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I'm Young, I Have MS, And I'm Worried How I Fit Into A Post-Covid World

By Dearbhla Crosse

As we flit up and down levels in this dystopian elevator dance, I find myself gripped with hiraeth, a Welsh word to describe a nostalgia for a home you can never return to.

I long for the days that I could hug friends; go on a date where the prospect didn’t fill me with existential dread; a time where kissing people didn’t constitute an irreversible and life-threatening lapse in judgement. I yearn for long-haul flights to far-flung destinations and wine-spurred conversations before hitting the dancefloor, arms flailing wildly to one hit wonders. I may miss these things, but the reality is I was already in the throes of a health crisis of my own before Covid hit, so I haven’t had ‘normal’ for quite a while.

A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) just over a year ago at the age of 32 felt like my life was over. Thoughts of wheelchairs invaded my mind, a lazy symbol of disability – many of us living with MS don’t look visibly disabled so the unseen impact of the disease is frequently undermined. MS means my immune system is in a constant state of self-flagellation, mindlessly hacking into the protective layer of my nerves. This causes irreparable damage, affecting mobility, senses, and cognition. As my medication is an immunosuppressant, I am incredibly vulnerable to illnesses like Covid. It also carries fun side effects like liver failure and fatal brain disease; a life stake many of us take over the debilitating alternative.

At the end of last year, I had a relapse. Replete with peripheral numbness, leg spasms, and He-Man quantities of steroids, it took months to recover. Then Covid hit. As Ireland shut down, I fled Dublin to quarantine with my parents and grandparents in the countryside. For four months, our days were planned around mealtimes, the six o’clock news, Netflix, and walks through the surrounding woodland. Grieving for your health is a strange self-absorption and living with MS during lockdown meant grappling with crippling anxiety, cancelled neurology appointments, and worries over medication access. Yet, I was lucky in comparison to many others.

Perhaps we have reached the Hunger Games part of 2020, where our neighbours weep “it’s for the good of the economy”, while bolting us inside our houses.

Despite the commonality of Covid to bind us all, we are each experiencing this new emergence from lockdown differently. As I begin to unravel from my cocoon, I wonder where I fit into this new world? I believe people have grown weary at having to curtail their lives for the sake of the ‘weaker’ members of society. We all have virus fatigue driven by loneliness, financial burdens, and a need to reconnect with people we love. Gone are the rallying cries of solidarity underpinned by a new-found hope for a world devoid of material possessions.

Instead we are left in a Covid-wake, drowning in despondence for an unknown future. Everyone is taking little risks. People’s bubbles are merging into other bubbles and many are losing sight of why we locked down in the first place. To save lives. As we cannot rely on common sense, governments create regulations to keep us safe. The problem is that everyone has different ideas about risk and how to move forward.

As countries open up, there are many who argue we should adopt a policy of shielding the vulnerable, while the rest of the population go about their lives as normally as possible. Advocates for herd immunity amongst the younger, healthier members of the population look to Sweden, despite scant evidence to show it works. Sweden also has a wildly different demographic. It has the
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  • Via:: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/coronavirus-chronic-illness_uk_5f8da4cec5b66ee9a5f23bd8