After being diagnosed with Agoraphobia in 2018, my life turned upside down well before Covid-19 hit. I had no idea what it was or the impact it would have on my life…but I learned to take it one day at a time…
It was severe enough that I was taken to ER twice, unable to feel my legs and arms. A combination of genetics, poor diet & a bad marriage overloaded my nervous system. My body felt like it aged 20+ years.
In the beginning, I couldn’t leave my house. For a good 2 months, I was housebound – due to mental & physical fatigue. I still remember counting & memorizing the cracks on the pavement as markers – the furthest I could walk was to my mailbox less than 50 m from my house. Little by little, I was able to walk beyond my street, around the corner. Once I was able to walk to the next street over, my saving grace was the nearby public school – they were the only adults & kids that I saw for the next little while. Luckily I had my dog back then, so I was able to introduce my dog to some kids. That was my only human interaction outside during that time. Eventually, I made it to dimsum with my relatives & that was a huge relief.
The hardest part was the inability to explain what I was going through. There was a “safe zone” in my head. If I walked or was driven beyond that, I would start to hyperventilate, unable to feel my limps, heart racing, feel nauseous. Again, I pushed hard. At first my parents could only drive me for 5 mins…and then longer…eventually I was able to go to the next city 30 mins away…just crossing one street over to the next street (like Steeles Ave or Hwy 404) was a cause for celebration.
Between 2018 to 2019, I couldn’t go to the dentist or hairdresser. I couldn’t sit inside a restaurant without an attack. I still remember the first time I met up with one of my closest friends. I had to have my parents sit at the table next to me in order to feel safe. I’m so grateful for their neverending patience, encouragement, and perseverance. I eventually was able to eat with my own friends again.
But then the pandemic hit. Lockdown after lockdown. Each time there was a new lockdown, my anxiety would return and I would return back to my previous state. Every time – I stayed strong and fought hard. I panicked, I cried, I was mad, but then I stood up again. Each time, I would start asking my parents to drive me out because I could not drive. Then, when I got comfortable with the outside environment, I would drive 5 mins out….then 10 mins…then to a store with my parents…..and then eventually alone. Sometimes, I would freeze halfway & then just return home. Every time I had to remind myself “this is not a setback…you have achieved something new. Keep at it girl!”
The good news for me is that I am physically much stronger and better able now. I can walk 2-3km now & also head to the park. I focus on the little joys in life. Each time I visit a store, I make sure to make eye contract & thank the cashier or server and wish them a great day. It is a blessing to see another human these days!
So how do I cope?
- Focus on what you CAN do & count your blessings! – this is so important to keep focusing on what you can do & how far we have come. We can go outside for a walk. We can still sing & dance at home. We are grateful to have access to clean water & food! So many people still don’t have access to basic needs around the world.
- Celebrate small wins – Maybe you’ve learned a new skill…maybe you learn to take care of plants or bake a cake. Celebrate the win! Show it off to friends & family!
- Indulge in things online that you enjoy – Maybe it’s a show or a book you’ve always wanted to finish. Maybe you enjoy painting…or working out…or maybe a spa day at home…find something you enjoy & try it out!
- Stay connected – Not just through text – use phone or video – When it’s text, there’s no energy exchange – it’s just literally lines on a screen. When you speak or use video, you can feel & exchange emotions.
- Accept your feelings….but also remember “this too shall pass” – Some of us may feel stuck. But nothing is permanent….accept and welcome your emotions, and then let them go in a healthy way. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. Find a trusted person to talk to – whether it’s family, friends or a therapist. Remember that this shall pass one day.
This is a very hard time indeed. Just remember that some of us even after the pandemic may still not be able to travel due to physical or mental wellness issues. Stay healthy, stay safe! Many blessings to everyone!!
If you need help, please connect with a friend, a loved one, or a 24-hour hotline. Someone is always available to listen:
Canada helplines: http://worldhelplines.org/canada.html
Other countries: http://togetherweare-strong.tumblr.com/helpline