LYME SCI: Finding the silver lining during times of crisis
Like many of you, I’m entering a new phase in the COVID-19 pandemic. When the president’s task force announced the “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” I thought, “Okay, I can make use of two weeks at home. Maybe I’ll finally get around to cleaning out my closet.”
In week two, once the shock of seeing how bad the pandemic was getting, I kinda hit the wall. My husband is out of work, my routine is gone, everything is so uncertain… I was on a roller coaster of emotion.
Then I remembered, “wait, I’ve done this before.”
In many ways, this feels like the first year of my daughter’s illness, when I went through all the phases of grief: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and finally arriving at acceptance.
This time, rather than focusing on the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to share some positive aspects that I’ve seen. I call these silver linings.
When my daughter’s health was at its worst, I worked hard to make our home as stress-free as possible. No easy task when we had others working and going to school. I ended up creating a schedule that we affectionately called “Groundhog Day.” Just like in the movie, we would wake up every day and essentially do the same thing over and over and over again.
I still keep a version of our Groundhog Day schedule taped to the side of the refrigerator for others to follow when I’m away. It includes feeding the animals, collecting eggs, when to start the dishwasher, when to start dinner, which day to take out the trash, mow lawns, etc.
With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, we’ve revamped our Groundhog Day schedule and added a “To-Do” list of all the things we’ve wanted to get done around the house. The list includes things like spring cleaning, refinishing the kitchen cabinets, starting the vegetable garden, cleaning out the garage. All total, we have a hefty 30 items on our to-do list.
And this brings me to my first “silver lining” of the pandemic, my first turning point—the realization that having a schedule and making lists are vital to surviving a crisis. Just as the routine of kindergarten is a comfort to kids, having a schedule, even if it’s loose, will be a comfort to you and your family. (Also see my emergency check list and my emergency kit list.)
Mitch Hoggard, a pharmacist by training, treasurer and board member of LymeDisease.org, has taken advantage of the quiet times by looking for subjects and good composition for photographing in nature.
Mitch told me, “During these trying times we have so much to be thankful for. As is often said, stop to smell the roses. Attitude isn’t everything, but it certainly plays a huge role in how we live our lives. We can stay home and complain, or we can find beauty.”
Here is a sampling of Mitch’s spectacular photography.
My daughter says she is excited to be “relearning how to garden for the first time since I was a little kid! Hoping to turn my black thumb into a green thumb, haha.” My brother shared he’s enjoying, “Bike rides! Most mornings Atom and I head out to do a mellow half hour loop. Mucho enjoyable for both of us.”
My friend David says he’s enjoying the quiet in Boston—fewer cars, less noise, with more birds and wild animals visiting his yard. We talked about how the Himalayan mountains have become visible from India for the first time in 30 years and NASA recording significantly less air pollution in the skies over China. All silver linings.
One day, while I was dropping groceries off at my parents’ house, my mom came to the window and said she was online with her painting group (a group of artists who normally get together once a week to paint). “They’re critiquing my painting,” she chimed as she held up her painting of the flowers we had delivered for Easter. It brought me joy to see that my mom had found a way to hang out with her friends.
As Dorothy Leland wrote in her “Touched by Lyme” blog, “Yes, in the interest of everybody’s health, we need to sequester ourselves in the coming weeks. But we must do our best to stay socially connected with our families, neighbors, and larger communities. We need each other more than ever in such trying circumstances! Luckily, social media and other technologies help us do that. Personally, I’m making a special effort to keep in touch with my tribe using the best “remote” tools for the job—phone calls, text, Facebook, email, etc.”
My longtime friend Nicki, an artist, Lyme disease and mental health advocate says, “I have connected with some incredible people in my community which have allowed me to help my community in so many ways from providing help to those in need to simply bringing a bit of joy.”
Learning to work from home
I’ve worked part-time from home for years and I love it. It’s nice being able to start the slow cooker or switch over laundry when taking a work “break.” I especially enjoy having my pets asleep at my feet and I know they love it too.
My friend Kristie’s husband works in aerospace and has been able to work from home since the lock-down started. She told me they both love being able to eat lunch together. Not having to drive to/from work has saved on gas money and hours of his time.
Jody Hudson, a dear friend and the founder of the Alex Hudson Lyme Foundation says, “I am enjoying learning how to work remotely from home and staying connected with my team and friends alike. Zoom has become my best friend.”
Knowing how much cleaner the earth has gotten during the pandemic I wonder why some people can’t continue to work from home? Possibly, businesses in areas like New York and Los Angeles that are impacted by heavy traffic can take a hard look at allowing folks to work more from home.
Renewed focus on health
Since my daughter was immunocompromised, I have become hyper-aware of germs. I wrote about the six steps we continue to use to help keep germs out of our house. If nothing else comes from this pandemic, people have become acutely aware of how important hand washing is for their health.
While I hope the need for mask wearing in public comes to an end, I think cleaning your cell phone, wiping the shopping cart handle and increased cleanliness is going to have a positive effect come next flu season. And hopefully we will all think twice about what we’ve been exposed to and take extra precautions before visiting our elder friends and relatives.
I see it as a good sign that the FDA is fast-tracking clinical treatment trials, allowing off-label use of medications and granting emergency use for newly developed tests for COVID-19. We can only hope this type of urgency and innovation will continue for tick-borne diseases.
And maybe, just maybe, people have become more aware of the emotional pain and frustration felt by those who have disabilities or chronic illness, like Lyme disease, and are stuck at home for months to years.
Now, wouldn’t that be a wonderful silver lining for the Lyme community?
LymeSci is written by Lonnie Marcum, a Licensed Physical Therapist and mother of a daughter with Lyme. Follow her on Twitter: @ Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org .