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Surviving Covid19 with IBS

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Surviving Covid19 with IBS

What does surviving Covid19 with IBS look like? Sofia Martimianakis explains why she chose self-isolation to protect herself from Covid19.


For me, IBS and anxiety share an inseparable bond. They’ve become best of friends, with symptoms showing up dressed in matching outfits. Their popular forms of torture include nausea, diarrhea, and a feeling of impending doom. Add to that, a pandemic, vulnerable family members, and my husband working for an essential service, and you get worry levels soaring through the roof.

Preparing for self-isolation has been a significant challenge. We tried to limit our exposure to crowded stores but ended up having to go to four different locations to find 75% of the items on our typical weekly grocery list. Our neighbors were stockpiling alternative dairy like it was liquid gold. For some of us, alternative dairy is the only way we can enjoy coffee. The single coffee per day our sensitive bowels can tolerate.

So here I was having to give up my right to easily accessible caffeine after the fourth grocery store we visited was picked dry. We bought rolled oats and almonds so I can make my own alternative dairy; this extra project will fit in nicely as I try to work from home, take care of a tiny human, cook, sanitize everything, and hit up the bathroom as often as most people check social media.

Now what really helps when I’m having a flare-up, and finding it difficult to stomach most foods, is a warm bowl of chicken soup. This is why finding the entire poultry section empty was especially disappointing. I figured I would settle for canned soup or even boxed soup, but so did the people who shopped before me, and those sections were cleared out too!

Guess what else made the list of items we couldn’t find anywhere? That’s right, toilet paper. The coveted item, some of us with lightning bowels go through faster than others. Thank you, neighbors, for going out of your way to buy ten times the toilet paper your family needs. Remind me to nominate you for the empath of the year award.

If I was single, my dating app bio would read: searching for someone who stockpiled oat-milk, toilet paper, and chicken soup. I can provide fresh produce for our budding relationship.

Earlier this month, our stubborn toddler finally agreed to take potty training seriously. I thought I would be overjoyed when this day came, but now I find myself washing my hands an inordinate amount. Keep in mind, I too am a frequent bathroom user, as well as the primary cook in my family, so I was already washing my hands a lot before having to take my daughter to the potty every thirty minutes. Add another dozen hand sanitizing moments due to Covid19, and my daily hand-cleansing tally hovers somewhere around fifty.

I’ll tell you, this does absolute wonders for my skin. If you consider dry, itchy, scaly, bright red skin to be wonderous. My advice to other frequent hand washers: invest in quality hand cream. Notice how I said, a hand-cream. Not the entire shelf of hand-creams from all the stores within a 10-mile radius. Do it now, before your empath neighbors amass this essential item too, and sell it online for a profit.

Between the fear-mongering headlines and cyclical conversations with worried family and friends, it has been near impossible to unwind during self-isolation. Normally, I turn to exercise to lower my stress levels, but since local gyms and studios are closed, home workouts have had to suffice. They’ve been super relaxing with my daughter trying to climb on my back during downward-dog and knocking me over as I closed my eyes during tree pose. Just what I need, right? To bog down a crowded (and Covid-19 infected) ER with a preventable injury. Try explaining these things to a three-year-old.

There’s a silver lining to my husband working in an essential service. I’ll share it with you since I think it’s important to end on a high note. Sure, my family has a higher likelihood of exposure to the virus compared to families who can work from home. But we live in a condo with a toddler. It has one washroom. Our hallway is currently undergoing noisy renovations. Four dogs inhabit our floor; one dog actually thinks he’s a rooster and wakes everyone up at the crack of dawn with enthusiastic howls. There are already plenty of factors contributing to increased irritability levels. So even though I love my husband, had we been forced to spend every moment of every day together, I think our mortality risk would actually increase.

Humor aside, I’m grateful to be living in a country that’s taking ample measures to prevent the spread of Covid19. Though social isolation comes with added challenges for people living with chronic conditions, I still believe it’s imperative. Despite what its name suggests, social distancing hasn’t kept us from connecting with loved ones online and over the phone. They’ve been enjoying updates on our ambitious baking adventures and surprisingly participate in the dance parties we initiate over video chat.

In these trying times, the choice to spread joy instead of germs was an easy one to make.

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Article by
Sofia Martimianakis

Sofia Martimianakis attended the University of Toronto while Trinity College still had a secret society. She completed her MA in Literary Studies at the University of Waterloo where geese, not so secretly, rule the campus.

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Though social isolation comes with added challenges for people living with chronic conditions, I still believe it’s imperative.

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