COVID19 and Chronic Illness: life on the edge of uncertainty

covid19 and chronic illness

“Life can change completely in an instant.”

Many of us are probably well acquainted with this idea. A tiny niggling pain, a doctor’s visit, a diagnosis – and suddenly, nothing will ever be the same again.

We constantly live on the edge of this uncertainty. All of us – every day, every minute.

Covid19 and chronic illness

For as long as I can remember I have known I will not have my mum forever, and yet that split second phone call during my lunch break at work when I heard she had a mass in her pancreas still changed everything.

For as long as I can remember I’ve devoured books where dramatic things happen. Kids die too young; people are wounded in battle; last minute inheritances save the day; all is lost and all is rescued over and pver again. Yet I still remember exactly where I was when I found out that my ten year old friend had died suddenly from an undiagnosed brain tumour.

Likewise, I suspect that while many of us may “know” the speed with which reality can be remade, these past few weeks of of COVID-19 have also come as a bit of shock. No one really expects a pandemic. Not many people imagine that soon their actions – perhaps already severely curtailed by disease or circumstance – will be hedged further by governments seeking to prevent disaster.

Oh my friends. I feel for all of you who struggle so much already with everyday life, and who are now faced with even greater uncertainty, even more complications, and ever duplicating fears. There are so many questions for which none of us have the answers.

Will we be able to obtain the medicine us or our loved ones need? Will our loved ones get ill? Will they survive? Will we survive? How will they attend their normal appointments? How will we all stay sane during periods of isolation, or too-close habitation? Will the world ever be the same again? When will all this end? What’s next?

The list could go on. There’s both too much to say and not enough to say about this crisis which is creeping over our world. Here are 3 things I’ve been reflecting on and found a comfort.

1. COVID19 is simply revealing our normal state

Each of us, all the time, live precariously. It’s easy to forget this. To forget just how quickly the world can be remade, to forget how easily all the future can be undone. We are but dust and ashes, and so, so fragile. All this pandemic has done is pull back the veil a little. Right now everyone of us is being confronted with the reality of our existence simultaneously: It is uncertain. It is unknown. It is terrifying.

And so what? Do we sit and wait around for the world to end in either a bang or a whimper? Do we throw in the towel, or begin to cotton wool our nests against an apocalypse? You could. People do. But isn’t there a better way?

2. COVID19 is giving us a chance to decide how to respond

Everything has changed, but nothing has changed. I find this really comforting. Life always was uncertain, always has been terrifying. What this pandemic does is give us the opportunity to see clearly and to decide how we will respond. Not just to the current crisis, but to the remainder of our unstable lives.

For the first time in a while, everyone is feeling the stress and uncertainty that perhaps marks many of our daily lives. Perhaps we who have lived with the unknown of chronic illness are in a place to comfort those to whom all this is new and overwhelming.

          I understand how this is terrifying for you, I’ve often felt that way over the years when I’ve struggled with the ups and downs of X.

          You’re right, it can be really tough to have all your plans uprooted. I know I am often quite upset when I can’t make social gatherings because of X.

          Yes, it’s frustrating when every day products aren’t available. I often feel quite stressed when I’m not sure if I can get my medication or my X in time.

It could be easy to feel bitter, or self-righteous when circumstances you’ve struggled with unseen for years, are ones which suddenly everyone is experiencing and grappling with. My hope is that we can turn these feelings into constructive ways to reach out in love.

3. COVID19 doesn’t need to change anything

God was the answer when life seemed safe, and he remains the answer know we know it is not. In this respect, nothing has changed.

And so we march on. As we always have. Wavering on the precipice of eternity, hands held out to Jesus.  Doing human things, living human lives. Loving others and knowing that for this minute we are alive, and all the other minutes have been woven carefully into the very material of the universe by a Master Craftsman.

What is unknown to us is known by He who knows us and makes himself known.

For now, that can be enough.

//Is there a way I can pray for you during this time? Please don’t hesitate to leave prayer requests in the comments or in a message. We may not be able to do much right now, but we can wait and watch and pray.

This post is partly a re-write of one I posted on my personal blog. There I also linked to an article I found helpful, an excerpt of which is below:

“The threat of death is serious, but it’s never novel. So let’s not succumb to panic. Let’s not allow fear to dominate our minds and paralyze our hearts. Let’s keep living and laughing and serving and enjoying those we love (yes, even if from a necessary distance!). Because a good King is on the throne, we need not be slaves to fear.”

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Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear from you, friend.