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Lessons Learned in a Pandemic

By Cherie Binns

As we begin to reopen after more than a year of being essentially in a lockdown, I ask “why?” and “how?” and “what?” Why did this happen in the first place? How did we successfully get through? How did we fail ourselves and others? What have we learned? What will be different after all this time in our lives, our homes, our work, and our recreation? I don’t know about you, but those answers are often different from day to day.

Some of us discovered we loved the way our days and weeks were unfolding during this time of social distancing. We got to know our kids in new ways as they did distance learning. We came to understand the challenges they deal with on a day-to-day basis, of which we knew little or nothing before all of this. Many of us took up hobbies or learned new skills. We grew gardens for the first time, or learned skills needed to tackle home improvement projects. We saved money on gas and parking and child care, and we added extra time to our day with the commute to work gone. 

I have learned there are more ways to be productive with far less energy expended. A Zoom meeting or webinar takes far less time than travel to a place and sitting in meetings for hours on end then traveling home (often with a night or two in a strange bed). My fatigue is less and I am clearer mentally. When I am working in a traditional setting or traveling for work, I eat what is provided or pick up something on the run and my already sluggish gut slows even more. I do far better in that department when I prepare all of my own food from scratch. Sitting in meetings almost always causes my spasticity to ramp up and it may take a few days of more targeted stretching to calm it or even medication. Without that travel or scripted meeting (office) time, I am free to get up and move around and need less intervention to keep me comfortable.

I encourage each of you to take a few minutes and jot down some things you are doing now that you did not do a year-and-a-half ago. Are those things proving to be good or are they making life harder for you? Make a list of the things you want to keep as part of your routine and those that need to go as you find your way back to being more involved with life outside the confines of your home. When I did that, I realized that life really is quite good and there are many things I will likely continue to do (at least for now) and to keep as part of my routine.

Many of us, I suspect, will continue to speak with others from a couple of extra feet of distance than we used to prior to all of this. We may keep a mask handy when we have a cold or someone in our environment has one. We will continue to be more careful about handwashing. I am hearing that a lot of the meetings and conferences that were so much a part of my life will continue to be virtual – saving time and money for the organizations that present them or are affected by them.

MS Focus: The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, prior to the pandemic, did maybe one educational event each month in different parts of the country. During the past several months, we have done one or two a week virtually so anyone, no matter where they lived, could attend. Then they were placed on MS Focus radio or the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation’s YouTube channel so anyone anywhere has access. There is a wealth of information available on what MS is and what it does to our bodies. Symptom management programs abound. There are several programs on the use of medical marijuana and the various components and uses of this plant. Mental health issues and resources are represented in several programs from different helpful points of view. Lifestyle changes, aging with MS, making the most of your relationships are topics you may now watch. There are also a handful of programs that outline how our medications may affect the effectiveness of our vaccines and ways that we can protect ourselves and still be productive if what we are taking may not allow us to mount as vigorous a response to the vaccine as it does for others not taking them.