The Gift of Isolation – III

Greetings on Day 14, which should have been the celebratory day that saw us toasting to the last day of our isolation. As life would have it, our isolation term was increased on precautionary advice from our local health authority, and we await being tested to see if our symptoms are indeed all about that corona virus. Last night a friend sent a snapshot of a flight number that had returned from the same U.S. city we were visiting when we pulled up our stakes and headed home early. She sent it because a person with a confirmed case of COVID was on that flight.

If I had any doubts with myself and hubby for over-reacting, over-thinking the risk of exposure, or for worrying about potentially closing borders, they have all dissipated by learning there was risk, and there is reason to take proactive, preventative measures. Even though I did not want to do it initially, it was the best decision to isolate immediately upon our return.

If you have people in your world with significant health vulnerabilities, you will understand that being too careful, is not a thing. This virus would absolutely be fatal for my mother-in-law, who is the expert on how to create a positive life while in isolation.

Before her kidney operation, she had to distance herself from everyone, as having any kind of infection would delay her transplant. Then, when her ‘new’ kidney rejected immediately, she stayed housebound for the next year, following her doctors orders perfectly. This attention to detail has given her the last ten years of bonus living, surpassing all milestones that many adult kidney transplant patients could only hope to achieve. Witnessing the births, pursuits, and already one graduation of her grandchildren, are events she had no guarantee to experience, yet she has. Because she was and is, careful.

Even before COVID, we would not visit if we had a sniffle or cough, because her immune system cannot process germs effectively. Having a very social personality, it was difficult for her to cancel, postpone or not attend special family events. But when the choice meant a short term loss of fun, or a long term loss of wellness… or worse… her decision was steadfast. She is sticking around as long as she can, folks! So if you are looking for a reason to follow the evolving social distancing recommendations, look no further. It’s in the relationships and people all around us.

Mothers Day – 2019

BUT, this is not my first taste of isolation… I have lived through a few phases where staying housebound has been my primary story. Most recently was a few years ago when my concussive symptoms were too acute to tolerate any stimulus…noise, light, scents, vibrations. Sitting in a dark quiet room was the anecdote and gave me time to think. No screens, no interactions, no chores, no exercise. Just silence and thoughts.

I would like to say that I got up and did something everyday like my mother-in-law would have… or that I did my hair and took a shower to at least appear human, but that is not what happened. The shower was too loud and water touching my skin would flood my senses to the point of it feeling painful. So, I sat on the couch or deck and waited for the symptoms to pass.

Thankfully, it took less than a year to gradually return to normal, but it forever changed the way I look at material objects and the piles of stuff that had accumulated around me. My brain saw clutter, but felt noise, which permanently changed me. Is that a good thing? We shall see…

And then there was the BIG isolation phase… the one that absolutely carved out pathways in my heart that set a course for the person I eventually became. I was separated from extended family and friends who could not… or would not… bear witness to the desolation of my spirit and character at the hands of my chosen marriage partner.

Behind closed doors and beyond yard fences, I lived for years within an emotionally sick and oppressed household. I gave in to his pressure of severing outside interactions, because it was easier to control the situation without random opinions and actions of others, which translated into a safer environment for me and the kids. Staying away from people was survival. Sound familiar?

Even though it seemed like our plight was secret and not known to the outside world, there were enough clues for neighbours to be kinder than necessary, for family members to drop supplies off at random, and for rare acquaintances to bravely ask the question, are you safe? Did this isolation change me? Without question!

Imagine what this current social distancing would look like if that kind of relationship was still my reality! It would have given him permission to completely lock us down, to control any news imparted to me, and to manipulate this universally scientific phenomenon into somehow being connected to eternal damnation. I would have been relentlessly warned about the judgement coming to sinners like me, who have not truly repented.

I get angry when I remember that girl. Angry, and sad. Even though I ultimately chose to believe his lies, I also think he had a choice… and he chose to be cruel. Because I thought I deserved to be mistreated, any evidence to the contrary… no matter how fleeting or small… was pivotal. We have an opportunity to be that evidence to someone who needs it… right now. We have a chance to let this global closeness… change us.

Why? Because a train is coming… and we don’t want to get derailed by this one…

Thanks to a local advocacy group, Sagesse, I have been made aware of the Domestic Violence statistics coming out of China during their country’s isolation implementation. Rates have tripled, not surprisingly when confinement, economic uncertainty and stress are factors in relationships. This is not new behaviour, humans turning on each other when trapped, blaming other humans without cause or scapegoating to avoid responsibility.

So let’s talk about it! How are we going to meet this growing issue in our own country and communities, while doing our part to stop the spread of this new contagion? What will be our collective ‘lesson learned’?

Until the medical community and governments catch up to this rapidly changing atmosphere, I would challenge everyone to ‘check in’ with neighbours, family, and friends who you know (or may suspect) to have particular vulnerabilities. Follow your hunch, and be brave enough to ask how they are doing, or if they need any help. Just knowing someone is looking in on a family, or cares about their mental and physical safety, may be enough of a protective factor to decrease the likelihood of greater rates of victimization.

Here is a link for more information on supporting victims.


You can also check out my Survival Stages and Survival Stages – Part II posts from last year.

Now, it is time to get out into my community and be seen… to see others, hear their voices (if only from a distance) and know what others are experiencing… so I may do better.