How Two Immunocompromised Sisters are Fighting the Coronavirus Quarantine

Em and Kate have been fighting chronic illness and immune suppression for over 10 years. While the novel coronavirus is reshaping their lives, it is not redefining them.

 

We are Em and Kate from the health and wellness blog, Two Being Healthy. Just over a month ago, we were in New York City to attend a work-related workshop about chronic migraine. We took full advantage of the trip, touring around the city and enjoying every free moment we had, sometimes to the point of overdoing it. Well, that visit feels like a year ago. Since the news of the coronavirus hit, it has dominated our thoughts and drastically altered our daily lives. This new reality has a level of surreal-ness that just won’t dissipate.

As two sisters with multiple chronic health conditions, we feel an extra sense of vulnerability at being in the more “at risk category” of this very real pandemic. (Read about our chronic illness journey.)

The authors, Em and Kate, quarantined at home together during coronavirus due to their immune conditions. Despite being in the "at risk" group, they are focusing on schedules, self-care, and gratitude.

How We, Two Immunocompromised Sisters, Got Here

Since those with certain pre-existing conditions or who are immunocompromised are considered to be more vulnerable to complications from the COVID-19 virus and may be more susceptible to catching the virus, we have been understandably frightened. Being in this situation is brand new to us (as it is to everyone). With the world suddenly in a health crisis, our anxiety has definitely skyrocketed (living in an apartment building with shared spaces, narrow hallways, and elevators makes properly protecting ourselves seem nearly impossible.

Our everyday mundane chores have become mental obstacles. Simply taking our dog outside for a walk now feels like we’re exposing ourselves to germs by merely opening doors that others have inevitably touched. This added stress weighs heavily on us. With our anxiety at an all-time high it is hard not to let it get the best of us. We feel like ever since this virus has started making its way into the United States, we have been on a roller coaster of emotions from calm to crying. (Ways to take a mental health break and manage heightened anxiety.)

With the continual stream of news stories invading our social media and a lack of sleep because of stress (“sleep disturbance” has taken on a new level since corona! see more on the insomnia-pain cycle), we feel constantly on edge. There seems to be a fine line between allowing ourselves to feel all the emotions that we’re entitled to during such a crisis and letting all of our fears get away from us and spiraling into a dark spot. During this time, we are trying to remind ourselves that our mental health needs just as much taking care of and maintenance as our other conditions do. 

We each have been living with multiple autoimmune and autonomic issues for over a decade and have become very accustomed to spending a lot of time at home (far altered from the life of the average young adult). But with this new virus at hand, our sanctuary now feels like a permeable bubble. No longer do we only have to fight an internal battle within our own bodies but we now have to put up an extra barrier against the world. 

Battling one of the harder days during coronavirus quarantine.

 

Our Daily Coping/Quarantining Plan

Whereas we generally encourage our readers and followers with chronic illness(es) to go out and live their lives with whatever is available to them on any given day, we know that this is impossible to do right now. Instead, now is the time to quarantine yourselves and to be meticulous about outside germs. Here are a few ways we are coping: 

  • We are heavily relying on delivery services for all the essentials.
  • We use disinfecting wipes on anything that has been touched by an outsider before it enters our home (eg, mail, packages, takeout food).
  • For the most part, we are keeping to our individual rooms. We are in constant contact through texting and FaceTime and while it’s no comparison to being together, it’s still comforting during these weird circumstances.
  • Since social distancing can feel extremely lonely, we’re making an extra effort to virtually reach out to those we love. We do this daily and have found a big difference in our mental health if we even have one day where we keep more to ourselves. 
  • Every day we try to do some type of daily exercise or movement for our bodies. We'll take our dog for a walk, do an online Pilates video and on the days where we aren't feeling well enough, we spend at least 20 minutes on the floor stretching.
  • We are maintaining a daily routine that includes healthy eating, creativity, self-care, and gratitude. Structure helps us to remain fulfilled and purposeful while we wait for this daunting time to pass (see more below, plus watch an April 2020 Facebook Live session on crafting to cope with chronic pain).

After the initial shock of the pandemic hit us, the first few days of isolation were spent as anyone would expect. We laid around filled with disbelief, reading every piece of news that we could get our hands on. But we quickly found that this was not the best way to handle the situation; not for us and not for those around us. We decided to build up our days with some semblance of loose structure and to do this, we tried to identify exactly what we needed to function as well as possible. 

The first no-brainer was to keep on a healthy eating and hydrating schedule. It is super easy to fall into bad eating habits during this time (just like people do on vacation) but with chronic health conditions, nutritional health and lifestyle choices, such as getting enough sleep and staying mobile, are crucial. Another important decision has been for us to commit to doing something creative every single day, even if it is just doodling on an iPad or writing a few ideas for an upcoming blog post.

Finally, we make sure to focus on our mental health. Each morning, we pick something that we particularly enjoy (an Epsom salts bath, a great movie, video chatting with an old friend, etc). We take note of wellbeing and center ourselves on gratitude even in this difficult time. 

Despite what’s going on around the world, we still want to feel productive. Maintaining our skillsets and passions, be it communicating, organizing or whatever else, helps us to have a fulfilling day. At the same time, by focusing on the small things that bring joy, our isolation has become more manageable and our days are being shaped with meaning. We are not letting the “at risk” label define our day to day. While we are doing everything in our power to stay germ-free from the coronavirus, we know that to a certain extent it is out of our hands.

If either one of us does fall sick we know we will be in communication with our current team of doctors who help handle our chronic conditions, quarantining ourselves, and relying heavily on virtual connections with our families for support.

More on COVID-19 risks for those living with lupus and rheumatoid arhtritis.

 
Updated on: 05/21/20
Continue Reading:
Immunosuppressants and Coronavirus: Here is What You Should Know
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