Image Credit: Getty Images / Oliver Rossi
woman with multiple sclerosis looking out of window

How Living with a Chronic Health Condition Prepared Me for Lockdown

Reading time | 3 mins

I am someone who always looks to find the silver lining, the bright side, in any given situation. So far, I’ve always managed to find something positive, however small, in the difficult moments life has thrown at me.

As the news unfolded a few months ago that countries were going into lockdown, my friends and family frantically sought refuge on social media, trying to make sense of how, in a matter of days, our lives were being turned upside down.

And that’s when it hit me: I didn't seem to feel quite so startled. Yes, it affected our family routine and we worried about how our employers would weather this storm, but emotionally I was already well versed at receiving unsettling thunderbolt news.

How daily life with MS compares to lockdown 

MS patients like me already know how it feels to have our lives turned upside down. A diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis often shows up out of the blue, when we’re young and have so many plans ahead of us. We know what it’s like to see our plans seemingly shattered overnight.

We’re also used to living with an unpredictable and often invisible condition. There aren’t many warning signs for MS, and there’s nothing we could have done differently to avoid ‘catching’ it. Nobody can tell us how poorly we will get, or how our future will be impacted. Everyone is different, we are told.

All very similar things to what those suffering with COVID-19 are hearing now.

Learning to be patient is key with MS and something we’re pretty much forced to do. We’re told to rest, take a break, take it easy, while the world carries on without us. We know the guilt of not being able to be the active parent or spouse we once were. Suddenly we’re having to change days out, adapt the way we work, cancel on friends that we’re suddenly too tired to see…

We know how it feels to lose our freedom. We have lost our freedom before and we know that we will find it again, if we are patient.

Having these skills at my disposal long before COVID-19 reared its head has enabled me to tackle the restrictions of lockdown with relative ease. At least compared to loved ones who don’t have the same limiting type of illness.

The COVID-19 silver lining

COVID-19 has helped normalise the way I, and others with MS, live. It’s given everyone a taste of the limitations a long-term health condition can bring, and this realisation has brought several positive outcomes.

I believe that many of my loved ones now understand how life-altering a chronic condition can be. Now they recognise just how strong people living with long-term health conditions are, as well as how isolating a disability is – not just physically but mentally too.

I also believe the way we work will change for the better too. COVID-19 has forced many companies to make technical upgrades, allowing staff to be more flexible with their working hours in order to juggle the challenges of everyday life.

Many companies have realised how effective and productive they can be working in this way and will continue to do so once the pandemic has passed. For those of us living with MS, this change in the work-life balance is long overdue.

The pandemic has also taught all of us how to be more resilient and more patient. We should all feel empowered by the way we have managed this crisis, and look back at this time with pride, safe in the knowledge that we are stronger than we think.

The takeaway

When this crisis is over and our new life resumes, I encourage people to reflect on this time and take forward with them the positive changes that has been brought about.

Let’s continue to be kind to our community, to help others who are less fortunate and to show the same amount of compassion to each other as we have during this time. Let’s ask each other how we are and carry on wanting to hear the answer.

NPS-IE-NP-00148 November 2020