Finding the positives in lockdown

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The UK has been in lockdown since Monday evening. As I’ve been symptomatic and therefore in isolation. Today, before I realised I still had a fever and so should still isolate I went on an outing.

Only to the pharmacy two minutes from me, to get my prescriptions which I would have otherwise ran out of and to the Tesco opposite my flat to get milk and cereal. I have a food delivery tomorrow so I just needed some easy to eat stuff to tide me over as I’m not feeling 100% up to proper food.

The world has changed a lot in the last 8 days. I knew that, I’ve been watching the news but nothing could prepare me for that first step outdoors. That taste of freedom. Only a taste because fever means isolate past 7 days but bitterness aside…

I live in a city centre, a normally bustling, vibrant city centre. I live next to a pub and in close vicinity to many others. I normally hear people, music, cars. When I go into town it’s normally busy, even at 10am on a Saturday morning it’s busier than it was today.

Today it was pretty much dead. Yes I could see people, and certain people not abiding by the two meter rule but it was comparatively dead. There was tape down and barriers up in boots. No forms to sign when picking up medication.

It was like I got back from work 8 days ago to a normal functioning world. Yeah the situation was getting serious and the climbing walls had closed but the pub was open and busy as ever. The streets were also busy as ever.

And then I came out in some dystopian future. Some alternate universe.

As someone who was largely bedbound for 2 years I do sometimes forget how much of a change this is. But going out today made me realise that this virus has lead to all of us taking huge sacrifices. Huge lifestyle changes and it’s forced us to stop and slow down.

I certainly welcome that. I hope others will to. If I had to go work today because I’d already self isolated for 7 days and didn’t realise I had a fever this morning my body wouldn’t be coping. My body would just get the next virus, the next infection, the next injury. This year I’ve climbed so hard that I’ve had three relatively minor finger injuries, my hamstring and knee ligament injury which will take a couple of months to fully heal, an elbow injury, ankle injuries and many other lil niggles. I’ve pushed through work, tried to become a lawyer and since the end of January I’ve had a cold, a stomach virus, an ear infection, numerous bladder infections and now this virus, be it COVID-19 or not. My immune system isn’t as good as it was pre ME but it’s never normally that bad.

I was running my body into the ground. I haven’t worked a 5 day week all month. More like 3 day weeks maybe 4. This virus. Not just because I may have it but because of it’s effect on the country has forced me to slow down. It’s forced me to give my body what it wants. A chance to heal. A chance to function within my limits and to come back to work revitalised.  A chance to focus on rebuilding my body off of the wall, at a lower intensity and focusing on dealing with muscle imbalances so that when the walls open again I get less injuries.

It’s also given me a chance to reflect. To indulge in my off wall passions and think about what’s really important to me. And funnily enough, I’ve had more time to connect. Connect to people I’ve neglected in the past.

The situation is awful. For everyone. I know I’ve been feeling extra unwell these past eight days. The horrific cough, the breathing difficulties – not enough to need help but enough to feel like I can’t get enough air. Enough to mean I can’t sing or proof read my essay aloud like I normally would. The fever. I’ve also been extra weak and dizzy. I’ve spent the majority of these days horizontal on the couch and have intermittently had to crutch around as my legs have been so weak that I’ve needed to take that weight off them to get to the bathroom without crawling.

We’re all affected by this. Either directly or indirectly. But good will come from it and god will help us through.

Staying mentally sane in self isolation from the self isolation expert.

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The world is currently in an unprecedented state. Countries going into lockdown, boarders closing and asides from those of us who still have to go into work (Me, when it’s safe to do so) we are all being asked to stay inside our houses. What a dream! An actual dream. I’ve definitely been told that when I’ve been really sick with ME and largely stuck in the four walls of my bedroom.

Being stuck. In the confines of your house, or room, be it with family or alone can be really bad for your mental health and your relationships with others. I understand that, I know that. Being stuck anywhere, especially if you are easily bored, irritated, like to move and exercise and benefit from changes of scenery is hard. So as an expert in this field and as someone currently self isolating due to COVID-19 symptoms + I’m at a higher risk than the average person I thought it would be wise to share some tips.

  1. Don’t think of it as being stuck. Change your perspective, think of your home as your sanctuary, your castle, your safe haven. If you change the dialogue around how you feel to more positive dialogue this can definitely help keep your mind in check.
  2.  Try to keep things clean and tidy – tidy space tidy mind. This is something I really struggled with when bedbound and still struggle with but it definitely makes a difference.
  3. Get dressed, shower, make an effort to look pretty – I promise you it makes so much of a difference to your mental health if you make this extra bit of effort even if your not going to see anyone. I’m not saying you need to wear a full suit or a full face of make up but get out of your pyjamas.
  4. Lists lists lists – it doesn’t need to be a full schedule of your day hour by hour if that’s not your vibe but if there’s things you know you need to do write them down on a to do list. It is very satisfying to get them done and will at least reduce the social media time wasting feeling behaviour that I feel we’re all beating ourselves up over at this time.
  5. Stay connected. We may be distant geographically but we can stay together. Use social media to stay connected, find live streamed events and activities, phone your nan.
  6. But be mindful of how your using social media! There is a lot of anger out there right now. Curate your feed. Spread positivity and not hate. Don’t spend hours looking at the news, it’s nothing but COVID-19.
  7. Move your body – if you can. It doesn’t need to be much at all and can be just a few floor based/bed based exercises or if your fit, healthy and feeling it can be much more intense, especially if your able to panic buy workout equipment. Movement is really important for mental health, I find it is definitely helping set me up for my day and put me in a positive mindset no matter how small.
  8. Try something new. Do that thing you always wanted to do but never had the time. Learn that language, learn to draw, read that book, watch that TV show. Having a new hobby that can be done inside the house can fill the gap left by that hobby you are now unable to do for the time being and take your mind of the news.
  9. If you have space make the most of it. If your lucky enough to have a garden use it, if you have separate rooms that you can go into – use them. If you only have one room then try and use different sections of the room (I.e do your best to not stay in or on your bed all day)
  10. Don’t be too hard on yourself! I feel like there is a lot of pressure to be productive and monetize our time in social isolation. To get fit and stay in shape. Don’t give into it. It is only natural to be spending more time on social media in these times, to want to just eat sugar and just not be very focused. Do what you need to do your you, and only you. You are doing the best you can and we will all get through this!

COVID-19, Self isolation and ME

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I know we are all sick of hearing about it. There is nothing else in the news but this actually quite disastrous global pandemic. Not just disastrous health wise, but disastrous business wise and for individuals job security and financial security. We have seen mass hysteria, panic buying loo roll of all things (Plz send me some if you have some spare) and lots of vague advice. Today I want to write about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on me, and more specifically me and my ME.

So in the UK ME is a grey area with regards to the guidelines for at risk people to self isolate and stay away from busy offices etc. We’re not entitled to flu jabs unless we have comorbid conditions that do entitle us to such flu jabs. But the ME association believe we are included in the vulnerable population that should self isolate (https://www.meassociation.org.uk/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-latest-government-advice-and-what-it-means-for-people-with-me-cfs-17-march-2020/) and recognise the risk of a significant, prolonged and potentially severe relapse if we catch COVID-19 and I know Jennifer Brea has been tweeting her heart out about COVID-19, neurological symptoms and various post virus statistics for previous outbreaks. We know any virus can cause a flare up. A cold has caused one that I’m still recovering from. It’s been over a month. Now Covid-19 is more comparable to the flu than the common cold – we also don’t know how it will effect people with ME and I myself – whilst I can afford to do so (which won’t be long) am not prepared to take that risk.

It  may be a risky decision. A decision that many in my life will not approve of (My family especially). But it was not a decision taken lightly. I have a full time job, a job I’m in probation for and therefore by doing this I may lose it – which considering the likely economic climate come June when probation ends is a risk. The potential loss of income is a risk considering my mad expensive rent and the fact that I don’t know how my parents would react to me deciding to move home in august, work part time and look after my health. (Yes partly my fault because I don’t open up to them).

But my immune system is down, this morning I came down with what I’m pretty sure is an ear infection. You know that classic childhood middle ear infection. I’m 22. My body is weak and I need to acknowledge that. If the conspiracy that coronavirus went round my city in December/January isn’t true and I just escaped because I was stronger then. In terms of my immunity (and L-Lysine which I’m gonna resolve to take every day again because it definitely meant aside from some tonsillitis in November I had a persistent low grade cold instead of constantly getting sick). I’m also not back from the flare from the cold I had end of January/early February (I didn’t cough much I don’t think it was coronavirus. Started with a horrific sore throat and then materialised).  If I get a virus now it could and likely would knock me out. Not just for a week or two but for months.

Health comes first. It’s difficult, it’s scary. Not only because of financial consequences and peoples perceptions . But because being stuck in the house reminds me of when my ME forced me to stay largely in the house and horizontal. There’s trauma there. Trauma that may need to be worked through if I am to stay sane for however long I stay off work. And not only stay sane but come back to work in a mentally stronger place with higher concentration etc. The trauma is the scariest part of this. Never did I see myself willingly largely confining myself to my flat by choice because life is better experienced outside of these four walls. But I also didn’t forsee a pandemic and to protect my current health and my future health it was a decision that had to be made.