By Michaela O’Connor

I’m experiencing every emotion in the wake of COVID-19.

I live with three autoimmune diseases, am currently taking immunosuppressants, and have a restricted lung capacity. I’m a high-risk patient, and have been for the last 13 years of my life.

I began self-quarantining over two weeks ago. It was a precaution I felt necessary due to the contagious nature of the virus. I spend a lot of time at home anyway; I work from home, I have had groceries delivered countless times, and I workout in the spare bedroom daily—so this wasn’t far from my norm.

Earlier this week, a shelter-in-place order was given for my county. “Shelter in place” means that you are required to stay home unless you need to leave for “essential” activities and work. You are also supposed to stay six feet away from individuals that you do not live with when you are at work, the grocery store, the pharmacy, etc. As things went from quarantining for my own protection to shelter in place, my emotions have been running wild. Honestly, I’m OK with that.

I have laughed at the never-ending memes about social-distancing, parents homeschooling their kids, and the lack of toilet paper.

I have cried at the beautiful acts of kindness and humanity that have resulted despite these difficult times.

I have been angry that individuals are using this time for social gatherings rather than staying home and being conscious that their actions may have a direct impact on so many people’s lives.

I have marveled in awe at the selfless heroes, who don’t have the luxury of staying home at this time, continuing to work.

And I have been afraid of the ramifications COVID-19 will have for me, but also for the entire country, in this time of uncertainty.

Each day is like a rollercoaster. But having lived through various times of chaos and uncertainty due to my personal health issues, I have learned that suppressing my feelings is counterproductive. It only leaves me experiencing those feelings at a heightened degree, which completely overloads my body, both mentally and emotionally. Allowing myself to fully feel the more difficult emotions, the fear and the pain I have lived through in the past, gives me the opportunity to also fully experience the joy and the love I have in my life.

During this difficult period, I urge you to allow yourself to feel every emotion fully, to let yourself feel the more difficult feelings. The sooner you feel them and acknowledge their presence, the sooner you can accept them and move forward to experience the good that is surrounding everyone right now; amidst the chaos and uncertainty, there is also kindness, love, and community.

Michaela O’Connor is a U.S. Pain staff member and chronic pain warrior and advocate. She lives with bilateral trigeminal and occipital neuralgia, dysautonomia, cervical dystonia, gastroparesis, and an undifferentiated mixed connective tissue disorder. In 2013, she was chosen to be a participant in the INvisible Project, which led to her becoming a U.S. Pain Ambassador for the state of California. It was through this role that Michaela became an official part of U.S. Pain’s team. Michaela graduated from the University of California at Davis in 2009 with a BS in Political Science and a double minor in History and War and Peace Studies. She is an avid writer and plays the guitar in her free time. She is also the proud aunt to her three nephews and four nieces, with whom she spends most of her free time. Michaela resides in Northern California.