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Living Through a Pandemic When You're Already Worried About Your Health

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Every day I take some sort of self-inventory. I wake up and scan my body and notice what parts feel what way.

Let me explain: Before I even fling the covers off me and swing my feet over the edge of the bed, I assess what symptoms are, or are not, making themselves present today. Dizziness? Maybe. Weakness, stiffness, pain? Perhaps. Nausea? Oh most definitely nausea. The list goes on. Along with this inventory I take, I wrack my brain for why I feel the way I do in order to determine my best plan of attack for the day. Did I eat poorly yesterday? Most likely. Did I sleep well? Probably not. Did I push a little too hard in any of the previous days (or weeks) activities? Sometimes. And that’s the start of my morning routine.

The exciting surprises that come along with chronic illness are when there are any, and I mean any, deviations from what I noticed during my morning inventory.

Something changed, something feels different, I don’t feel well. Why?! Anytime I feel anything other than perfect (which if you know me, you know I very rarely feel well) I panic. The way I cope with the panic is to determine the cause of the ailment and obsess over how to manage it, or more unhealthily how to control it. Now, with chronic illness, undiagnosed concerns and overall anxiety, this is a very very poor coping skill, in fact this is quite the opposite and often leads to more panic, increased anxiety and less general wellness. Catch 22, huh? This is my norm. My every day. My baseline level of function. Sounds fun, right?

Throw in a global pandemic going on a year and this party really gets started. Now, when I have a symptom, any physical feeling at all really, I run through the list of possible reasons why. Multiple sclerosispostural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, gastroparesis, anxiety, aging, lack of sleep, hunger? When did I exercise last? And now, add COVID-19 to this.

This is a long list. This is anxiety-provoking. This is very real. However, fear of a very under-researched, potentially debilitating illness with limited treatment options is part of my day to day. Unfortunately or fortunately.

Prior to 2020, I lived with medical anxiety, fear of the unknown health wise and always, always took extra precautions regarding my awareness and my own healthcare. Now I get to watch the rest of the world do so.

So my advice for those having a hard time wrapping their heads around these “unprecedented times” as they are referred to is this: Be selfish — selfish in your boundaries, selfish in your sanity and selfish in your safety. Be unapologetic — own your coping, whatever that looks like, own your quirks, however they manifest and own your strength. Be proud — there is no right or wrong in how to manage any single thing in the world. Be proud that you wake up, you feed and bathe yourself (and others) and you function each day. Be proud of the zombie-like state you need to be in to get through this. And lastly, be emotional. Be unendingly sad, it will pass. Be unbelievable angry — why wouldn’t you be? Be gracious, you ate today right? Be loving with it. And be present, there are still moments of normalcy, there are still times to cherish.

Find the meaning, not obsessively so as I attempt to do. But, find the joy in the unrelenting, daunting reality that is human; with or without illness.

Image provided by the contributor

Originally published: February 17, 2021
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