Christine Fallabel, living with type 1 diabetes since 2000, shares her thoughts about managing this chronic disease during the pandemic, especially with concerns around it making her higher risk with COVID-19.
These times are anything but normal; with the entire world tilted on the coronavirus axis, people and families are scrambling to assemble some new type of “normal.” Add to that living with a chronic condition, and it can create a recipe for disaster. I’m often asked how I maintain a “normal” life (what is normal, anyway?) with type 1 diabetes, especially in the time of riots in the streets and a global pandemic on our hands, and the simple answer is:
I don’t. But, I try.
There are a few things that I’ve had to acknowledge as the months of 2020 (and our relative lack of normalcy) have unfolded, and I’ve developed three ways in which to cope with my situation.
First, it’s OK to ask for help.
Living with a chronic condition puts me at a greater risk of serious complications should I contract COVID-19, and that has affected my whole family. Long gone are the days of endless summer BBQs and hanging out at the pool. I’ve had to ask for help from my family to all socially distance themselves with me, so I’m not in this fight alone. I’ve had friends and neighbors pick up groceries for me (because the store is a dangerous place for someone with a compromised immune system); I’ve had my mother ship me masks, and my brother makes homemade hand-sanitizer. My husband routinely goes to the pharmacy for me to pick up my insulin prescription. I’ve journaled; I’ve gone to therapy (telehealth can make most things possible!). I’ve taken a few mental health days from work. It’s okay to realize that you can do anything, but you can’t do everything, and to ask for help when needed. It’s really OK!
Second, I’ve had to find my own form of meditation.
Sometimes, meditating for me really truly is sitting in a dark room and breathing with my eyes closed for 20 minutes. Sometimes, my meditation is a solo morning run, before the sun has fully risen. Sometimes, meditation is reading a juicy novel that has absolutely nothing to do with illness or the real world, and sometimes meditation is just sitting outside in the sun and listening to the birds chirp for a while. I’ve had to find something that can calm my mind, because information overload has the capacity to completely immobilize you and can bring on a panic attack and feelings of anxiety. Finding your own form of meditation, that will work for you (without judgment) can truly bring a piece of tranquility and can create some normalcy in your day.
Third, I’ve prioritized keeping in touch with family and friends.
Socially distancing yourself doesn’t have to mean you forget about your friends or never hear from Uncle Larry ever again. Technology like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or a good old fashioned card can work wonders to keeping in touch with your loved ones. My friends and I have started a book circle, reading our favorite books, mailing them to each other, and then having a virtual book club to discuss. I’ve baked and delivered more loaves of banana bread than I can count, and I’ve re-discovered the long-lost art of letter writing. There are a myriad of ways to keep in touch with loved ones, and that has definitely helped me to create some normalcy (and something to look forward to!) in these endless quarantine days.
I’ve truly found that by asking for help, finding a meditation that works for me, and keeping in touch with loved ones, I can create some normalcy and a routine to survive (and thrive) during my COVID-19 quarantine.
Christine Fallabel is a staff writer at Diabetes Daily. She has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2000. She works in public policy, helping people with diabetes have better access to health insurance, affordable medication, and to fight disability-discrimination in the work and school environments.