My Behavior is the New Norm

While many are starting to grow weary of the shelter in place and altered American life, I am realizing that not much has changed for me. Having a RA and asthma, my life changed with my RA diagnosis.

Weeks before the shelter in place, I started to make a plan on how to limit my contact with people and how to protect my family. Until recently, I was a civil servant with daily interactions with a diverse population. I realized that I had to alter my behavior. I was an early adopter of social distancing. I disinfected my desk, my office, my cars, and warned my child that I wouldn’t be hugging her as soon as I got home. I needed to change and wash up because I didn’t want to bring anything into the house that could get anyone sick. And those were the biggest changes of my day to day life.

Given the fact that I am prone to infection, I had been pretty religious about sanitizing things for a few years. When I touched handrails, I pulled down my sleeves to avoid touching whatever goop was on them. Disinfected my hands after being on public transit. Opened doors with the disabled access switch in public spaces using my elbow.

My social circle was small. I didn’t like crowds anymore. I rarely wanted to be in the throngs of humans. Crowds were only when necessary. I would only sit down to eat in half empty restaurants.

I was wearing a mask when whooping cough reappeared in California a few years ago. I had some N95 masks to use when we had forest fires because it increased my asthmatic response and I still needed to work. But the forest fires actually sent me to the ER three times in a month. Then I was just told to stay home and run an air purifier. I was home for a week and half before I got the all clear to return to work.

I am always avoiding sick people. If you have a cold or the flu, I tell you I love you and see you when it’s over. The idea of a cold scares me. I have a few bad ones that took me out for a couple weeks.

I can see how this would disrupt other people’s lives. But for me, this is just an extended flare. I am having a bit of trouble mentally with the isolation, but it’s not a new feeling because chronic illness altered my life years ago. I can’t wait until everyone gets to get back to a new version of normal life. No one should have to feel like people with chronic illness.


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