How Pandemic Fatigue Is Showing Up in My Life

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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As we approach year three of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am tired. I’m sure we all are. This pandemic fatigue, combined with the January blues, makes it a difficult time of year for many, and leaves the world feeling heavy and dark.

While there is no immediate fix, being aware of the impact of pandemic fatigue is important because it can negatively affect our mental health and lead to reduced compliance with public health measures.

As a chronically ill patient, that scares me.

I’ve been doing everything I can to avoid catching respiratory viruses since my diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in 2016. But despite my efforts, I’ve fallen ill many times, and each time, I lose precious lung function that can’t be regained.

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Not complying with public health measures can contribute to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which increases my chances of contracting it. While the omicron variant seems to result in milder symptoms than other variants, it’s not worth the risk to those of us with IPF or other respiratory conditions.

Last month, I wrote that I’m worried about getting my fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in January, but ultimately, I will trust in science. Although four doses in less than a year feels overwhelming, I know that getting vaccinated helps us collectively fight this virus.

I’m doing my part, but I’m still in the thick of pandemic fatigue. So, I want to share how it shows up in my daily life in the hope that others will relate and feel less alone.

Irritability

I am easily irritated by people who spew misinformation on social media, so I’ve begun blocking people. While I firmly believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, adjusting my social media settings to avoid seeing upsetting messages is an easy and nonconfrontational way for me to protect my mental health.

Anxiety and control

Anxiety is common for many patients with chronic illnesses such as IPF. When the world feels out of control, I crave more control over certain aspects of my life. For instance, I’m limiting my screen time, both professional and personal, which I’ve never done before.

I’m also controlling who enters and leaves my house. Before the pandemic, my door was open to anyone who wanted to visit.

Fatigue and sadness

IPF patients may experience many types of fatigue, but lately, my physical fatigue has been debilitating. I wonder if this is my body’s way of protecting my mind, which is always racing with pandemic-related worries.

I want to sleep a lot, and some people have worried that I’m experiencing depression. I don’t think that’s it, but I do feel a sense of deep sadness at the state of the world right now, like a little, gray rain cloud is following me around.

Additionally, it upsets me to see that many of my favorite doctors and nurses are burned out. Their pandemic fatigue goes far beyond mine, as they are on the frontlines. I think about all the regular medical emergencies that haven’t stopped happening during the pandemic — strokes, car accidents, heart attacks, cancer — and I worry that beds will become scarce as the omicron variant continues to spread.

I also worry that more variants will continue to develop, as there’s no global vaccination strategy, and many countries don’t have access to vaccines.

Despite pandemic fatigue, I hope we can all keep our guard up and continue to comply with public health measures. Compliance helps high-risk patients like me stay safe. It’s so important to think of the fight against COVID-19 as a collective effort.

How is pandemic fatigue showing up in your life? Please share in the comments below.

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Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.

Comments

Denise Stogdill avatar

Denise Stogdill

Charlene, I think you hit the nail on the head. I have been trying to put a label on this fatigue that I have been feeling for a long time now. We have to be so vigilant with being careful with where we go and who we see, it’s almost not worth leaving the house! But I did that pandemic year one and I ate a terrible diet, gained 50 lbs and became very depressed. When I was diagnosed with PF my life just shrunk even more. However, pandemic year 2 I knew I had to change my diet and I had to start pulmonary rehab. I did and lost my pandemic weight and some so that I could possibly feel better. However, the fatigue continues. Some days, all I want to do is stay in bed, not because I’m depressed, but because I’m fatigued. Reading your article made me realize that I’m suffering with Pandemic fatigue! I wonder when we will be able to feel a little normal, I wonder when or if we’ll ever be able to live normal lives without fear or fatigue!

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Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Denise,

Thank you so much for reading my columns and reaching out! I feel so lucky to be in a position where I can write about various topics that might help others understand what they're feeling - pandemic fatigue certainly is real, and differs (as you say) from depression. Good for you for losing the weight in year 2; I know that isn't easy with this dreaded disease. Hang in there, and be gentle with yourself as we continue to navigate this pandemic.
Warm regards,
Charlene.

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Steve Dragoo avatar

Steve Dragoo

Hi Charlene,

I can understand every point you mention and it seems deeply important how we view or let things have an emotional/spiritual impact on our future mental well-being. Things that affect us today can go exponential in our future if we don't use or have a common denominator.

Years ago I worked for a husband/wife Ph.D. family psychology team and I know they would bring up the subject of binding the wounds and the different stages of grieving; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We can be at various or multiple stages at one time and I have been over IPF. Acceptance does not mean we just shrug our shoulders and say "Oh well", it more closely means we know most of the pathway of our shared disease and look for ways to improve our time on this ever-darkening planet, finding inner peace - sometimes fleeting as it may be, it is a great gift to find and hold onto.

For me, years and years ago I had an experience that has altered my life for the past almost 20 years. My trust and faith are founded in gratefulness that I have Someone outside of my personal small-mindedness that I can turn to and trust in any situation - not an easy thing to do for a classic A-type personality - so I'll just say it is a work in progress. LOL

Each day we make a mental choice (recognized or not) of how to respond to any life's situation. Mine is set because I too, am slowly weakening but still have the mental acuity to speak publicly (next Saturday) and work a few hours most days online. My biggest regret is in the future and that is what my wife may have to deal with as I worsen and finally go to stage 4 but usually, I have great peace even though I question my mind at times due to ever-decreasing O2 levels.

Time is short for everybody because we just don't know when a tree limb might fall on us or a typhoon hit us directly - you never know this. That's why I work on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control daily because against such there is no darkening cloud. If you ever want to talk more with me about it, please reach out. Darkness is a state of mind and so is fear...

Your friend,
Steve

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Debbra Ballard avatar

Debbra Ballard

I so agree with the fatigue and the scariness of venturing out of the house. Would LOVE to go inside a restaurant for a fabulous meal! But for now, I can't trust that those around me are vaccinated and healthy. So my outings are limited to my weekly rehab sessions and occasional visits to a grocery store. Will be very happy when this pandemic is over or at least under better control.
Best wished to all in this new year!
Debbie

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Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Debbie,

Thanks so much for reading my columns and reaching out via the comments. I am like you - just desperate for the pandemic to end! Our lives are very limited when we're at increased risk of exposure or severe illness; my trips out are scarce as well. Take good care and all the best in 2022 to you as well.
Charlene.

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Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Steve,

So wonderful to hear from you as always, my friend: thanks for sharing your thoughts on this latest column of mine! I always admire how you intentionally choose to live your life and share so openly... thank you! Keep up the good, albeit hard, work and keep in touch.
Char.

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