There are very few people right now who don’t feel the stress and strain of the COVID-19 virus. I live in Minnesota, which is one of the many states observing social distancing. For the past weeks our social life has been essentially non-existent. Our weekly Sunday ritual of sharing a meal with our daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren stopped three weeks ago. Friends visiting us have ceased, both for their safety and ours.
Since isolation began, I’ve tried to assess how this cloistering might affect my emotional state of being. Dealing with MCI alone is stressful and isolating enough, without adding another layer of anxiety. Will my stress level and anxiety increase? Will my memory and cognition decline more noticeably and rapidly due to increased social isolation?
I wanted to live with this new “normal” for a time before I felt I could post on my blog—thus, the recent hiatus.
Despite greatly reducing my socializing already, I’ve felt a significant change in this loss of physical socializing. I miss sharing a casual lunch or an easy walk with friends. (Keith and I and the dogs still walk daily). I’m especially sorry my twice-a-year gathering of college gals, which was scheduled for April, has been postponed – as have many of the spring and summer activities in our community. I miss hugging.
What has surprised me is that my anxiety level has remained fairly stable—even as the duration and intensity of this disease and its effects remain unpredictable. I credit this with the practice I’ve had in learning to deal with MCI.
While I’m far from perfect, I have learned to catch myself when I start projecting negatives and dire possibilities—as I did so easily in my early stages of MCI. I fretted about the possible rapid speed of my decline (now going on five years). I focused on what I could no longer do (such as cook, bake, knit, participate on community boards, travel alone, read long involved novels, attend large gatherings of people), as well as many other losses I can no longer remember…my coping during this crisis has helped me realize I have finally arrived at a place in my journey of both acceptance and peace. I no longer dwell on what I can’t do or remember, but rather I mentally (and often verbally) remind myself to let it go. It is gone from my memory right now; fretting doesn’t help and in fact accelerates my anxiety.
These days when new challenges, obstacles, even threats enter my thoughts such as, “This could go on for a long time. We could run out of food. Many people could die, including members of my family.” Or when I realize the ‘what if’s’ start piling up in my thoughts…I take a deep breath or two or three. I think about how far I’ve come with dealing with my MCI, of how I have learned to acknowledge the fear or the what if and disassociate from them, and then let them float of into the air by quoting Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”