Chronic Illness, mental health, Running, Type 1 Diabetes

Quarantine & Mental Health

Life looks a lot different than I thought it would right now.

In January, I went to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with my boyfriend, Zach. The first of many trips we were planning together. COVID-19 was present in the world, but we were traveling internationally; although the four hour car ride from North Dakota to Canada doesn’t feel that international. Two weeks later, after getting the idea from one of our co-workers, we made a last minute trip to Duluth, Minnesota for some hiking and fresh air. Shortly after returning from that trip, we began discussing and planning out a summer road trip to see Glacier, Yellowstone, and Teddy Roosevelt National Park. It was all we could talk about up until recently.

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, Two Harbors, Minnesota

Three weeks ago, we slept in and got breakfast at our favorite diner in town. We made our campsite reservations for our summer road trip. Three weeks ago, we weren’t working a limited schedule at our job. We were both working our normal, but opposite shifts, trying our best to make the most of the little time we did get see each other. We were still planning to fly to Chicago at the end of March with some friends, to catch a Blackhawks game, and be a tourist in the beautiful, windy city. Now we’ve cancelled flights and are left to wonder if we’ll even going to be able to go on our road trip that we’ve been planning.

When COVID-19 reared it’s ugly head in the United States, I expected travel plans to be interrupted. I expected to feel disappointed, and even a bit sad, about those upcoming trips being cancelled. What I wasn’t expecting was just how much my mental health would be impacted from the transition of my day to day life to this new normal.

I started 2020 with a list full of road races I planned to run, and began training for my first race in January. Now that race has been postponed until the end of August, and I’m starting to wonder if I’ll even be able to toe the line for the Chicago Marathon. Even though I started hearing about COVID-19 at the end of December, I didn’t think it would impact the United States the way it did. I didn’t think schools would close, that the volunteer program I was involved with would be indefinitely suspended, or that I would be confined to my apartment for most of the Spring. Even as an introverted homebody, isolation has been a hard on me both mentally and physically.

Getting outside to run has been challenging. The weather in the Midwest this time of year is usually unpredictable, but the past few weeks has felt more unpredictable than usual. If I do get outside to run, my mileage is far below my typical average. Running is my happy place; a place I feel safe. During this time of isolation and quarantine, it feels harder and harder to run, harder to get myself to that happy place. Even at-home workouts have been challenging for me to complete. While some find these types of workouts to be a godsend, I find that by the time I get home from work, (essential employee) my motivation has plummeted. I miss going to the gym. I loved the motivation I got from working out at a gym, and I enjoyed the workouts that I could complete there which are far different than the ones I can complete now. I never realized how much going to the gym impacted my mental health until I was told I couldn’t go.

When you’re not in a great place mentally, sometimes you find that other things that once took priority in your life, have now taken a backseat. For me, it feels like my Type One Diabetes (T1D) management has taken the brunt of my struggles. Adjusting to a new normal has been hard. My work schedule is inconsistent, my sleep schedule has been interrupted, and my eating habits have changed. Combine this with lower insulin sensitivity levels and ever changing basal rates, it feels like my blood sugar levels have been harder and harder to control. While it doesn’t seem like staying home, with the exception of going to work and running essential errands, would change life so much, it has. My blood sugar levels have gone over 300 mg/dL more times in the last month than they probably have in over six months. It’s been frustrating and mentally draining.

Dexcom G6 Reading

If you’re struggling with a new normal, you aren’t alone. I posted about how I was feeling while trying to management my blood sugar levels through all of this chaos on my Instagram, and I was relieved to see that so many other individuals living with T1D have been facing similar struggles. So many people reached out and said they were feeling the same way. Crisis looks different on everyone. While some people appear to be thriving during this pandemic, this isn’t true for everyone. You don’t need to spend this time learning a new hobby or cleaning out your closet, you just need to get yourself through this pandemic. That’s all anyone can ask for.

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