COVID-19 and chronic illness

Well, this is a weird time isn’t it? I have to admit, when the news of a new virus spreading in China first started trickling out I flashed back to all the post apocalyptic literature I’ve read over the years (The Stand and Station Eleven are two excellent examples I’ve read recently) and I wondered if it was actually happening. Or, even worse – were zombies involved?? Thankfully, no. The virus is bad but not apocalyptic bad. And no zombies that we know of. That’s not to say the whole thing isn’t incredibly scary though.

Amazing the chaos one tiny virus can cause

I’m not going to bother repeating all the information already plastered all over the internet – by now we all know the symptoms and likelihood it will be ‘mild’ for ‘most people’ (more on that later) and in terms of advice in the UK, this is changing daily although right now we are all waking up to a brand new world – one where social distancing is the name of the game. Our competent and inspiring leader (that’s sarcasm btw), BoJo, yesterday had a rapid change of heart from last week’s advice to basically Keep Calm and Carry On and said we all need to be distancing ourselves socially, work from home if possible and self isolating for 14 days as a household if one person shows symptoms. This is going to be one hell of an experiment of how much families actually like each other 🤷‍♂️.

Thankfully, for me, social distancing and working from home isn’t too much of a challenge. I’ve spent the last 3 years dealing with a chronic illness that forces me to spend days, if not weeks, in the house and I frequently work from home anyway. The trickier thing to navigate will be the whole household in isolation if needed – we have VERY energetic children (a 3 and a 6 year old) and my husband starts going a bit loopy if he doesn’t get regular exercise. Bearing in mind that I am still dealing with the symptoms of my chronic illness – daily fatigue, pain and migraines, I still need to work full time and make sure my team are all supported and now we are throwing in two small kids to entertain and a rapidly dwindling food supply – I am not quite sure how to manage all this.

Then, the bigger worry. At the moment my ME/CFS is classed as mild – moderate. I have bad days / weeks but I am able to hold down a full time job and manage some level of family and social life. There are people with this illness however, around 25% of us, who fall into the severe category. They are totally house bound, some are bed bound, and often need carers to look after them. For some people this illness is progressive so all my focus is on trying not to get worse. If recovery isn’t possible, then at least I can maintain. But this new illness? Who knows what effect it could have on my symptoms, or how long recovery might take.

For me, the advice about working from home and social distancing couldn’t come at a better time and I’m hoping it’s not too late – that this house can dodge the corona bullet but I have to say I am pretty fearful about the whole thing. The other worry is the fact my mum is now alone, 3 hours drive away and has been told to self isolate for the next 12 weeks due to COPD. I hate the fact we won’t see her for all this time, that she will miss her grandkids. But mostly I am worried about her getting this illness and having to deal with it alone.

So what is to be done? Well not a lot really. I’m pretty much house bound from now on, maybe for 12 weeks (I’m trying to get a definitive answer on this but it’s likely that ME / CFS falls under the ‘serious health conditions’ used to identify those who need to self isolate for this long). The rest of the family will follow all advice to reduce their risk of getting the virus but if we get it, we get it. My focus will be on staying well mentally, trying not to catastrophise and worry too much about my mum. Keep in contact will all my friends, family and colleagues (if WhatsApp goes down there will be serious issues!). Work will keep me busy, adjusting to this new normal so at least I don’t have much time to sit around picturing worst case scenarios. And I’ll probably write lots of blog posts, because in all honesty it helps to get it out and connect with others who are likely struggling too, for many different reasons.

Just as a final note – whilst we have all been focussed on looking out for coronavirus symptoms, we may have missed the fact our 3 year old had rapidly become covered with spots. She came home from nursery yesterday and it was clear she had chicken pox. Fml.

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