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Woman with MS reading book on pink sofa

Have you grown tired of lockdowns, voluntary self-quarantining, and self-isolation, or have you perhaps found it a blessing of some sort?

Around the time of the arrival of COVID-19 in Ireland, I moved to a new house, and a few weeks later, the country went into lockdown. Because of the physical nature of the move, my MS relapsed, something I had anticipated; what I obviously had not foreseen was the arrival of a global pandemic. Despite its negative connotations, I now consider lockdown as the single, most beneficial way of recovering, as- it forced me to stay at home, unable to do anything that might have exacerbated an existing relapse. television, ice cream and duvet time came free of charge. I am sure my hips will thank me later.

Channel your inner Yoda

Lockdown arrived just in time to feed my need for total rest. The happy, reverberating noise you usually hear outside during the summer was absent; instead, an inner voice occasionally delivered a Star Wars Yoda-like demand of "Willeke, rest you must" without ramming it down my throat.

In short, I found the unexpected benefit of being able to get the peace I needed to be able to heal, despite everything else going on in the world outside. 

I hope that, whichever phase of MS you have and wherever you live, that you have been able to take on a similar mindset of looking after yourself first, and that you continue to receive the help from a carer or family member, especially when you have mobility issues.

Don't get me wrong, though, being in lockdown wasn’t and still isn’t all perfect. As a lover of current affairs, things began to take on a darker tone: and I became increasingly exhausted by repeated COVID-19 news cycles. 

Stay connected

Mentally and emotionally, I experienced a range of feelings. I worried about my family and leaving the house, thereby increasing the likelihood of catching COVID-19. This anxiety is a worry in itself, as it continues to grow. Despite wanting to show off my new humble abode to family and friends, I am afraid of the risks of them visiting; to both them and me.

As for now, we may be unable to fully control the virus, but we can control our response to it. Living life in a medical bubble that doesn’t yet have an answer is daunting and is a cause of concern of people living with multiple sclerosis.

Creating new, positive habits will make it easier to get through. My tips for you are:

  1. Focus on facts by reputable sources.
  2. If in doubt, contact your local MS organization.
  3. Do things you love and didn’t have time for before COVID-19 struck. Shifting your mindset can do wonders when you’re anxious. Perhaps you could start a new hobby, like cooking, sewing or learning a new language.  
  4. Stay in touch with family and friends. It will not only be appreciated by others, but it will benefit your mental health as well.
  5. If you lost someone to the coronavirus, grieve in a way that is right for you, but reach out to others if you feel overwhelmed. If you know someone who is grieving, let them know they are not alone.
  6. On a practical note, create a medical emergency list with your details, including a list of your medicines and contact details of your GP, neurology team, pharmacy and family and leave this somewhere in the house where others can find it if they need it. 

Personally, I add humor to my day either by writing down something funny on one of the four blackboards around the house or by trying to sing, no matter how false it sounds. Yesterday’s message on the blackboard in the kitchen was to remind me to rest: “I’ve done enough todaying for today!”. Similarly, “Maybe I was just born being weird, or maybe it’s just caffeine,” or “Broken crayons still colour!”. And, when I need to remember something: “What would Wonder Woman do?”. By adding humor to the question, it immediately invokes a positive feeling and quite possibly changes the mood of the day.

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