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  • Writer's picturemichelledangmd

Beyond the Quarantine

I have to admit - and being honest here - it has been mentally challenging during this time. I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling this way. This is the 4th week of social distancing/quarantining/isolation for us. My entire routine has been thrown off. I cancelled my clinic and transitioned 100% to telemedicine (seeing patients by video or phone). I cancelled all of my procedures. In a specialty that spends a lot of time examining patients and performing procedures to alleviate pain and suffering, I have stopped all of that completely. I haven't been into the studio to teach or practice Lagree fitness in the same amount of time. The first week was really tough. I would spend pretty much the entire day glued to social media or the news, alternating between horror and anger at what was unfolding in front of my eyes. I texted my friends around the clock, in a near panic at how little I could do, considering I have not practiced general anesthesia since 2011. I commiserated with friends and colleagues, making near daily posts on my social media pages to try to educate people on why it was important to stay home before there were official rules to do so.

After a week or so if this, I felt drained and exhausted. I tried to exercise, but was having a hard time with it. I was having difficulty with sleeping, and would often wake up in the middle of the night just to check to my phone in case I missed something. I was on edge constantly, and with a 10 year old at home doing schoolwork, I felt like I was coming apart at the edges.

By the 3rd week, I had more of a routine down. While my telemedicine schedule was unpredictable - some days I didn't have any patients, and some days I would be in my office all day, I was setting more limits for myself when it came to social media and reading the news. It was important for me to text and call my parents every day. It was also important for me to have some time set aside to advocate for my friends and colleagues, which meant getting daily updates on numbers in our area, and combing through information that was out there about what was going on and what were the updates. But beyond that, what was most important for my mental health, was getting back into a fitness routine that felt good for me mentally and physically.

I committed to practicing yoga at least 2-3 times a week. I committed to doing more meditation and breath work. I downloaded Headspace on my phone. My good friend sent me a meditation pillow for my birthday. And I found myself feeling better day by day. I still get angry. I still feel helpless. But I realize there is nothing that I can do other than be present here for me and for my family. This is not a sprint. This is a marathon. I started doing more things that brought me joy and happiness. It was hard at first; I felt like I was being a fraud for continuing with my writing or my podcast -- but once I started recording again, I felt a little more "normal", whatever that means during this time. I laughed more. I connected with other human beings outside of the 4 walls of my home. It felt good. I can't stress how important it was for me to feel good again. Because what's going on right now in the world is terrifying. It's scary and there is so much uncertainty and chaos. It's okay to want to feel a little semblance of normal; it's okay to want to feel joy and happiness.

So I'm committing to moving beyond the quarantine. This routine is different than the one I had a month ago. But I'm finding slivers of happiness in this time by all these little things that I took for granted. Like the way my puppies

smell so good after a bath. Like watching my son and husband bake me lemon squares for my quarantined birthday. Like a simple yoga practice in my back patio. Like cooking from home every day (and it's not a chore, I actually love it). Like reconnecting with my parents. Like watching movies together every night cuddled up on the couch.

Life will be so different after this whole thing is over. But we all have to evolve.

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