‘I watched friends celebrate, while I was robbed of living life. The Internet is a blessing and a curse.’: Woman with Cystic Fibrosis gives tips on how to survive quarantine, ‘The limits are endless’

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“The self-isolation we have all been recommended to heed is the new reality for a large part of the world right now. The warnings state that bars should be avoided, house parties cancelled, and game nights postponed. The majority of the population right now is facing a whole new world, right within the confines of their very own homes. Their home base has become their own quarantine zone, one that is beginning to feel like a prison. How is a person supposed to cope with not being able to leave such a small space for such a long period of time? How will such social creatures continue to thrive in this dire time when the walls seem to be closing in?

It’s going to be ok, and I should know: I am the queen of self-isolation, and have been for the better part of my adult life. Over the past ten years I have spent more time on my couch than outside socializing, working, shopping, and playing combined. More of my breaths have been (haltingly) taken within the periphery of my childhood home than anywhere else. I can give you tips on how you will survive this quarantine with your mental health still intact, and your mind content.

Courtesy of Chelsea Gagnon

My life in my twenties consisted of waking up and heading to the couch, where I lay throughout the day until returning to my bed at night. I ate meals (rarely getting three in), and did my breathing treatments on the couch. I took the majority of my pills and my insulin on the couch. I had existential crises and immensely joyful moments on my couch. My life truly took place in a horizontal position, resting cosily on pillows and under blankets.

I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a fatal degenerative disease that affects all organs but primarily the lungs and digestive systems. As I got older I got increasingly more sick, and my lung tissue deteriorated to the point where my lung function was below 40% (to put that into perspective a healthy person has 100% lung function, and anyone who gets up everyday and walks around has higher than that – athletes can have upwards of 140%). With the disease frequent infections hit the lungs, leaving you tired, sick, and unable to breathe. Because the disease affects the lungs, patients are extremely susceptible to any virus or bacteria they come into contact with. Not only was I always home because I was too sick to leave and continue the activities every adult does, I was also terrified of catching bugs from the environment that would further worsen my condition.

Courtesy of Chelsea Gagnon

And so we come to my life on the couch. With the advent and growth of social media I was both able to keep up to date with my friends’ lives, but I was also able to feel like I was missing out on the big milestones in life. The Internet became both a blessing and a curse; I could watch my friends celebrate events through videos, whilst simultaneously feeling like I was being robbed of living a life of any meaning. However, during the next few weeks or months, social media and technology will become a key tool in your fight against cabin fever! Text messages, phone calls, video calls, and social media will provide the warmth of human social interaction. You won’t feel so lonely because you can constantly be in contact with any number of people, talking about life and continuing to drive the social aspect of being human.

When you get so lonely you can’t bear it anymore, pick up your phone. We are lucky this is happening in a time where we are so easily connected with our friends and family. Only a decade ago we wouldn’t have been able to see people through our screens. You don’t need to resigned to only talking on these chats – you can play games, watch movies, have a book club, etc.  The limits are endless!

One issue a lot of people may face is that in their time of solitude, they may be confronted with the fact that being by yourself is frightening. Your mind needs to become comfortable being alone. There will be no distractions from other people to help detract from your own thoughts. You inner-monologue will inevitably be louder and more present than it ever has before. Learning to come to terms with being OK being by yourself is definitely a rocky road. It takes time and practice, and more than a little self-love. Learning to use positive self-speak is a challenge you should task upon yourself in these trying times. Learning to love yourself is good for not only now, but the rest of your life. It will have positive repercussions forever, but especially now. You will not be afraid of your thoughts, of demeaning ones or ones which criticize. You will learn to embrace your body and show gratitude for how far it has taken you.

You can also learn to enjoy downtime unlike before. Reverting back to childhood pastimes like coloring books and drawing is really soothing and relaxing. Maybe read a book you’ve been meaning to but never had time for. Obviously, you can binge watch TV shows and movies, but we’ve all already been doing that one! Search for videos online which show at-home workouts and give your body some healthy exercise. Go for a walk outside, while making sure to keep at a distance of other walkers. Play with your pets; adopt or foster one if you’ve been thinking about it. Join TikTok and be entertained by the younger generation who have truly exceptional creativity. Sing in front of the mirror, at the top of your lungs. Or, lip sync if your lungs suck like mine. Try a new hairstyle or makeup look. Go through your closet and decide what is no longer needed, de-clutter, and flip your mattress! Find an online course and learn something new. Join Twitter and follow a bunch of awesome experts in a field you are interested in, they often share interesting knowledge. Listen to podcasts, there are thousands and they range from funny, to scary, to educational. Maybe you’ve always wanted to get into cooking or baking, and here’s your chance! Maybe you’ve wanted to rearrange your room or do a deep clean? Go on a walk or a run, take in some sun on your balcony or in your yard. Practice self care! Do those face masks you’ve been thinking about, write those letters you’ve always wanted to, or call that old friend from high school.

There are innumerable things that can be done to keep busy whilst confined to the home. The most difficult challenge will be learning to love yourself so you can enjoy being alone, and this is a skill which will benefit you for the rest of your life. It will be hard, but most things which develop character typically are. When you learn to be ok with being alone, this quarantine will become easier for you. You won’t struggle as much with the thoughts that once hounded your mind. You will truly find peace on your couch, like I have.”

Courtesy of Chelsea Gagnon

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Chelsea Gagnon. Follow her on Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more inspirational stories about those living with chronic illness during these trying times here:

‘My condition has no cure. Stopping treatment due to the coronavirus is not an option.’: Pityriasis lichenoides chronica patient details impact of pandemic, ‘I cannot stay home and self-contain’

‘I’m not sick. Why should I stay at home?’ As a mom of 4 in her second trimester, I plead with you, wash your hands. My husband doesn’t want to raise our family alone.’: Mom of 4 diagnosed with lupus begs people to stay home

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