Being quarantined at home for more than a month means we’re all spending a lot more time on social media these days. I’ve written before about the challenges of navigating social media with a chronic illness. And from what I can tell these days, the coronavirus pandemic is bringing out our true personalities and amplifying our most hilarious and bizarre behaviors and habits — for better or worse.
Which of these “patient personalities” resonate with you? (I’m not judging! I’m like three of them!)
Netflix and chill? No thank you. You’re definitely not the type to lie on the couch feeling sorry for yourself, gobbling down Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and binge-watching Little Fires Everywhere.(Your celebrity spirit animal is definitely Reese Witherspoon, but you wouldn’t know that because you don’t have time to watch TV.) When you’re in a disease flare, your motto is “Gots to Keep It Moving!”
You’re doing your best to keep comorbidities like heart disease and diabetes at bay, so your self-quarantined days are packed with rotating Zoom calls with six different groups of friends, YouTube exercise classes, various home organization projects, and lots and lots of chores. You allow yourself a glass of wine once a month for all of your hard work and because your rheumatologist said it was okay. You always do everything your doc says. You are perfect.
Let’s not sugarcoat it: You’ve been a hot mess since diagnosis, and especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Your doctor’s number takes up the first five spots on your “recent calls” list because you dial your them at least twice a week. Naturally, you were the first patient in the practice to score a new telehealth appointment. You call so much that you don’t even have to say your name because the receptionist knows your voice. When your doc doesn’t call you back right away, you frantically Google your symptoms and scare the bejesus out of yourself, misdiagnosing yourself with the most rare and horrific diseases that have nothing to do with your chronic illnesses or COVID-19. You’re not a doctor, but you try to read medical journals like Annals of Rheumatic Diseases anyway, even though you got Cs and Ds in your science classes and pretty much have no idea what the hell they’re talking about.
Man, you really know your stuff. You were already a wealth of information on all things inflammation-related — and now you’re the most trusted expert on coronavirus … in your house. You eagerly await the latest CDC MMWR report like other people wait for the release of a new issue of Us Weekly with Harry and Meghan on the cover. You can’t help rattling off the latest statistics about flattening the curve, even though your partner and children roll their eyes and say, “Okay, Dr. Fauci” in the tone of “Okay, boomer.”
But you don’t care. Because over a month ago, you were the first person in the world to predict the shortage of hydroxychloroquine and you were right! Your encyclopedic Rolodex of coronavirus facts and figures may be slightly annoying but will certainly come in handy in the future when you’re playing along with Jeopardy.
You’re convinced that your diet is the reason you have inflammatory arthritis. Therefore, you have tried every single diet known to mankind that’s ever existed in the universe, searching for a food-related treatment. You’ve eaten like a caveman and gone into ketosis. You’ve injected turmeric and fish oil into your veins and snorted hot chili peppers. You’ve cut out — at one time or another — dairy, gluten, nightshades, chocolate, processed food, fruit (that mother nature put in the ground herself!), red meat, all meat, and fish, until all you were left with were a handful of nuts and the grass in your front yard.
Because of social distancing, strolling the local farmers market is a big no-no. But that doesn’t deter you. You’ve tracked down the best organic produce delivery service in town and are now paying $20 for a bag of green onions, but you don’t care. Your health is priceless!
What, I have a chronic disease? I don’t know what you’re talking about. If I ignore every single thing about it, it will just go away. Just like the COVID-19 pandemic.
No matter how crappy life or your chronic illness or the COVID-19 situation gets, you remain optimistic. You know brighter days are ahead. You treat everyone you come in contact with like a dear old friend, even the jerk who talks about politics in the infusion room. You’d never argue about politics while getting your dose of Remicade, it’s just not your style. No, you’re perfectly happy watching HGTV reruns of Fixer Upper even though you’ve seen each episode at least 12 times. You are kind and thoughtful; you bring the nurses snacks and use your chair time to make masks for first responders.
Your positive energy is infectious (almost like a disease!), even though it makes the rest of us feel bad about ourselves because we are so selfish. That’s okay. We need people like you to remind us that life is a gift.
You are the ultimate Spoonie advocate. You belong to at least six chronic illness groups on Facebook and you’re the admin of one of them. You have badges like “Conversation Starter” with a little coffee cup next to your name and spend your days posting questions like, “How are you coping with Corona right now?” and tone-policing other members’ often idiotic comments. You know people are scared so you post lots of funny memes about toilet paper and photos of your fresh-baked sourdough bread.
You secretly hope you’ll meet someone in the group, fall in love and shelter in place together for eternity. But you can’t say that out loud because number one, it’s against the rules, and number two, looking for love in the time of COVID-19 is just weird. But you’ve been known to slide into a DM or two with a cute line like, “Have you eaten all of your rations yet?”
Nobody puts Baby in a corner! Nothing is going to slow you down — not a chronic illness, and certainly not a silly global pandemic! Fine, you’ll have to postpone that trip to scale Mt. Everest, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find ways to push yourself and your body to the limit during quarantine. Pffft, COVID-19 doesn’t scare you; it motivates you. You found some N95 masks in your garage (score!), so you deliver groceries and medicine to your elderly neighbors and volunteer to hand out Easter hams at your local food bank. Your strength and courage are a huge turn-on. Oddly, we want you and want to be you at the same time, just like Brad Pitt.
You’re not going stir-crazy, you’re in heaven! You haven’t showered in three days because you’re so cozy in your new uniform of yoga pants and the softest, rattiest T-shirt you own. You love your new work from home schedule: wake up, eat pancakes, watch The Price is Right, eat breakfast #2, send a few emails, make lunch, nap, bake cookies, cancel meeting due to “technical difficulties,” color in adult coloring book, make dinner, watch The Voice, eat another cookie, head to bed at 9 PM. Repeat the next day. And the day after that. And so on.
You know it’s important to get some exercise when you have a chronic illness, but a couple of months of sabbatical never hurt anyone, right?
Join the Global Healthy Living Foundation’s free COVID-19 Support Program for chronic illness patients and their families. We will be providing updated information, community support, and other resources tailored specifically to your health and safety. Join now.