This goes out to all of you who are still terrified of interacting with humanity. You are not alone, and you’re not being paranoid; you are keeping yourself safe. As more people are resuming their normal lives, social media is a constant painful reminder that I need to be extremely careful and remain in lockdown due to my immune issues. Last time I did something social was a wonderful party on Valentine’s Day and now it’s September. So much has happened during that time that has definitely led to a decline in my mental state.
I try to put on a good face for people and lift them up during these chaotic months, but that gets extremely exhausting very quickly. I can only hope people will forgive me for forgetting to send them a letter or respond to a text in a timely manner. If all else fails I can share an online dating story and we can have a laugh. I’m stuck at home, so most people just ghost when they find out, but I’ve had a few FaceTime chats. I try to make a good impression by doing things like brushing my hair and putting a bra on. Sometimes even a little makeup! We are living in crazy times.
The reality is that I am not coping well. I am not taking care of myself like I should and I don’t know why I do things like skip vitamins, stay in my food comfort zone, and go into couch potato mode instead of working out. I don’t even do my breathing and mindfulness exercises as much as I should. I’m getting increasingly restless, and I think it’s affecting my physical health. I didn’t need a global pandemic in the midst of a Crohn’s flare. I have had seven hospital stays in 2020 so far and the fear of going back is strong.
I have PTSD as a result of some medical experiences, so during the pandemic I have two fears: getting COVID, and just anything that will put me in the hospital. My bag stays mostly packed. Being in the hospital alone is hard, and it’s something I’ve already endured so much. I don’t typically have visitors except my parents when the hospital is less dangerous. I’m seeing some great mental health professionals, but it isn’t like they are going to be able to magically help me in one session. When I am putting effort into taking care of myself, it’s so difficult to focus. Meditation is not going well, but I know if I keep at it things will get better.
I don’t know if I can be much help, but I’ve learned a lot during this pandemic. I’m two types of immunocompromised and I live with my parents, so they are also being ultra cautious for my sake. Sadness and restlessness set in pretty quickly at the beginning of all this. We were in the same boat as everyone else for a bit, but now we’re not on the same page about the risks of the pandemic. Missing family events hurts. It hurts because my family is important to me. It hurts seeing them have a great time while I sit at home wishing I was there.
Those of us who are still entirely or partly under lockdown are likely feeling frustrated and bitter toward people who can confidently go about their lives. We’re also probably scared because we have higher risk factors for complications than the average person.
I see a therapist and a psychiatrist, but here are some other aspects of taking care of my mental health.
- One of the most helpful coping mechanisms for me is laughter, so I call or FaceTime people when I need a boost. There used to be plans for a big group of ostomy friends to get together over the summer or early fall, but then everything went bad. And I won’t see them next year either. Long distance friendship is a challenge. But I’m deeply grateful to have people to call when I’m down or when I have the energy to be social.
- Taking some time each day to do something creative helps a lot. I have been sending watercolor cards to friends, practicing brush lettering, and conquering an intricate paint by number.
- Seeing a functional medicine nutritionist because she has helped me reduce my pain, which really worsens my mental health.
- Breathing exercises and meditation can help with anxiety. If you get annoyed with the first one you find on the internet, don’t lose hope. There’s probably something that will suit you better. I find this practice to help with low level issues but not with full meltdown mode.
- Journaling is great for keeping track of what’s going on with you, but you can also use it for self care sometimes. If you look up “positive journal prompts” you’ll find a lot of them. I mix the two in the same journal but you could even use two different journals.
- Limiting exposure to social media might be a good call. Comparing yourself to others can have real consequences, and there’s not much chance it’ll actually improve your mood right now.
I don’t claim to have all the answers; these are just things I’ve picked up that I hope you will find useful too. My family has been so patient and caring with my breakdowns, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. I’d especially like to give a shoutout to my mom, who is with me every step of my mental and physical struggles.
If you’re struggling with loneliness, anger, and grief, you are not alone.