Living in the "new normal" with inflammatory bowel diseaseApr 21, 2021
For the past year, as a country, the majority of us have been socially isolating to reduce exposure to COVID-19. I remember thinking at the beginning of all of this that we would hunker down for a few months and “flatten the curve.” Then, I imagined, we would take our masks off and go back to our normal routines. Never could I have predicted that this virus would change so fundamentally the way I think about and operate in my daily life.
We have all experienced the pandemic differently. It has been devastating to all of us- but particularly to those who have lost work, lost a loved one or have had complications related to COVID-19 infection. As someone with an autoimmune disease on immune suppressive medications, it has been easy to become focused on the ways that this virus has made my life difficult. I think about the health risks of COVID-19 for myself and my patients and I am angry and scared, even as we move forward with mass vaccination.
And while the virus has caused so much destruction in its wake, many friends and patients with inflammatory bowel disease have told me that the pandemic has actually also provided them a great sense of relief.
The relief of being able to work at home with close access to bathroom, heating pad, medications.
The relief of ditching the 45 minute commute punctuated with multiple bathroom stops during difficult flares.
The relief of not having to explain to friends or family the food they order at a restaurant or why they need to sit on the aisle at the movie theater.
The relief of telemedicine appointments.
The relief of not having to search out every single bathroom in a new space.
What might seem small- just the knowledge that you have access to the bathroom- can change how you feel. When you lift that anxiety, the symptoms may still be there, but often they are not as intense and they certainly feel more manageable.
It’s hard to talk about with other people, because telling people that some parts of the pandemic have actually been easier for me can feel insensitive. But as we ease out of this pandemic, instead of fearing the loss of this security, I am asking myself how I can take pieces of my "new normal" with me moving forward.
I will embrace the changes in my life and work habits that have supported me during this pandemic.
I will trust myself to be my own best advocate for my future.
I will find ways to create the comfort for myself that I need to thrive.
What will you take with you?
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