Being Chronically Ill During a Pandemic

At one point, I refused to write about my chronic illnesses. I decided it was about time I was more open about them. I came to this decision for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s no longer easy to hide  my symptoms. Secondly, I’m no longer ashamed of who I really am, and I’m at peace with cutting out of my life those who are bothered by that. And finally, I have personal, safety, and health reasons for staying at home and saying no to visitors at this time. Being chronically ill during a pandemic means making some hard choices and knowing that some people won’t be happy with you. I’m finally at the point where I know I can’t keep everybody happy, and I don’t want to, either. My health and my family’s health comes first.

Being Chronically Ill During a Pandemic: Nothing Changes, and Everything Changes

I’ve explained my illnesses in an earlier post. For this post, suffice it to say that I have asthma, an auto-immune condition, respiratory problems, and a connective tissue disorder that’s robbing me of my mobility, little by little. These are just the major issues. There are other, lesser chronic problems as well. While my asthma is mild, it has become worse over the last couple of years. I also have more triggers for my asthma. All this is to say: I’m high-risk. If I catch this virus, it won’t be pretty. And as I keep saying, I have enough health issues. I do not need something else to add to the list. That’s why this extreme extrovert, anything-but-homebody is perfectly willing to stay home and talk to people via phone, video call, or whatever way I can talk to them without touching them or being near them. And I thrive on hugs, so that’s saying something. I’m fortunate to have my husband and little ones to still give me lots of snuggles. And they also are the reason I’m being overly cautious.

Here’s how nothing changes during a pandemic for those who are chronically ill: we are still chronically ill. Our conditions are chronic, so they don’t go away. We are used to being left out of the conversation (especially as young people with chronic illnesses—and by young I mean “not elderly”), so we’re not surprised when nothing is said about us. We’re not surprised when people are protesting that they don’t want to use masks, because we’re used to not being a consideration. Healthy people’s “freedom” and desire to live always trumps ours. So really, nothing changes. But everything changes.

Being chronically ill during a pandemic means that most of us who rely on therapies to cope with chronic pain no longer have access to those therapies. While my physiotherapy office and massage therapy office have finally reopened, I am still not going to them. And as uncomfortable as what I’m about to say might makes some people feel, it needs to be said. I’m right, and while you’re “sick of the quarantine,” I’m sick in the quarantine. I’m sick always. I don’t get to say “screw the recommendations, I want to go out now.” I can’t afford the risk. And here’s just one example of how I’m right about staying home and saying no to visitors.

Being chronically ill during a pandemic: Why I'm choosing to Stay home, www.marianamcdougall.com. Background photo of the coronavirus by the CDC

Surge in Local Cases Solidifies My Choice to Stay Home

For those who have been living under a rock, here’s how a pandemic works: someone gets infected. They infect other people. Those other people infect other people. And those people infect more people. And it keeps going, exponentially.

Kingston, ON, where I live, had been doing well: in two weeks, we didn’t have any new recorded cases. Then businesses reopened and some people threw caution to the wind, assuming that if businesses were open it was OK to resume life as usual. Except it wasn’t. Two businesses that reopened had workers who got infected. They infected customers. Who then infected people they lived with. 

Remember when I said that I wasn’t going back to physiotherapy even though my clinic had reopened? The business where the outbreak happened is a business my physiotherapist frequents. I don’t know if she did go back to that business during the pandemic or not, but it doesn’t matter. Our little city is the perfect example of what happens when you let your guard down during a pandemic. We had no cases for almost two weeks. Then nonessential businesses reopened, didn’t follow proper protocol, and people got sick and infected a bunch of other people. 

I know I sound like I’m paranoid. But it’s what I keep saying. If there ever was a time to be paranoid, this is it. And paranoid isn’t even the right word. Overly cautious. We all need to be overly cautious. We all need to understand that just because government says businesses can reopen, does not mean the pandemic is over. Just because we’re doing things to try to get the economy running again, does not mean the pandemic is over. And just because I’m staying home doesn’t mean I can’t support local businesses. As far as I’m able, I’m still doing business with local folks—I’m just getting things delivered, or only going to places where curbside pickup is an option. I wear a mask when I go out (to protect others), I keep my distance always, and I try to limit my outings to once a week for essentials and less than that for non-essentials. 

I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life. I’m just saying that as someone who is chronically ill and who can’t afford more disease to add to the long list of illnesses I already have, I’m going to be staying home, and I’m not going to be allowing people into my home. As awful as this may sound, this is what I have to do.

I spent years of my life hiding my illnesses to keep people around me comfortable. I’m done with that. I’m a chronically ill person. My illnesses will never get better, will never go away, and some of them will get worse as I get older. This is who I am, and I have finally accepted it. It also means I’m learning to say no, especially when it comes to protecting myself and my family. People may think I’m being paranoid. I’m OK with that. 

Heavy Metal Bands Advocating for Suicide Prevention

This article originally appeared on a now defunct website named Komorebi Post.

While suicide is a difficult topic, we need to talk about it now more than ever. 

Man with head in his hands, sitting in a field. Photo by Francisco Gonzalez on Unsplash. Heavy Metal bands advocating for suicide prevention, www.marianamcdougall.com

Worldwide, almost 800,000 people die by suicide each year. That’s one person every 40 seconds. Mental illness, especially depression, is often cited as one of the major factors leading to suicide. But over the years, other things have been blamed for our rising suicide rates. Some believe video games play a part. Others point fingers at absent parents. Yet others suggest some TV shows aren’t helping. But perhaps the cultural phenomenon that receives the most blame for suicide deaths is heavy metal music.

Heavy metal’s long and difficult history as a scapegoat for suicide

Grieving parents, confused scholars, and shocked communities have often blamed heavy metal music for individual suicide cases. Singers and bands such as Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Slayer, and more have even been taken to court as families try to come to terms with tragedy.

In 1985, Ozzy Osbourne’s music was blamed for the suicide of a California teenager. Although the case was thrown out in 1986, there are still those who believe Osbourne’s music encourages fans to take their own lives. In 1990, two families sued the band Judas Priest after two fans took their lives. The young men had been listening to the band’s albums before committing suicide. 

The arguments that heavy metal bands drive fans—especially teenage fans—to suicide continue, even when the evidence is scarce. And it’s no wonder. When tragedy occurs, laying blame is often easier than dealing with our difficult emotions, and it provides a focus outside of our conflicted thoughts about loss. But blaming music for the death of loved ones is neither productive nor well-informed. And while the scapegoating continues, some heavy metal bands are using their platforms to do the exact opposite of what they’re often blamed for: they’re working to prevent suicide deaths.

 

Heavy Metal Bands advocating for suicide prevention. www.marianamcdougall.com. Photo of a hand in an ocean. Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

Heavy Metal Bands and Suicide Prevention

While some believe that violent lyrics can influence already confused young people, Disturbed fans would beg to differ. That’s because David Draiman, the lead singer of the band, has been personally affected by suicide. It took several years, but he finally worked through his pain with the song “Inside the Fire.”

In the song, he recounts the image he had when he was staring at the coffin of his ex-girlfriend, who took her own life. And in the video for the song, Draiman gets personal. In an introduction before the video begins, he explain his experience dealing with tragedy, and provides the number for the Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Another band working to help prevent suicide is Five Finger Death Punch. With the song “Coming Down,” the band offers the perspective of someone struggling to stay “away from the ledge.” In the poignant video for the song, two teenager’s painful experiences are recounted, and by the end of the song, a simple act is shown that prevents their suicide. The video ends with the words “One friend can save a life,” and the suicide prevention hotline number is shown on the screen.

 

Some will always need a scapegoat for the tragedy of suicide, and heavy metal bands, with their often violent lyrics, provide an easy target. However, these two bands are proving that while exercising their right to creativity, they can also make positive change in the world.

How to Eat More Vegetables

Get Healthy: How to Eat More Vegetables

7 to to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. That’s how much Canada’s Food Guide recommends we all eat, and yet most Canadians aren’t getting enough veggies and fruit—less than half of Canadians meet the quota. Sometimes, people can’t get more veggies and fruit, and sometimes, they just don’t know how to eat more vegetables.

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Arthritis and Weight

I’m in pain. Every day. Between joints that don’t stay in place and the ostearthritis affecting several of my joints, running, high impact exericse, and even going down the stairs have all become unpleasant activities in the last few years. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about the arthritis. But there is something I can do to hopefully lessen the symptoms.

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Getting back into Exercise

Trying to get back into a regular exercise routine has been frustrating, to put it mildly. During our RV adventure, I did a fair bit of hiking, but not nearly as much exercise (and not nearly as high-intensity) as in my triathlon days. I’ve given up a lot of the physical activities I love over the last few years, and getting back into exercise hasn’t been an easy journey.

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Is Your Health Research Good Enough?

The age of information has several advantages. It’s never been easier to find answers to burning questions. With a few taps of a keyboard, a sea of information can be yours, and research has moved beyond card catalogues and long hours in libraries (though you should still spend long hours in the library).

This easy access to information is both a blessing and a curse. Continue reading “Is Your Health Research Good Enough?”

Why I rarely write about my health conditions

I enjoy writing about a variety of things, as seen by my varied articles and blog posts across the web. This website alone is a great example of the types of things I enjoy writing about, and my website encouraging MultiTalented writers to start and grow a multi-niche writing career is another. But there’s one thing I rarely write about: my health conditions.

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