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Living With a High Risk Family Member During a Pandemic

     Everyday we can see the effects that the pandemic has on our daily lives. Whether it be the sports season that got cancelled, the vacation postponed, or the shocking switch to online classes, the Coronavirus has found a way to limit factors of our lives that were meant to relieve stress. Because of this, people have had a variety of reactions to the stark change in routine. While many have no issues wearing masks, others blatantly refuse to do so. However, when I found out my mother was a high risk case my whole outlook on the pandemic intensified. Being a type one diabetic, she is considered to be high risk. 

     When news of the virus broke, I was equally as anxious as the next person, but I also had to factor my mom’s situation into my reaction. As I watched the news and social media I constantly saw the various levels of virus prevention that people followed. What would infuriate me was the people constantly demeaning the threat that the virus poses. By promoting a stop in  social distancing, people are simply putting other, less healthy people at risk. Knowing my mom’s health, I knew that my family and I had to be as careful as possible, one slip up could change everything. This fact made my worry for my mom’s health and caused me to struggle with the fact that someone so close to me had a higher chance at being taken from me. The scariest part about having a high risk family member was realizing that I was directly affected by the outrageous statistics that were plastered across every news channel. Having to look at the unreliable and bleak percentages detailing the chance my mother could be taken from me. 

     In an attempt to save my mom from the virus, I tried to take control of any and every aspect I could. Her health was my number one priority, but I can admit, I micromanaged many parts of my family’s routine to keep my mom from having to leave the house. From grocery shopping to getting gas, I did whatever I could to keep my house as safe as possible. While this was a successful effort in staying quarantined, I took on more tasks than I was able to handle at times. I later realized that my efforts to help keep my mom as safe as possible resulted in me not paying attention to my own mental health. Over the many months of the pandemic, I became more reserved and anxious, letting the worry for my mother overtake my own thoughts. 

     This tension culminated when my mother got a head cold. My dad made her take a coronavirus test and we had her quarantine in the guest bedroom for two weeks. It was during these two weeks that I was so overcome by fear for her that it took over every aspect of my life. Everyday I wondered to myself if  this was it. Would these be the last moments I had with my  mother? My family dynamic was skewed and stiff with anxiety, but it gave me the space to learn how to process the possibility of losing one of my parents. Over this two week period I constantly battled with feelings of fear and hope. It was almost as if I had an angel and a devil on each of my shoulders, each whispering in my ear the worst and best case scenario of this two week quarantine. 

     After two gruesome weeks, the test came back negative and I was filled with overwhelming relief. But the reality of the test sank in and made me realize that I have no control over what happens regarding the pandemic. As the test result alleviated some of my worries, I came to understand that everything happens for a reason. I learned how to live my life with the threat on my mom’s life everyday and understand the impact of having an emotional support system. I used things such as contacting friends, reading, exercising, and cooking to help diffuse my internal tension about my family’s situation. 

     I see now that all we can do to mitigate the daily toll that the pandemic has on us is to follow the safety guidelines and keep a positive attitude. Now more than ever we need to be more aware of the people struggling during this pandemic, whether it be physically with the virus or the emotional toll it takes on each of us. Simply being there for someone in need is one of the most important things you can do to help during these darker times. Have a socially distanced picnic with a couple friends, have a netflix party in the middle of the night, or find a new hobby to occupy your time. Just know that no matter what stresses the pandemic puts upon your life, that you have people that care about you and can help you every step of the way.

Caroline Thiemann is a freshman Business major with minors in History and Creative Writing at Baylor University. She is from Plano, Texas and loves to play for the Waco Quidditch team or soccer with friends. When she is not reading a new book or trying new restaurants, she loves watching a fun movie with her roommates. Some of her favorite things include Marvel, traveling, and dim sum.
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