I thought it was time that I sit down and write up my thoughts on the Coronavirus situation…not because I feel that I have some sort of great wisdom or knowledge, but simply because sometimes, it just helps to know that we’re not alone in how we’re feeling or what we’re facing.
More days than not, I feel good–strong, healthy, as if I didn’t have any chronic illnesses to battle. I prioritize my health and focus on avoiding processed foods, workout daily, and have been medication free for about four years now (though I do take a few supplements, including CBD, an anti-inflammatory, and a probiotic). When I’m thriving in my little bubble, not focused on things I can’t have and living pain free, I mostly forget that my immune system has gone awry–my kidneys needing to be watched and Crohn’s just waiting to rear its ugly head.
Now, with the world beginning to open back up, as people start to face the prospect of spending time together in large crowds once again, I find myself wondering how comfortable I really feel venturing outside the small bubble I’ve settled into. I miss human contact and being able to give a hug to a friend, but I don’t want to be careless and throw all caution to the wind, completely ignoring the virus.
It was three years ago last month, that my husband had a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacterial infection in his eye. After five days in the hospital, the doctors had to remove it [his eye] in order to save his life. That event changed the way we both look at life and it was a reminder (one that was a little too close for comfort) of how fragile we really are and how quickly things can change. It was a scary and helpless position to be in, knowing that a microscopic thing we couldn’t see with the naked eye was threatening my husband’s life and the tools we had to fight it with were limited and not guaranteed to work. For the next year, I lived with the fear that the virus was still lurking around and suppressed the urge to stick my husband in a bubble for the rest of his life. Honestly, it was a hard feeling to shake.
In today’s environment, the unknowns of the Coronavirus brings back many of the same feelings of watching my husband’s body battle the MRSA infection. I can’t help but think of how vulnerable we humans are and how dangerous bacteria and viruses can be. When my husband was discharged from the hospital, the infectious disease doctors and his surgeon instructed him (and even for me and the dogs) to wash with Hibiclens for a week (an antibacterial and antimicrobial skin cleanser that begins killing germs on contact and can continue working for up to 24 hours). To this day, we keep a constant supply of Hibiclens in our home and my husband uses it as a body wash.
For the first month during social distancing/shelter in place that the Coronavirus pandemic brought, I didn’t even realize that things were different. I was already set up to work from home a couple days a week, so suddenly working from home five days a week didn’t take an adjustment at all. Not only was the adjustment easy, but the increased workload kept me busy (when you handle communications, graphic design, and web design in a remote world, there is plenty to do!). I was so busy, I didn’t have the energy, time, or desire to leave the house.
Fast forward to today, two full months of shelter in place and social distancing, and things are different. Like many others, I’m not sure what day it is, but I’m also ready to get out and wondering what will happen now. I find myself thinking about what it will be like to travel again, how long until the airlines are back in full service, how long everyone will wear face coverings, and what is the largest size crowd that I actually want to be in or around?
Even without the thoughts/fears about Coronavirus, I’m always wondering how much and what it will take to trigger my immune system enough to bring Crohn’s Disease out of remission. I often walk a fine line, pushing my diet to the limits of what I know my body can tolerate, and wonder now if that line has moved. While I’m not on immune-suppressing or immune-modulating medications currently, I know that many of you reading this are and probably find your thoughts further compounded with the risks that being immunocompromised brings. And while I am medication free, in the back of my head I still hear the voice of my gastroenterologist emphasizing the importance of getting the flu vaccine because, medications or not, I already have a malfunctioning immune system.
As much as I wanted to stick Jeff into a bubble three years ago, I know that’s no way to live, and I don’t want to feel that way now. The best I can do, at this moment, is to simply focus on what I can control and not on what I can’t.
So what can I control? I know I can do things to make my body as strong as it can be in order to give myself the best fighting chance if I do become sick–whether from Coronavirus, the flu, or another Crohn’s flare up–and that starts from supporting my body from the inside out.
Food is my foundation. I already know that eating the wrong foods can leave me feeling miserable and even put me into a flare, so I’ll continue to avoid processed foods and sugars. Even though I am limited in what vegetables I can tolerate, I do try to center my diet around a variety of vegetables; fruits; berries; grass-fed meats/free-range poultry, purchased directly from the farm; and fermented foods (kimchi and sauerkraut are my favorite) that feed the good bugs in the gut microbiome.
Fitness is my passion. Yes, I’ve taken days off, even weeks off when I’ve been sick or on vacation, but over the past 20 years, I’ve never not had a workout plan or routine that I was following. I love the way I feel after a great lifting session or intense HIIT workout. I love how capable and strong that exercise makes my body, but I especially love the fact that I am caring for this one human body that I have. Exercise strengthens the immune system, your bones, the cardiovascular system, and even provides benefits to the brain. There are so many benefits, there’s no reason to not find some sort of physical activity you love and make that a part of your day.
Meditation is my clarity. While meditation is a new part of my daily routine and comes with numerous benefits, the most important impact it’s had on my health is in reducing my daily stress. There are many ways to meditate–walking; sitting; focusing on sound, your breath, your body (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg)–and it only takes a few minutes…even just 10 breaths or one breath is enough to start building the habit. Most beginners typically feel like they’re doing something wrong or not doing enough, but as long as you are practicing letting your mind be still, you are doing it right.
Aside from food, fitness, and meditation, I also plan to wash my hands more frequently when I’m out in public. After that, there’s not much else I can do. My skills and gifts are not ones that will help in finding a vaccine or solving the major issues caused by the virus and effects of the pandemic, but I can share my voice, hope, and remind everyone that we are in this together and not one of us is alone in our thoughts, worry, or hesitations.
Life is short, beautiful, precious, and not meant to be spent in a bubble. Which is why the last piece of how I’ll move forward is my personal vow to be present. Don’t find yourself five years from now realizing that you missed out on life because you were too worried about the future or couldn’t stop dwelling on the past. Sometimes we get so focused on the negative, that we fail to see the beauty right in front of us. Appreciate each day and the good that is all around us.
And once again, what I thought was only going to be a few paragraphs turned out to be much, much longer; thanks for making it this far!! 🙂