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Adapting to Another New Normal: Macular Degeneration and Coronavirus

I started my “new normal” life as a VIP about 50 months ago. I started my “new normal” life as a COVID-19 refugee about 15 days ago. No, I have not gone anywhere. I am not going anywhere but pretty much where I am, at home. However, we are all “traveling” in strange territory these days and we are not sure of the receptions we are going to receive around the next corner. May I say it is a bit disconcerting?

Emotional regulation

Before we suspended DBT groups until further notice, my colleagues were teaching emotional regulation. One of the last things they taught was checking the facts. So often we just flip out before checking the facts.

Do you go blind from macular degeneration?

I would suspect many if not most of you were told you were going blind. I was and I was devastated. It was only after I started to do my research that I realized blind by my doctor’s definition was much more benign than what I thought it meant. If I had asked him what exactly he meant before I left the office, I would have avoided a fair amount of heartbreak.

Emotions are contagious

Similar things are happening now with COVID-19. People are reacting before checking the facts. Add to that, emotions are contagious.

Fear is contagious

Have you ever sat in the retinologist’s waiting room and listened to any of the conversations? If I had not had ten, painless “eye shots” so far, some of these conversations would have had me shaking in my boots! Quite frankly, I get nervous just eavesdropping on them. Fear is contagious.

Positive emotions are contagious, too

But the good thing about emotions being contagious is that positive emotions, such as calm, are contagious as well. And calm is commanding. Would you follow someone flipping out or someone trying to stay calm?

Keep calm and carry on

So now that the disasters - central blindness and the COVID-19 pandemic - are on me, what am I doing to stay calm? First of all, in fine DBT fashion, I am doing some pushing away. I am doing what I need to do and I can do nothing else right now. Therefore, I shelf it all until I actually have ways to solve the problems. With my vision, I am not constantly, desperately looking for a cure. With COVID-19, I check the state department of health web page once a day. Anything I need to know will be there.

How am I keeping busy?

And until there is a resolution? I am tolerating the situations through distracting activities. I have my work, which also affords me mastery and meaning. I take my online exercise classes with my Zumba instructor. These classes not only give me some exercise but they provide me with some continuity in my life. Same instructor and same routines as in the “real world.” Also, seeing the names of people signing in to the classes, I realize they are the same people with whom I took live classes. Life - and people - finds a way.

Finding projects

I am getting out to walk in the sunshine. I love doing that. I am doing things that need to be done around the house. Today I shampooed area rugs. Don’t love doing that at all, but it gives me a sense of accomplishment. Mastery is another way to reduce vulnerability to negative emotions.

Finding lost treasures

I hear a lot of folks are taking some of this time to clean and toss. Something I found and kept was my Wii system. The last time I bowled on Wii was about 12 years ago and I was sighted. Just the same, with the help of my Max TV glasses, my scores are decent.

In short, in the famous words of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, "Don’t panic!" It is contagious and you don’t want to be responsible for a lot of people running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Check your facts. Solve what you can. Push away the rest and find something to do. If you can beat a score of 182 on Wii bowling, let me know!

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