I kind of think the definition of “privilege” is worrying about what we can do to be entertained while being forced to stay inside. Trust me, I know it sucks being cooped up inside when there’s a great big world outside to explore, but it will not kill you to stay inside for a few days, weeks, or however long it takes to get a hold of this situation. There are people who are sick, dying, and in a lot of pain right now. There are people who are losing their jobs and livelihood. If you have a roof over your head, food to eat, and are healthy, you are blessed.
I can offer you a little personal experience about being stuck at home for a long period of time. Six years ago when I got sick with POTS I did not go out at all unless it was to a doctor’s appointment or my daily trip to the gym for my rehab. I tried going on small errands, but always found myself lying on the cold tile floor as I propped my feet in the air to pump blood back to my brain. Having the room spin in circles around me while I frantically tried to stay standing or avoid fainting in front of strangers was not fun, so those trips to the grocery store were cut real short.
I spent well over a year in really bad shape and on the severe spectrum of POTS. Research POTS a little and you’ll find that POTS patients’ quality of life is “comparable to patients on dialysis for kidney failure.” Before all of this I was active and played just about every sport, had a very busy social life, and was working hard to begin climbing the ladder in the journalism world. I hated sleeping in, and could rarely be found just sitting around at home. In 2013, my world flipped upside down and I physically could not do anything because I always felt awful. I very slowly got better and better, and now have added many more normal things back into my routine. I still am not “normal,” but am close enough that I am so happy and grateful for all of the wonderful freedoms I do have.
So, what does any of this have to do with the Coronavirus pandemic?
A lot, actually. I know what it’s like to be stuck at home for a long period of time, but the only difference is that now 1) I do not feel insanely sick literally all the time, and 2) we are all in this together. I remember crying when I looked at my Facebook feed because everyone was out in the world pursuing their dreams, and all I could do was monitor how my health was and celebrate the tiny joys in life. Nobody my age could relate to what I was going through, and I couldn’t participate in anything a normal 22 year old would enjoy. I watched friends go out dancing, get promoted at their jobs, and support themselves like a normal twentysomething. I wanted so badly to be able to function normally and be able to take care of myself the way they all were.
Now, we are all stuck inside, and I feel like you can relate to my 22 year old self in a way. I know you’re not asking for advice, but I’m going to share some of the things that helped me be joyful throughout every stage in my life — even when I couldn’t go out or really “do” anything.
The first piece of advice I have is to surround yourself with loved ones. Not physically this time, though — emotionally. We need to take this “social distancing” stuff seriously. A big reason for this is so that hospitals are able to treat every single person who comes to them — whether or not it’s Coronavirus-related. Italy is moving towards 1,000 deaths/day. We absolutely do not want to get to that point, and by staying home we are helping to flatten the curve so that hospitals can treat people who need help. A good option for keeping in touch with people is FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or even an old fashioned phone call. The biggest thing I enjoyed when I was home for such a long time was just sitting on the couch and visiting with friends and family. That will look different now, as I am staying home and not seeing anyone new until we have gotten everything under control, but I still look forward to chatting with my friends and family every single day I am stuck at home. Experts are now recommending only interacting with the people you have been at home with, so if you’re lucky enough to have someone at home with you, cherish the time you have with them. If not, utilize technology to the best of your ability to have as much — or as little — company as you’d like. Luckily it is not hard to find someone to talk to during this quarantine.
Second, find something little to look forward to every day. During my POTS recovery time, my favorite thing was watching MasterChef and MasterChef Junior with my family. I loved learning more about cooking and having a steady show to watch. Now that I can stand up again, I love to cook and use some of the techniques I learned from the show in my kitchen. I actually have really fond memories from every stage of my illness, whether or not I could actually get out of the house and do anything.
Third, remember that this is temporary. This is not a luxury I had six years ago. I had some doctors speculate that I might grow out of POTS, and others who told me to get used to my new life. It turns out, there was a little truth to each of those perspectives, but it is best to remain positive and know that things can and will get better. One day all of this isolation will be a weird story to tell, and we will all be able to relate to the giant quarantine. In the meantime, finding little things to make you happy is important. There are lists all over the place of ideas of things to do indoors, and we are smart enough to get creative about this. We also have so much technology that being stuck at home is easier now than it would have been a decade ago. The worst thing to do is always self-pitying or constantly complaining about things we can’t control. We are lucky to be alive and healthy, and have access to so much, even from our living room couches.
The reason I keep talking about POTS is also that being at home with a chronic illness is something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. I don’t think it’s easy for a healthy person who hasn’t ever had complications to realize just how difficult it is to adjust to having a dysfunctional body. I appreciate the fact that this quarantine hasn’t begun to drive me insane because of my past experience, but I wish everyone else could feel this sense of gratefulness too. All I can do to help is say it will get easier, and any of us who aren’t currently sick can really appreciate the fact that we still feel well while being stuck at home.
I know I ranted a ton in this, but I decided my blogging right now just needs to be a little journal of this time spent at home. Not only does it give me another activity, but it will also be interesting to read back on years from now. I encourage all of you to journal at this time so we don’t ever forget what it was like all being in the same boat during the 2020 quarantine.