By Ellen Lenox Smith

After waiting months to have life open up again and be able to be with people, I am starting to wonder how often returning to my protective bubble might be safer. 

I have never, at the age of 71, seen such impatience, unkindness, and negative attitudes used against others. I am not used to people feeling free to openly lie, ignore science, and create this unreal reality to live with. Just yesterday, I encountered a car with a handicap sticker in the window that had a sticker on the back of the car that read “I Hate People.” Seriously? Can you imagine choosing to put that on your car?

Living with two incurable conditions and always seeking as much peace and calm as possible, I just am not sure this is the life I expected to see us open up to. We’re watching people display strange, out of control behavior which is now adding more stress than ever to life. And if you are like me, struggling to keep your head above the water with medical issues, this is not helping life feel better.

The bottom line is we have all had some damage to deal with. Many of us noticed that we actually experienced feeling more disconnected as we began the process of coming out of COVID restrictions than when we were in the middle of the chaos and in “survival mode.”  We need not beat ourselves up for these emotions—we have all been through a long process of trauma.

What others that aren’t dealing with medical issues don’t realize, is that they just had an unfortunate taste of what it is like to be inflicted with a chronic issue. Life was turned upside down suddenly and unexpectedly. Things that they used to be able to do were taken away, forcing one to redefine themselves and find a new normal to get through.  

The good news is that those who do not have a chronic issue will begin to see their lives return and many of the activities they so dearly missed will begin to open up. But those of us living with chronic medical issues will still have to live the life they just experienced with interruptions, disappointment, and obstacles to cope with. 

My heart goes out to those that lost family and friends just as my heart goes out to those that are being called the “Lifers” with long-lasting damage caused by the coronavirus to cope with. But no matter what category we fit into, we all need to be grateful to be alive and for this opportunity to live more openly and freely again. 

So, please, take a breath and remember kindness, gratefulness and compassion. Let this horrible experience make us kinder people. Let’s build up and not break down and appreciate the good we have. Many will go back to pretty normal lives in time, but I ask them to remember what they experienced during the uncertainty of this pandemic when they see someone struggling with a chronic medical issue. 

Remember the horror, the confusion, the loss of activities, and the loss of being able to be with friends and family. These are just a few examples of what people with chronic pain and medical issues will continue to face every day.

May life be kind to you.

About Ellen Lenox Smith

Ellen Lenox Smith has emerged as a leading voice for patients living with pain. Currently, Ellen serves as Co-Director of Medical Cannabis Advocacy for U.S. Pain Foundation and is a member of its Board of Directors. She is also active with the EDS RI support group. Prior to patient advocacy, Ellen was a longtime middle school social studies teacher. She has been married for 46 years and is the proud mother of four adult children and grandmother to five grandchildren. She also is the author of two books, an organic gardener, and was previously a master swimmer and high school swim teacher.