I got sick at the start of the pandemic. It sucked.
Here’s what I came away with: If you live alone, prepare now.
More than you think you need to.
And for a worse illness than you think you need to.
Because you could be in for a lot of things all happening at the same time:
- An illness that we don’t fully understand, which could last for an amount of time we aren’t sure of
- Different experiences of that illness depending on our age, health and other factors
- Inner conflict about how and whether to ask for help from people who could be exposed to COVID-19, if you have it
- Stay-at-home guidelines that mean even if you get sick with something other than coronavirus (or injured, or need a surgery), you may not be able to get the same medical treatment—or even the same level of support from friends and family.
After all, let’s recall the totally unprecedented factor we find ourselves dealing with: a pandemic and the very strong recommendation that we keep to ourselves as much as possible, especially while sick. Huh?
So you need to get ready.
Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do as people who get sick while solo. And preparing physically is one of the best ways we can reduce and soothe the anxiety of knowing that our situation may bring a couple extra challenges.
Consider this preparation a hug you’re giving to yourself. This is self-care, and it’s also community care. (Especially if you ask your friends if they’re ready, and send them a link to this post.)
A little bit about my experience
The sickness I came down with is called Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). It includes the possibility of relapse. And, true to form, I’ve already relapsed once. EBV shares some symptoms with COVID-19, especially as we see people’s COVID recovery taking months: there’s fatigue, brain fog, difficulty doing daily tasks. Plus I could still come down with COVID-19, if I haven’t had it already. It isn’t clear what role COVID-19 may have played in my experience, since testing restrictions were still tight when I got sick.
Why I prepare
That’s why even though I was already sick, I spend some time each week getting my kit together.
I prepare under the assumption I may be debilitated with just a few hours’ notice; unable to walk far; struggling to get to the bathroom; unable to stand or prepare food. I imagine I can hardly move. How will I survive? The preparation needs to answer that question.
And, as a Person Usually Very Prepared For Life, let me just say that I wasn’t nearly prepared for this.
One of my biggest mistakes at the outset of the pandemic was thinking I’d be fine with the usual assortment of medication and soothing food. I set myself up with some protein shakes, soup mixes, rice and access to flu medication. After getting sick, I realized it had been some time since I really, truly was debilitated from an illness. I assumed I’d be able to get up and get things (false). I assumed I’d be able to cook for myself each day (false). I thought at least I could do online research as usual (false—too fatigued to focus on a screen for more than a few minutes).
So, if you’re usually a pretty healthy person, it’s time to push yourself and let the imagination soar. Start by thinking through times you were sick—as a kid, as an adult. I’m not talking the flu. I mean, really, really sick. And try to remember what you needed. If you don’t have a time like that in your memory, try to imagine.
For those people who already experience chronic and long-term conditions, it will not be hard to summon up this image. I want to recognize that this article may not carry as much value for these readers, who have already had to make many accommodations and draw on deep strength.
This is important. Your quality of life, if not your life itself, actually could depend on it. So don’t let this just be another “interesting, aaaaand next!” browsing moment. Here are some tips to make sure you come out of this ready to take action.
- Take notes as you go. Note actions you want to prioritize, questions you have or items that are missing. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have the start of your own action plan. Notetaking methods: paste into a document and take notes in that document; print and take notes in the margins; write your own notes in a notebook under the headers “info, questions, to do.”
- Prioritize. Look over your notes or the sections of the article, and list the numbers one through five by the items that are most important to you.
- Adapt. Make changes so the plan is customized to you. You may need to add elements depending on your specific health needs, nutrition, networks, housing, risk factors and goals.
- Share. Tell other people you have read this article. Normalize the topic. Start a conversation about how you can support each other or others you know.
If you feel hesitant, or if it’s a bummer to think about all of this, just remember: the sooner you get ready, the sooner you can stop thinking about having to get ready. And I believe you will also gain a level of internal peace knowing that you have done all you can to care for your future self.
Read the rest of Ruth’s story, including tips of how to set up a healing space and plan for recovery, at Ruth’s website.
Ruth Hamberg is a Minneapolis resident and owner of the Squaretree marketing, communications and events firm.