This is indeed an extremely challenging time on our planet. The grave uncertainty and fear around where the COVID-19 will take us is affecting everyone.
Prior to the pandemic outbreak, brain-injured survivors were already burdened with many day-to-day struggles. Suffering from anxiety and depression that is brain-injury related. Not having enough energy in a day to complete necessary tasks. Inability to cook because of poor memory and sequencing issues. Dealing with financial stress because of lost employment. Not understanding important letters or phone calls due to cognitive deficits. Experiencing conflicts with family members and friends who don't understand the limitations survivors have. Possessing low self-esteem and confidence because of the significant life changes after brain injury. Not feeling normal or accepted by their personal network and the community.
Out of necessity, we have all been directed to practise social distancing. I take this pandemic very seriously and have been diligently following the advice of credible media sources and medical professionals. I have chosen to be on lockdown. I only leave the house to go to the grocery store, pharmacy and gas station. I don't visit people's houses and I don't allow people in my house... including family.
I've been criticized for this but I am not allowing negativity to affect me. Being pro-active in managing my health so I'm not a risk to myself and others is a non-negotiable decision. I have a grandson who will be born in six weeks and I will not let my conduct place his life in jeopardy.
Since being on lockdown, I have reached out to some of my peers and staff at BIG (Brain Injured Group). There are many of my peers who are suffering from the social isolation because they were isolated enough before the pandemic. Depression and anxiety have reached heightened levels. Because services have been reduced, survivors are not only struggling with less support, but also not having the company and camaraderie of their peers.
BIG continues to provide essential services such as face-to-face appointments (adhering to social distancing guidelines), phone support, delivering food to members and assisting in crisis situations. I have talked to folks who state they are very lonely and feel they are deteriorating emotionally because of isolation. Some of them are ill (not with COVID-19) and this is making their circumstances worse.
Prior to my brain injury, I was a very social person so I would have gone stir crazy during this pandemic crisis. This may sound strange but I don't feel any different about my life compared to what it was pre-pandemic. I have become somewhat of a recluse because of extreme fatigue, sensitivity to light and noise and difficulties with short-term memory and executive functioning. Some of my brain-injured peers report experiencing the same reaction as me.
Collectively, we have had to put our creative thinking caps on to come up with ways to maintain relationships with people and keep everyone safe. I encourage family and friends of brain-injured folks to reach out via phone, Facebook, Face Time, texting and emails. Of course this is not the same as personal contact, but connection is so important during these tough times. Ask if they need anything from the grocery store, pharmacy etc. and drop it off at their doorstep. I recently posted on Facebook that I had run out of disinfectant wipes and couldn't find them in any store. A wonderful friend dropped off a container of Lysol wipes at my front door. This gesture of kindness goes a long way. I felt like a kid on Christmas day!
To preserve my sanity, I am on a media blackout for the time being. I'm sure if I need to know something of significance, someone will let me know. I don't feel like I'm in denial. It's about maintaining good mental health and keeping my positive spirits up. People find different ways of coping with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever our coping strategies are, it's vital to keep connected with our loved ones.
Stay plugged in and safe.