Today, I am going to share a very personal story, which was a life changing experience.
Being in shelter in/lock down reminds me of the time when I was in quarantine for almost 10 weeks in summer of 2009. Being a physician, I contracted Pulmonary Tuberculosis somewhere along the journey of medical school and residency in India and then another residency and Fellowship in USA. I was about to graduate from my fellowship in Child Psychiatry in June 2009 and was looking forward to embarking a new journey of ending training and starting a job at a non-profit from September. But, I was blindsided by the news of having Pulmonary TB in early June and was put in isolation, till my 2 consecutive cultures came back negative. Each sample takes 4-6 weeks for culture results, so that’s what led to being quarantined for almost 10 weeks.
I went through all the stages of grief as spelled out by Elizabeth Kubler Ross back then- Denial, because I was not symptomatic (it was an incidental finding on my exam), Anger- “Why me”, Depression- All my dreams and plans for the summer were shattered, Bargaining- “ Please let me go to my graduation party, as it is outdoors”, “I will wear a mask, but please let me go” and Finally, ACCEPTANCE.
If I can add one more emotion, I experienced a lot during that time, it was “Fear and anxiety”. “What if I spread to my family members?” “What if I spread it to my patients I saw in the last few weeks?”
While I quickly came to Acceptance stage, but the anxiety continued through most of that time. I am writing this blog to share with you what helped me get through my personal lock down. Like many others, when we go through difficult times, we turn to the higher power through our faith or religion, I did the same. I went into an inner journey and found a lot of answers to my questions.
Here are some lessons I learnt during that time:
1) Find a silver lining in every bad cloud: I started appreciating the rest and solitude I got through this forced quarantine after working very hard for many years in training.
2) Count your blessings: I could not be more thankful for getting diagnosed so early, before I got sick, suffered and spread it to others. When I switched from resentment and anger to compassion and gratitude, it went by fast.
3) Change is constant: There is always, spring after winter, light after dark and we go through cycles of good and bad times.
4) Move to solution instead of questioning and blaming: When I switched from “Why me” to “What best can I do to get through this”, it helped me get through.
5) You always have a choice: You have a choice to make the best or worst of the situation.
6) Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation: Learning to be in the moment helped me “Everything is fine with me, in the current moment, so live that moment and cherish it”. When I worked on challenging my fears with feelings of peace and love during meditation, it made me strong and more resilient.
I was alone during that quarantine, but we are all together in this one. Together we can give each other courage, compassion, love and hope to get through this difficult time.
Let’s take a moment to be remind ourselves to practice loving kindness towards ourselves and others. Research studies show that practicing kindness and compassion also improves our resilience.
So, we do we do that in the current times?
Let’s follow the guidelines of being in “shelter in” strictly, this is one way we can show our love and kindness towards all the people in our city, state and country and the world at large.
Let’s send our loving kindness thoughts to all who are suffering during this time.
Let’s spread our thoughts of kindness and gratitude towards all the front line workers during this pandemic.
Loving Kindness also helps to generate mercy, humility and forgiveness, which is also what we need at this time, as in some ways this pandemic is a test for humanity.