It’s Not ‘Back to Normal’ for Those With Chronic Illnesses

It’s Not ‘Back to Normal’ for Those With Chronic Illnesses
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The world is re-opening. People are returning to bars, restaurants, and shops. They’re reuniting with loved ones and friends. I’m terrified.

I’ve been locked down for over three months, but the last couple of weeks have been the most challenging.

The pandemic has been a bizarre and stressful time for everybody. We’ve all been forced to stay inside our homes and refrain from socializing. One strange source of comfort has been that we’re all in the same boat. People all over the world have kept themselves entertained by making sourdough starters, baking banana bread, or gardening for the first time. Now, we’re no longer in the same boat.

Many healthy people are proclaiming relief that “everything’s going back to normal,” but for those of us living with conditions such as pulmonary hypertension, things are far from normal. 

At the beginning of lockdown I was categorized as extremely vulnerable and at high risk of hospitalization if I contracted COVID-19. In the U.K., people in this group were advised to “shield.” Shielding is essentially a stricter version of lockdown that prohibits you from leaving the house and asks you to reduce contact with those in your household if they’re not shielding with you. I never thought I would miss grocery shopping so much. 

While my friends meet up in parks and look forward to pubs and restaurants opening, I am still being advised to shield for at least another month. Even after that I will have to be cautious for a long time. COVID-19 is a scary illness for anybody, but for someone with messed up lungs and a notoriously shoddy immune system, it’s even more terrifying. While the risk of infection is reduced, my COVID-related health anxiety isn’t over.

The world has been standing still, and it’s hard not to feel left behind as it starts to move again. The feelings of isolation and missing out are familiar and, in some ways, triggering. I’m no stranger to sitting things out, be it a holiday or a night out, because of my health. I have written before about FOMO (fear of missing out). Though it may seem trivial, for many people with complex health problems it is a significant and painful part of day-to-day life.

I wish I had the privilege of a life free from health anxiety, a life in which I could drink alcohol with my friends or pig out on junk food without worrying about the consequences. A life in which I could head to a bar next weekend with everyone else. Instead, I live a life in which I need to consider what’s best for my long-term health with every decision I make.

It can be frustrating, but at the same time it’s oddly liberating. I know that it’s my number one responsibility in life to look after myself, physically and mentally. 

Though the next few months are going to be difficult, I can apply a lesson my health journey has taught me over and over again: Take the small wins where you can. I am now allowed to go out for walks — provided I keep my distance from others. And I’ll celebrate and be grateful for this (and try not to pay too much attention to what other people are doing). 

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Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.

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