I was raised in a family of healthcare professionals. I have parents and sisters and aunts and uncles and friends working in healthcare in some capacity. I even worked in healthcare for a minute.
In many ways, I am grateful for this. My mom recognized how sick I was in high school because of her training, and she taught me how to advocate for myself with the doctors and specialists I would meet down the road. I learned how to read my own blood test results as a teenager which equipped me for years of my own illness but also helped me stand up to a doctor who was dangerously scamming my friend in Sri Lanka. I have different relationships with doctors because I know myself and know how to ask for what I need. My family taught me that.
I am especially grateful for all of this in the middle of a pandemic. I am grateful for my hero parent and sister and aunts and uncles and friends who are on the front lines, and who have communicated what’s going on to me candidly. I’m grateful that I know the severity of our situation, that I can go to my mom with questions, that I have people who can give me an insider’s view on what’s being reported in the news. I’m grateful that I can understand. But here I am at home, watching.
When I was a teenager facing significant health issues, when I couldn’t walk down the hallway between classes without needing to stop for a break, I could do something about it. I couldn’t fix my own body, but I could talk to my teachers abou accommodations, I could carry snacks that would bring some energy back, I could take supplements and take care of myself. I had some control over a scary and confusing situation. But now? Not so much. Stay inside, physically distance yourself, wash your hands, and wait. That’s our contribution.
I’ve heard a lot of friends share how anxious they’re feeling, and I’m right there with you. It’s terrifying, losing control over your whole life. It’s scary hearing the tragic news coming from all over the world and being completely powerless to help. Some of us lost our jobs, and some of us might not have jobs to go back to, so finances are a source of stress and fear, too. I find myself obsessively checking other peoples’ social media to make sure they’re physically distancing properly. I have to limit my news intake. I have to limit my self-assessments.
In a different sense but a similar feeling, I’ve been there. And I learned from the experience of losing control over my body. So instead of allowing myself to give in to fear, I’m working very hard to focus on the things I can control. They’re small: I try to stick to a routine (wake up before 9), I try to exercise every day, I try not to watch TV until after dinner. I try to keep washing my hair semi-regularly and only wear clean leggings around the house. I try to communicate with people who are kind and make me laugh. Your list doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be impressive. The only thing I’m going to insist on, actually, is that you unfollow anyone who posts about “using this time to accomplish your dreams!” You don’t have to do that, if you don’t want to. Just be kind to yourself as you establish a new normal.
Another thing about my healthcare family is that they’re good in a crisis. They do their research, they stay level-headed, they think logically. I’d like to think I learned this from them (at least a little bit). There’s so much about the world these days that we can’t control, but we can choose not to panic. When we see the anxiety setting in, we can acknowledge its presence and we can send it on its way. Wash your hands of it, if you will. Give yourself some grace and trust that everything is going to be okay.