Quarantine Life Before Corona

It’s weird seeing some of the parallels from my life when I suddenly got sick with a chronic, debilitating illness and the pandemic. People are describing emotions that the COVID-19 quarantine is bringing out that I felt when I suddenly got sick six years ago. I’ve been handling each step of the way a little better than you would expect from someone who does deal with anxiety, but after thinking about it a little, I attribute a lot of that to having experienced something that was, emotionally, kind of similar. Chronically ill people were prepared for this in a way that the regular population maybe wasn’t as much. Here are some thoughts I’ve had, both in isolating at home now, and back when I first got sick.


What would my life look like if it wasn’t for health concerns?

Back in the day I thought about this a lot because I was forced to give up my dream of continuing to work at my dream job. I had just completed the greatest internship of all time at Seventeen magazine in New York City, and was so excited to find a cozy (some might call it cramped) apartment to move to permanently. Instead of continuing on a normal path, though, I began fighting to have any taste of normalcy I could get. I got incredibly sick overnight and suddenly went from being a healthy 22-year-old to not being able to sit or stand without feeling dizzy or passing out. I was couch bound with the exception of going to the cardiologist or physical therapy to figure out how to begin my road to recovery.

Now I sometimes think about what the world would be like without all the corona craziness that’s going on. I would be able to see all of my friends and family, I would be able to go on normal date nights, and I would be able to continue to explore the world. I try to feel content being at home and remind myself how blessed I am to have my health and a few loved ones here with me. This time around, I’m just home bound — not tethered to the couch because of a lack of health. I’m trying to appreciate the fact that I am healthy during the pandemic, push myself to do yoga in the basement, and realize that things could be a whole lot worse. Not having a working body makes you feel so much more trapped than a comfortable home filled with food and an Internet connection.

This isn’t fair. 

No, it’s not. I’ve learned a lot of things in life aren’t fair. It wasn’t fair that I had secured my dream job, only to be hit over the head with an illness that knocked me on my butt. I was angry because I had always taken good care of myself. I ran several days a week, played intramural sports throughout college, and ate well despite having a good enough metabolism not to. I never drank excessively and wasn’t really risky with anything that had to do with my health. I didn’t pay a crazy amount of attention to it because I didn’t have to, but I actually did a good job maintaining a very healthy lifestyle. I felt so frustrated that I had done everything right and ended up being the one person I knew who had a crazy, weird health problem happen to them. It didn’t feel real, but being sick was my new reality.

We need to have a new normal with the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. It sucks not being able to do our favorite activities or see friends and family, but taking up new hobbies and finding the bright side of things is so important for our mental health.

Having a chronic illness made me realize that even though there may be unfair things that happen to you that suck, there is always something to be joyful for. Back then I got to spend quality time with friends and family. I learned that I am a lot tougher than I ever thought, and I learned that I need to be thankful for every single thing I am able to do, because some people aren’t as lucky as me. I am also convinced that I would have never met my husband, had I not gotten sick with POTS. The only reason I wasn’t in New York was because I had to stay in the area, and who knows what my life would look like now if I had been there instead. These are all blessings that came from the hardest thing that ever happened to me.

When will this end?

When I got sick with POTS I was told so many different things. “This is your life now, you’re not getting better” was the first thing a nurse told me. Later I was reassured that a majority of people who get POTS when they are young get a whole lot better in time. Since POTS hasn’t been studied as long as other illnesses, there weren’t always answers to my questions, but luckily through lots of physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and time, I’ve made leaps and bounds and know how to manage my health. I have far, far less bad days than good ones now.

It’s absolutely devastating having your life turn upside down and your routine completely trashed. Anyone with a chronic illness will tell you this. We’ll also be there to reassure you, though, that just because things change drastically doesn’t mean they’re forever — but perhaps more important, it doesn’t mean you won’t have joy in your life or that you’re doomed to feeling the way you do today. People are adaptable and learn to adjust to their circumstances. If you had told me everything I was about to go through right before I got sick, I would have had an absolute meltdown. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with knowing I wouldn’t be able to merely stand up without passing out, but you know what? I got through it. I somehow managed being genuinely happy the years I couldn’t even stand up or have a single normal day. Did I mention during this time I couldn’t go to restaurants, I couldn’t shop for my own groceries, and I even had to be taken home from the movie theater because the room was violently spinning around me, just from sitting upright? Do you see a few parallels between being chronically ill and being stuck at home because of COVID-19? The biggest difference for me is the fact that this time around I can actually move around and be more active, and don’t feel sick all the freaking time.

Take it one day at a time.

The easiest way to do anything difficult is take it one day at a time. When I got sick, I didn’t let myself think about what it would be like in one, five, or ten years if I still couldn’t get out of the house and do anything. Instead, I found things to look forward to every day, even if it was just a little TV show or eating one of my favorite foods. Now, under the stay-at-home order, I don’t think about how long it will be until I can see family and friends or go out to a restaurant again. I look for other things to occupy my mind, rather than spiraling about things I have no control over. This is so much easier said than done and if you slip up you need to be gentle with yourself, but there’s no shame in asking for help if you need it. Therapy can be an amazing way to help control anxiety, and even in these strange times people are doing sessions online or over the phone. Learning to be present and appreciate what you do have can be really hard in the face of adversity, but it’s the most rewarding thing you can learn how to do.

It’s okay to miss your old life.

Just don’t make it out to be something it wasn’t. I had to remind myself that even though I lost a working body, life hadn’t been all sunshine and rainbows before I got sick. I loved to run, but going for ten miles at a time was not a walk in the park. My lungs hurt, my legs burned, and I have always gotten bad shin splints from running. Now that I can’t, I often think about how much I loved it, but running isn’t always easy. Our lives in this weird little quarantine bubble have some bright spots we’ll miss. Whether it’s having your family at home with you, being able to binge on all the reality TV you didn’t have time to watch before, or being able to work in your pajamas, there are things that are good about the present time. We miss so much that we used to do on a regular basis or took for granted, but one day we’ll be back to our normal lives and look back at this as a little blip in our lives.

It’s also okay to be scared.

Losing every sense of normalcy is freaking hard. Find things to look forward to in your new life, and remember that so much of this is temporary. The pandemic isn’t going to last forever, and one day we will be out doing our own grocery shopping and going into work again. It’s so weird that we are all facing this uncertainty at once, but none of us are truly alone, and I think just about everyone has had a pit in their stomach at one point or another about how this is affecting each and every one of us. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable about something as big as this, but doing your best to focus on what you can control — and letting go of the things you can’t — does make the weight feel a little less of a burden.

And finally, circumstances change.

I am so thankful to have the health I do today. I get frustrated and angry when I try to go for a run and my heart can’t handle it, but I am so lucky to be able to go for walks without feeling dizzy, type on my computer without having terrible muscle pain, and I can cook now without worrying about my elbows or arms hurting — even if there is a lot of stirring involved. Things are constantly changing, and it is no different for the pandemic. Incredible minds are working to find solutions to this every single day, and I am confident that people are going to find ways for our lives to slowly gain a sense of normalcy.

I honestly don’t remember a lot of what life before chronic illness was like, in the sense that it’s difficult for me to feel like POTS was ever not here. I have to do a lot to manage my symptoms now, but everything has become such habit at this point that it doesn’t feel weird putting little electrolyte and sodium tablets in my water every time I go out to eat and I’m used to doing nerve glides and mobility work at the first sign of stiffness. This all feels so normal to me, so even if we do have some things that become a new normal, we’ll adjust. People are much more resilient and adaptable than we give ourselves credit for. I am not particularly strong or tough, and I really don’t like change. If I can go through years of being sick and dealing with a million changes, absolutely anyone can. We may not all be in the same boat, but we are all in this together, and don’t ever hesitate to reach out to others if you need help. Many people are looking for ways to help others, but just don’t know how.

mountain
I stumbled upon the Bible verse Isaiah 41:13 at the beginning of the pandemic, and keep it in the back of my mind when I have my moments of panic. I also think about how beautiful the world is, and how perfectly everything was made. Peaks and valleys in nature remind me of what life can be like, and we just happen to all be in a valley right now. I know one day we’ll turn a corner, though, and things will be much brighter than they seem right now.

Quarantined Saturday

I decided to nix the numbers for my posts on here because I don’t want to make anyone upset about how long we’ve been inside. It’s been a little over a month, which actually when you think about it isn’t as bad as it sometimes feels. People a lot smarter than me are studying this virus and coming up with some ways to combat it. It’s still very early, but we’re learning more every single day.

I keep saying that I personally think this thing will become a lot easier when a skilled innovator decides to make something — like an easy to produce mask that filters out germs, for example — that helps us stay safe around loved ones and makes it easily accessible. If I learned one thing from watching Shark Tank, it’s the inexpensive products that everyone needs and can afford that make someone richer than they can imagine. I honestly don’t care who makes products that help us go out safely again, as long as we can. There are people who are working day and night right now, some who want to be the first to solve our problems so that they can make an enormous profit, and others who have hearts that want to help others. Either way, we have brilliant minds working on this and I know we’re going to be able to see loved ones again and enjoy our favorite activities one day.

I definitely feel weird still that my family is so close but I can’t see them. I’ve made a few trips to borrow or swap groceries, but keep my distance and stay in my car, similar to what we’d do at a grocery pickup. I’ve always been a rule follower when it comes to health and safety, so there has never been much of a question of whether I am hanging out with anyone other than my household during these quarantimes. FaceTime and HouseParty have been great apps to keep in touch with friends, and I listen to a lot of podcasts. I am a pretty typical millennial and don’t like sitting in silence, so podcasts fill that void for me.

I ordered some paint by numbers kits a few weeks ago, but still haven’t gotten them. I’m looking forward to having crafts to do, but in the meantime am doing some cooking and baking to keep my hands busy. Remember how I told you I filled in a map of the US and struggled more than someone who is nearing 30 should? I need to study that this week, and am also going to begin cramming for our 2020 election. I took a quiz yesterday to find out “who I should vote for,” and the result was actually really interesting. I apparently should take a look at Jacob Hornberger, someone from the Libertarian party.

Now, I am not into politics hardly at all. I have some moderate opinions on some of the more discussed issues, but I don’t pay close attention to politics or usually contribute greatly to conversations with friends and family, because I’ve always enjoyed more lighthearted entertainment — like which of the Kardashians I would most want to be friends with (Currently Khloe, but in the past it was Kim) or whether or not Jessica and Mark are actually looking for love on reality television.

I think this needs to change some, though. I should be paying more attention to some of the events going on in the world and really make an educated vote in 2020. For this reason, I am going to start opening my emails from TheSkimm, and begin to figure out how to get some straight up facts, rather than watching CNN, FOX, or anything of the like. Please let me know if you have suggestions of media without so much bias! I foresee myself having a difficult time filtering through news, as I think both Democrats and Republicans often make good points about how to solve problems. Reporting these days feels so incredibly emotional, which makes it hard for someone like me to decipher whether someone is speaking with an agenda or reporting straight facts. I will be updating these blogs with some of my opinions, and will appreciate having some good debates about politics. Unlike many people on social media, I will actually be someone who is willing to change her mind on issues, as I am just beginning to learn about many of them.

This will definitely be an interesting new twist to quarantine life, but I’ll feel good being able to participate just a little more in political discussions after all of this is said and done. As long as people are respectful and willing to hear each other out, it’s probably good to hear viewpoints other than your own. Right? We won’t all agree on everything, but it’s really cool that we can learn from each other.

Monday, Day 40

Mondays are always the ones where I feel a mild sense of panic. I’m not really sure why, because all the days blend together a little and I space my work out throughout the weekend as well, but I always look at the calendar when I start to overthink and notice that it’s the beginning of the week.

It’s been just over 5 weeks since I have been out in the world, and I’m still trying to take everything day by day. I see good and bad news every day, and have been able to keep busy for the most part. I currently enjoy having work to distract me, picked up playing Call of Duty — a game I never in a million years would have thought I would like — and ordered a few little crafts to do at home in the coming week. I also decided I need more energy, so since I’m no longer able to get my routine B12 shots, I got some vitamin B12 and vitamin D to start taking. I’m lucky enough to live in the suburbs, so can still walk outside some, and enjoy evenings on the back porch.

I’m going to get through a little more work then go do some yoga to try to relax and calm myself a little. I know we’re all cooped up and in this together, and I’m going to try to use this week to catch up with a few friends and see how everyone is doing. I hope you’re having a good week, and let me know how you’re keeping busy while staying inside!

Thursday, Day 36

I probably started my quarantine before you, but mainly because I was one of the people who was skeptical of whether COVID-19 was really just “not as bad as the flu.” We just didn’t have enough information to know one way or another, which was why I decided to err on the side of caution and make one last run to the grocery store for the two weeks I anticipated we would be inside.

Now it’s been a little longer than that, and I’ve had a few rough days, but am holding up better than expected. I’m mainly just being careful trying to up my fluid and salt intake so I don’t have as many POTS issues pop up.

Yesterday I went for a run because I was feeling cooped up. There weren’t any people out, as our neighborhood has been very quiet lately, and I knew I wouldn’t be going far. I ran for my newest record — 5 minutes — but I likely only went about a quarter mile. I decided to try for endurance, rather than speed, but could not push myself to go longer than one round of Kanye West’s song, Stronger. That’s always been one of my favorite songs to run to, but sadly I never thought it would be my entire workout playlist, rather than just one song out of twenty.

Anyway, I’ve decided that every single weekday I want to do at least one workout. I have been taking yoga and Pilates classes online, and am really enjoying them. Getting my blood flowing has been really good for my physical health, but it also makes me feel refreshed mentally. Staying in this much is really weird and definitely makes you feel cooped up, but I’m really thankful for the technology that’s keeping me connected right now. Online classes are definitely something I hope to continue long after all of this is done.

Nothing else interesting to write for now. Gotta get back to work, but I want to keep my countdown going on here (is it a countdown if we don’t have a number we are counting down to, but instead are just counting up?).

Monday, Day 19

You know what bugs me? People who remember things well.

I know, I’m just being an enormous jerk because, as you may have seen on my SnapChat or Instagram story yesterday, I have the worst memory of all time. Like, possibly the worst. I’m trying to be proactive by fixing it, and restudying some good old elementary school history and geography, though — including perfecting the map of the United States by not getting Arizona confused for Nebraska. Yes, that happened.

Anyway, part of being like this includes a very strange confusion about how long we’ve been doing this. I actually don’t remember what day I started staying inside, but I know by March 10 I didn’t go out to eat and was hesitant about being anywhere fun because I had a bad feeling about what was coming. This was a date friends were still saying that the media was freaking out about nothing, and that the Coronavirus was “less deadly than the flu.” It’s funny how there can be a narrative that starts, just because one person starts saying it, then more and more people pass it along until it seems to be the cold, hard truth.

Last night my anxiety spiked again. Not because I’m having a hard time personally being inside — I keep reminding myself this is just a season and to make the most of it — but more so because I’m feeling on edge for all of my loved ones. I hope they’re all doing okay and aren’t scared or having a hard time. Today I’m feeling a bit better, but am still on edge worrying about other people. I know from Facebook posts that a lot of people are having a hard time managing, but I also think social media is doing a great job reminding people that none of us are alone in all of this. We’re all going through so many of the same emotions and uncertainties, but it really is so freaking encouraging how uplifting everyone is being. We know that one day this will be a distant memory, and maybe if you’re like me you won’t forget the way you felt during this time, but you will forget just how many episodes of shows from Netflix you watched, how many Sour Patch Kids you shoveled in your mouth while anxiously scrolling through the news, and how many days exactly you were quarantined. This will be a very interesting story to tell the next generation, and in the meantime we’ll all just keep pushing forward.