I feel a need to try to describe what this social distancing/flattening the curve period of time due to the coronavirus/Covid-19 issue is like for me as a sufferer of chronic long-term illness. I wonder if any others in this boat have experienced hunkering down at home in the same way. I’d like to hear from others who are limited by acute and chronic illness and pain as to how it is impacting them.
To review some of my story briefly, I’ve had autoimmune diseases since age 26–at least that is when I started to be aware of symptoms. Around age 50 my symptoms started to worsen and I began to have autonomic nerve damage and other new issues wreaking havoc with my ability to keep up with life, though I didn’t realize what was happening to me until later. I quit my job at age 57 due to feeling so sick mornings and having to go in late often and just feeling completely exhausted, overwhelmed and unable to keep up with my busy life. I hoped to work part-time at something more meaningful and/or to do volunteer work in worthy causes. I did a little of this, but gradually my fatigue and illnesses increased and I had to gradually stop doing more and more things. I’ve been forced to hunker down at home to self-care to be able to do the few things I can barely still do. After Christmas 2019, I experienced acute fatigue and mental burn out, so I really changed my lifestyle to doing the least possible. This is where and how I was living as the coronavirus silently advanced from China and its threats snuck up on me. I began practicing social distancing on March 15 and more completely on March 17 when I finally realized I should.
Now this may sound bad, but having a real world-wide, country-wide, community-wide issue and threat to health has somehow bolstered me up. I think maybe my adrenal glands have kicked in and provided strength and courage. Or perhaps God is giving me special grace and is really helping me in this time of need. I believe He is. Despite a tendency to sometimes experience anxiety for no logical reason, I am at peace. I’m experiencing more energy than I’ve had in a long time, likely because the few things I was doing (like caring for my beloved granddaughters and fighting to attend and participate in my local church) have been stopped because of the self-quarantine. Despite having a real logical enemy (Covid-19) to fear for myself and husband, with both of us doubly in the high risk category, fears for my family, and everyone around me, indeed concern for the whole world, my mood is stronger and I’m more encouraged. What? Why?
I think it might be because of this: the whole country is now experiencing a common problem and hunkering down at the same time. It isn’t just me, alone at home, suffering and trying to keep going against the odds. Now there is fellowship in my entire community, church, family, country world being “in this together” being forced to stay home. Most people, and all I hope, aren’t sick from Covid-19 yet, and I hope never will be, but everyone is trying to avoid it. I am not alone anymore.
I hope my sharing these thoughts might inspire people to remember that many people are suffering quietly from autoimmune diseases, structural body pains, mental illnesses, etc. all the time, while you are busy going about your regular active lives. I don’t want pity, which is what I feel I usually get from those who do sometimes remember my situation. I do enjoy it when people remember and understand and especially when they pray for me. And when they don’t misjudge me. When they realize I am acutely fatigued and pushed past my breaking point, and not just angry, or grumpy, or weird, or that I’ve “lost my Christian joy” or whatever.
To my fellow chronic health issues sufferers — how is Covid-19 self-quarantining hitting you? Are your fears increased or have you experienced some encouragement somehow in this crazy time? There are plenty of reasons to fear, for me, especially the threat of having essential products/prescriptions unavailable if the economy is allowed to continue to tank. For example, if I can’t get my eye drops, my eyes will become so dry I will essentially be blind, unable to open my eye lids and I’ll be in acute pain. Or if my personal financial provision changes, I won’t be able to afford to buy all the expensive products required for managing Sjogren’s Syndrome. For some who have regularly been taking Plaquenil aka hydroxchloroquine for autoimmune disease (I personally do not use it), it is becoming in short supply due to its being used to treat Covid-19. There are real reasons to fear due to this pandemic, but there are always things to fear every day (especially God if you don’t yet know Him rightly through Christ, but I wrote on that in my last post). I hope and pray God helps me and all my readers to be enabled by God’s grace to trust God more and fear less. In hunkering down times and in all times.
While the country has panicked about toilet paper, and has hoarded it causing a shortage, consider what the autoimmune patient is dealing with in trusting that all their products will remain available and without resorting to hoarding and selfishness. Consider what it is like to be home sick all the time and struggling to be able to participate in just a little bit of life. Oh every time any of us is able to be well enough to serve another person — may God help us all to realize what a privilege that is. Chronic illness and structural body damage gives me the benefit of understanding what a gift it is to have a pain free moment, to have energy and the ability to serve, and a longing for an eternal destiny that promises no more sickness, suffering, or sorrow. The threat of Covid-19 or any other new malady causes me to lean into Christ even more. I pray everyone will know how to find peace and that hope. I remain available for help in that regard. And if I should falter if more hard stuff comes into my life, please help me in my time of need and remind me to hang on to faith in Christ for dear life. Hunkering down with you.
PS – Comments and feedback would be encouraging. Does my writing matter? Is it useful?