Stress Overload

Today has been exceptionally stressful. I took my daughter to her orthopedic appointment, expecting her to have her cast removed. She had it removed, followed by having an x-ray that showed that her fracture is not healed. Consequently, she was recasted.

My daughter has been assisting my elderly mother with everyday tasks. I’ve tried to help as much as possible, by driving them to all appointments, plus shopping for them and doing their laundry.

Thankfully, my own symptoms have been manageable during this especially stressful period. I gave an examination for my advanced placement high school students today. Therefore, I have multiple tests to grade.

Tomorrow morning, my daughter and I are going to take part in a telehealth appointment for my mother. We really need to arrange for some assistance with her, due to her current condition.

I’ll reschedule seeing my regular caseload of nursing home residents for Saturday, as opposed to Friday, this week. Again, I’m very thankful for the flexibility in my clinical position.

Please stop the ride, I want to get off

These past several weeks have been exceptionally stressful. Of course, feeling extra stressed always worsens my MS symptoms. For example, I’ve been experiencing increased paresthesias in my lower extremities all day long.

My 90-year-old mother is again back in the hospital. She was admitted to the hospital only two weeks earlier. She’s developed a UTI. She’s also being tested for COVID-19.

My daughter is continuing to struggle, secondary to having sustained a foot fracture, one month ago. She’s a charge nurse, at a very busy medical center. Being off of work hasn’t been easy for her.

I’m tremendously thankful that I have been feeling well enough to help both of them at this time. They have both needed me much more than usual recently.

I’m also very appreciative about having a flexible work schedule. My work contacts have been very supportive of my need to adjust my schedule recently.

Despite my multiple chronic illnesses, I actually feel very well right now. My prayers go out to so many who are suffering, so very deeply, at this unprecedented time in our nation.

Anxiety and COVID-19

Many of us find ourselves feeling more anxious during these uncertain times in our country. We feel especially anxious about not knowing when this unprecedented crisis will finally resolve.

When we watch the news, we’re bombarded with frequent updates regarding the number of COVID-19 cases documented within our geographical area.

If we make a trip to the grocery store for necessities, we’re surrounded by reminders to socially distance ourselves from others. We see disinfecting wipes for our carts, as well as hand sanitizer dispensers.

Some of us are still working. Our daily commute may further expose us to listening to frightening statistics regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. While at work, we encounter a new environment for performing our everyday tasks.

All of these concerns, however, are only magnified when you happen to be living with chronic illness. I am especially vulnerable to developing severe complications should I contract COVID-19.

I have a rare airway disorder, plus I’m taking immunosuppressant medication for the management of my relapsing-remitting MS.

I’m certainly limiting my exposure to others whenever possible. I frequently wash my hands, more than ever before.

If I should contract COVID-19, I pray that my complications will be relatively less severe in nature.

Please be sure to check on your family and friends during this most vulnerable time, especially if they have pre-existing conditions that place them at heightened risk.

Depression and COVID-19

For those of us who are vulnerable to feeling depressed, the COVID-19 pandemic poses considerable risks. It’s important to address the emotional dimensions of this distressing pandemic.

Symptoms of clinical depression are exacerbated by social isolation. Obviously, we’re all in quarantine to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Extended periods of isolation allow depression-prone individuals to ruminate on their symptoms excessively. Explore the possibility of journaling; it is an effective means of purging rumination.

It’s important to set goals to accomplish each day, even if they appear relatively minor in scale. Doing so allows for a sense of mastery, during a time when we’ve lost considerable control over so many aspects of our lives.

Sleep and appetite patterns are likely to change during periods of clinical depression. We may find that we lose our appetite, or we may struggle with overeating. Similarly, we could develop problems with insomnia, or we could sleep excessively.

During our imposed social distancing, it remains critically important to stay socially connected. This is even more vital if you struggle with depressive symptoms.

Phone your family members and friends, send others a text, connect via Facebook messenger, do a video chat, and/or utilize online support groups and discussion forums.

Please reach out if you’re feeling seriously depressed, or having suicidal thoughts. This is an incredibly challenging time for all of us, filled with much uncertainty and ongoing questions. Don’t suffer alone, since help is available.

Stress of Uncertainty

I spent today conducting several therapy sessions with elderly residents of a nearby nursing home. They were tremendously stressed by the multiple changes induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

These are residents who already struggle with feeling extremely lonely and isolated. Now, their family members are prohibited from visiting them, for an indefinite period of time.

Thankfully, this nursing home has become very creative in addressing residents’ needs to connect with their family members. Residents are escorted to the main dining room, and their family members are allowed to meet them right outside the dining room’s window. They then communicate over the phone.

I felt deeply saddened to witness residents who are struggling with feeling extremely isolated. Such residents have already faced so very many losses in their lives, including the loss of their formal vitality.

Residents in nursing homes face a very difficult adjustment: they essentially lose control over so many things, including their personal preferences for how to spend their time, when to wake up, and when to eat.

When meeting with these residents, I try to remember their former selves. At one time, they were younger, and considered to be vital and relevant men and women.

Perhaps my own experiences of serious chronic illnesses have allowed me to more deeply appreciate the degree of loss that these elderly residents face. I know, all too well, what it’s like to feel a total loss of control over the trajectory of your life.

I’m deeply thankful that my personal experiences allow me to connect with my elderly residents on a deeper level than is possible for most doctors.

Increased Vulnerability to COVID-19

I happen to be one of many individuals who are at increased risk of developing complications, should I happen to contract COVID-19. After all, I have a chronic airway disorder. Plus, I’m currently taking immunosuppressant medication for the management of my relapsing-remitting MS.

I’ve tried to limit my time outside the house, but it has not been entirely possible recently. I’ve needed to run errands for both my daughter and my elderly mother. I’m happy that I have been feeling well enough to do so.

It remains very challenging to try to teach a college course remotely. Thankfully, my advanced placement high school students are highly motivated to do well in their classes.

I’m tremendously relieved that I am not currently experiencing increased shortness of breath, nor heightened throat-clearing. Next month, it will be a full year since my last dilatation for my subglottic stenosis.

COVID-19 and Emotional Distress

We’re all dealing with the mass uncertainty imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While we’re bombarded with information regarding the medical aspects of this pandemic, it appears that more attention needs to be paid to the emotional aspects of coping with this rampant virus.

It strongly appears that many of us are experiencing the typical stages of grief and loss as we attempt to cope with this pandemic. Some of us are still dealing with denial, as manifested by attempts to downplay the seriousness of this pandemic. In addition, we may minimize the importance of continuing to engage in social distancing as a means of flattening the curve.

Others are contending with the anger phase of adjusting to loss. We’re intensely irritated that our everyday routines have been so powerfully disrupted. Perhaps we feel frustrated by having to find novel ways to perform our work-related activities.

Maybe we find ourselves in the bargaining phase of grieving, assuming that engaging in a certain number of weeks of isolation will attenuate the impact of COVID-19. We promise to adhere to a limited period of altering our lifestyle, expecting that our reward will be that our lives eventually return to normal.

Hopefully, the majority of us will eventually come to accept the new way of life that has become imposed on us. We’ll learn to be human “beings,” as opposed to human “doings.” We will learn to cherish increased time with our family members. We will learn to be more grateful for everyday blessings. We will find ourselves less defined by our accomplishments, as well as our possessions.