I think it is only fitting that my first Life blog be about ‘The New Normal.’ Only, it’s not as ‘New’ to me as it is to some others – at least not the physical isolation part. The catchphrases ‘social isolation’ and ‘social distancing’ really means ‘physical isolation’ and ‘physical distancing.’ These are par for the course when you live with MSC/ES and more allergies than you can count.
Since childhood, I have registered severely allergic to most things and mildly allergic to everything else – except feathers! Yes. Dozens of potential allergens and the ONLY one that didn’t affect me – feathers. And they didn’t even test me for foods and chemicals until recently. As time passed, new allergies and sensitivities arose. It wasn’t until my 40’s that a diagnosis of MCS/ES/FS was officially given.
As a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but it wasn’t possible. I loved animals and nature but had to limit interaction with them. Dancing, gymnastics and swimming, playing with the animals climbing trees and digging in the garden – loved it all when I could. Even small exposures resulted in a box of Kleenex, breathing issues, a rash or swelling. Limited consistent exposure always resulted in infections and a hospital visit. Chronic sinus, ear and throat infections (not to mention I.B.S.), which led to chronic antibiotics, which led to allergies to some antibiotics. Even touching my own face, touching or being near others can sometimes cause a mild reaction. I am physically hyper-sensitive with an immune system always on high alert. As you can imagine, I spent much of my childhood (and indeed my whole life) alone and physically distanced, finding inventive ways to entertain myself. And this was long before technology connected us! When I say ‘alone,’ I mean ‘alone.’ There was no internet, no email, no social media. Heck! We didn’t even have cable or computers at my house! Now I am self-isolating from the outside world to avoid COVID-19 exposure. Still, I am also limiting my exposure to my husband within our home because he is a paramedic. If he is exposed, I might be exposed. I guess my message here is…
If you find yourself ill and in need of health services, please keep them and everyone else they will come into contact with safe by…
If I could do it as a small child without having a temper tantrum – you can too! Whether you are 10 or 20, 15 or 55… It will keep everyone safe! You, me, family, friends, that sick child next door, our first responders, our healthcare workers, retail workers, transportation workers. So many people will be saved if we self isolate. Just stay home. Do you really want to be responsible for a child’s death? Can you live with that? 2 weeks, 2 months – not a lot to ask in the span of a lifetime.
It’s really physical isolation, not social isolation that we are being asked to practice. The anxiety and fear stem from the idea of being forced to physically isolate, the possibility of being ill, the financial insecurity, the lack of control. But what a hero you will be if you stay home and just focus on the things you can do. And the list is plentiful!
The truth of the matter is that the world has been leaning towards physical isolation for quite some time. When was the last time you were in a group situation where everyone’s phones were in their pockets? It’s more likely that you were standing side by side while texting the very people you were standing next to. Texting, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom – no one is taking that away from us. We just need to sit further apart or communicate from a distance.
We are lucky to have the technology today that makes social interaction via physical distance a readily available option. We can play games over networks with people on the other side of the world. We can see people face to face. We have so many ways to stay connected, thanks to technology. Work, study, and play can all continue. It’s hard – really hard – but it’s not forever. I the meantime, there are ways to socialize, stay engaged, and keep ourselves occupied and productive. Even I have had to make adjustments to accommodate the ‘New Normal.’ Still, for me, the transition is not nearly as challenging as it is for others. I understand that. Given my experience, I think it’s important to share with you how I’ve adapted to ongoing periods of isolation. Here we go…
Have children who like art and stories? Why not create a storybook with them? I loved creativity, nature and learning. These saved me as a child! Legos, board games, puzzles, reading – all favourites. But my pencils and crayons were gold! Home ill frequently, I learned to read and draw before I started elementary school. I created illustrated storybooks. A green worm living in an apple, going to the apple school and going to the apple hospital when he was sick. I even had a cross-section of the apples to reveal the multi-story interiors and furniture and other-wormly residents. It’s a great way to help children relieve anxiety and fear.
Make every night movie night with the family & friends. Even if you are in separate residences, you can have a group watch party. How about a video game competition or a networked board game like monopoly? Is there a craft you always wanted to learn? Want to flex that green thumb and get gardening? Buy seeds online and start them inside. A fast and easy option – grow microgreens! Want to improve your cooking or baking skills? All of these can be found online. YouTube, Blueprint, and so many other online options are available to help you. Lots of options for any budget – even free. It’s about time for Spring Cleaning (if you are a bit O.C.D. like me). Learn about the world! Watch and read anything educational. A new language, nature documentaries, history, science and technology, religion, geography. There are so many options!
And most important – take this time to have a real, meaningful conversation with each other across the miles. Strengthen those relationships. Get to know your kids that little bit better. Exercise! We can’t do anything about our physical & financial constraints right now. And we might just find that it re-connects us all in a more meaningful way than we ever could have imagined.