesses to pay their employees before the rent. Most universities are being lenient with grading. Most employers will understand and not hold it against you if you were unemployed for a while. The government is sending out checks for relief.
Most employers and most people don’t understand what it means to have been isolated for years due to chronic illness. Most of us with chronic illness have a large debt due to medical bills. That’s not something widely understood.
You’ll get back to normal one day. We will still be here.
I was thinking a lot about how those of us with chronic illnesses have had to socially distance ourselves for one reason or another over the course of time. It got me thinking. In some ways, we are more prepared for the social distancing of COVID19. However, in other ways, we are already stretched thin and the added difficulties arising from Coronavirus could overwhelm us and put us over our tipping point.
So I asked myself, “Are we better prepared for social distancing than our non-chronically ill neighbors or are we isolated enough and overwhelmed as it is?” I’m still not sure, but here are some of the things that weighed in:
How We are More Prepared:
Those of us dealing with chronic illness may be more prepared for being socially distant because we are used to it.
We have all kinds of different limitations (health/mobility/solitude),
We are used to relying upon other people
used to relying upon God
How we are already overwhelmed:
Now those once a week activities that helped keep us sane are gone.
The people we used to rely upon are no longer able to visit
Now others are also now relying upon us more such as our children and spouses since they are home all day.
Our limitations may be the thing that broke the camel’s back to overwhelmed.
Now with so much out of our control, we feel like too much is out of our control: overwhelmed.
What about you? Do you feel more or less able to handle the COVID19 social distancing?
Many of us with chronic illness have been socially distancing ourselves for quite a while now. We have been doing it because we are either too tired or in too much pain to make it to social events. Speaking for myself, I have often been too tired to go visit people and my Essential Tremors make it difficult for me to drive so I have been mostly alone in the house for at least a few years.
Those of us with chronic illness often feel we have nothing to offer others. However, what we know about coping with social distancing could fill a blog post and so here it is!
I’ve put together a list for you and I asked my Life Beyond Surviving group members to weigh in on this and here’s what they said to those who are struggling with social distancing during COVID19:
Since I cannot go out much, I have found social media invaluable for keeping in touch and connecting with others. Reach out to others online who have similar interests and discuss them, share your ideas and your creations with others. I do this by sharing my humorous JoJoisms on social media and in my groups.
“To keep in contact with family and friends, we’ve been using a lot of FaceTime, Google Duo, and the video option on Facebook messenger.” -Amanda O.
A great way to keep in touch with family and friends is by phone. Now that everyone is at home and fewer are working (or are working from home), you can reach out to family on the phone. Want to see their faces? Do Zoom calls with family or friends!
“Develop hobbies (Reading, painting, crochet, knitting, needlework, coloring, dancing freestyle to music), learn to enjoy silent times of peace and quiet reflection, enjoy music, movies, have a routine, do certain things on set days still not just through each day, reach out, do some sort of physical activity if it’s stretching, walking or exercises, Livestream tv and movies, FaceTime or video chat, Facebook lives, declutter your house, cook and freeze meals ahead, read stories to kids in person or record and send to them.” -Angela W.
Watch some educational things on YouTube or some documentaries on TV. Get closer to family now that you are spending more time with them (if you are) and why not do Movie Nights with popcorn like a theater!
“Don’t sit for more than about 45mins, set a timer if you need to and get up and move around, get a glass of water. Set out healthy snacks for the day, plan your meals, add in some treats!” – Amy W.
Have small children? Check out some fun crafts or games online to do at home! Have games in the backyard. Do puzzles. Spend quality time!
“Gargle with warm salt water, especially after being out and up your vitamin c. Make sure you get out and exercise.…cleaning, reading. I talk to my daughters through the Facebook chats. Listen to my Spotify music list.” – Cynthia P.
One thing I love to do is to minister to others. Why not help someone. For example, text an inspirational message each day to someone who is needing some joy. Post the beauty of God’s world or scripture on social media or text or share it over the phone.
“Reading, writing snail mail, and doing virtual field trips. I am traveling via shows, virtual tours of various places I had dreamed of going to. My husband and I are listening to various music via Concerts on TV, on YouTube, Instagram. There are live streams of symphonies, ballet companies, dance shows, etc… Our son clued me in, that you can find some Broadway Shows on various platforms! I felt isolated but truly, the world is available to me! I feel blessed.” – Becky P.
I hope that helps you all out there! Please share this post and leave a comment on the blog with any ideas you have!