I was hospitalized on March 3 with a sickle cell crisis and discharged 12 days later. I then spent a week recovering at home. Under normal circumstances, I would have returned to “ordinary life” on March 23.
But during that period, ordinary life changed significantly due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In my last column, I explained how I felt when I heard British Prime Minister Boris Johnson say that we would have to remain on lockdown for at least 12 weeks. Given my hospitalization, I realized that essentially, I already have been on lockdown for a month.
Initially, I was adamant that I would use this time to build up my knowledge base and learn new skills. Sounds like a great idea, right? Oh, how mistaken I was! Aside from working at home, I mostly spend my days stuck in front of Netflix watching my latest obsession, “Homeland,” talking on the phone with loved ones, or sleeping. I may read an occasional book, too.
I spent the first few weeks of lockdown feeling guilty that I have not used all this newfound time productively. But in hindsight, I realize I have been productive, just not how I originally had planned.
In our normal daily lives, we are always busy and on the go. I work full time and am a sickle cell columnist, part of a Christian podcast, and finance director for a community interest company. I also am studying for a master’s degree in antitrust law, and attend a weekly Bible study and church services. I have a family life and a social life.
With all these demands, I rarely have downtime to rest my body and my mind. The lockdown has given me an opportunity to rest, and subsequently, albeit unintentionally, focus on the parts of my life that often receive no attention. These include sleep quality and the quality of my relationships, for example.
I once read that the most common lie is, “I’m fine.” Think about how many times you’ve given that answer when asked, “How are you?” — even when you weren’t fine. I know I’ve frequently said it.
Oftentimes, we meet friends in social settings, so we rarely get the opportunity to have real and open conversations about how we genuinely feel. Add the usual busyness, and it’s no surprise why people rarely are transparent about their emotions.
This pause due to the lockdown means I have no life updates to share with friends on the phone. Consequently, I have found that we have had deeper, more fulfilling conversations about ourselves, and express our worries, stresses, and emotions. This improves the quality of my friendships and develops more intimacy within my friendship groups.
As a sickle cell patient who unfortunately has developed iron overload, fatigue is a big issue for me. The tragic circumstances of COVID-19 have given me a chance to focus on the quality of my sleep. It has reduced my stress levels and made sleeping somewhat easier and more peaceful.
Normally, I would wake several times a night for various reasons, but that has been happening less frequently while under lockdown. Better rest means I am better equipped to face the day. Quality sleep also has health benefits.
If sickle cell has taught me one life lesson, it’s that so much is out of our control. I have learned that it is not conducive to be fixated on problems beyond our control. I must focus my energy on the areas of life that I can control. We all must do this.
I can’t control who catches this virus nor how long lockdown will last, but I can control whether I get adequate sleep. I can control the types of content I choose to absorb. And I can control who I spend my time with — albeit virtually!
Don’t feel pressured to constantly be busy during this global lockdown. Don’t feel guilty for failing to learn 12 new languages right now. We can use this time to chill, watch box sets, and actually speak to our families. I, for one, am learning to love this time, because such an opportunity will likely not come about again.
Note: Sickle Cell Anemia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Anemia News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.
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