Nikki pictured in her garden on a sunny day

Finding a way through this storm

Well, we’re well and truly in the thick of it now aren’t we? Several weeks into a weird life of seeing through a different lens to normal.

Yet for me this unknown and vulnerable feeling is similar to how I feel most days living with MS. Except that coronavirus is being talked about every day by everyone, and my MS can’t kill me.

Perhaps people will at last understand a bit more about hidden or unseen threats to health and have more empathy.
In the early weeks though I definitely didn’t see this.

Nonsense miracle cures

I saw greed and frankly selfish behaviour all over the place (loo roll and hand wipe hoarding). I saw others playing down the seriousness and sunbathing, meeting with friends, and so on.

And yet more posting things about cures and protection that weren’t true. That’s similar to having MS, people posting nonsense about a marvellous cure you haven’t heard of. ‘Try drinking cow urine’ - I mean, really?!

My mental health has taken a hit

All this aside, my mental health has probably taken a bigger hit than I would’ve expected.

Having extra daily virtual meetings for work that don’t normally happen has disrupted my ‘normal’ even more. They’re a constant reminder that we’re in a different space because of a life threatening virus.

And while it’s genuinely nice to see people, share info and have fun wearing silly hats (that has been hilarious), it’s also impacted on the time available to do the work.

Thinking about risk and uncertainty

I feel out of control and flooded with information. With both MS and Asthma, I am certainly at higher risk from the virus. Possibly..? Probably..?

[Find out what we know about risk factors so far]

I haven’t had any official recognition (although my GP has doubled my Asthma meds) of this being the case, as there are over a 1.5 million other people who are at greatest risk. I don’t know how to feel about that!

My unknown but potentially life changing possibility is one we with MS live with day in day out: “will my MS take a nose dive and relapse?”, “what might it be today? or “when might that happen?” I think about that at some point every day.

How can I continue to feel that fear when there are people dying all round the world? I guess that is the case every day anyway, for many different reasons. So, my sense of conflict grows – am I being selfish, morbid or self-obsessed? I don’t recognise those descriptions as being me.

The impact on my family

On top of this, my family are concerned that they’ll catch the virus and give it to me. And in their mind, then be responsible for me dying from it (cheery!).

We’ve talked about who would need to sleep in the spare room if either of us caught it, who would look after who, and so it goes on. If I became ill then maybe I wouldn’t see my daughter grow up or spend later life with my husband – and what about the cat and the dog?!

Finding my coping strategies

I veer from being totally upbeat to tears at the flick of a switch. I am determined to sort my head out though. I don’t like how it feels. By understanding stress and how it affects different people, you can build coping strategies that work for you.

I’m watching comedies on Netflix rather than ‘real life killers’ or things like that.

I’ve added mindfulness activities into my evenings like playing the piano, and adult (not rude!) colouring books.

I’ve been ‘meeting’ my bookclub, best friend and relations over Zoom. Finding time to walk my dog with my husband every day, who is now working from home too. My daughter is now back from uni rather than visiting for the usual couple of days every 4 to 6 weeks.

We’re all in it together

There is so much to be thankful for, and because of how we are acting my risk is much decreased. I am ‘Staying at Home, Protecting the NHS and Saving Lives’, hoping I never have to test that.

Do I feel better having got that off my chest? A little!

Keep smiling through the storm – at least on this one we’re all in together.

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