By: Ellen Lenox Smith

My family is so lucky, we are all here today! My husband and I are fully vaccinated, and our four sons are eligible to receive theirs. We have kept connected for months from our homes by Zoom, Facetime, or phone calls. Our conversations tended to be upbeat, but as we are slowly able to see each other again with some lingering restrictions, it is clear we are all dealing with the emotional trauma this has brought into our daily lives.

As we transition from “survival mode” to our “new normal,” we seem confused, strained, and unsettled? We have met person after person feeling a new form of confusion, insecurity, depression, and emotional trauma.

I have experienced the same confusion and strain following previous medical emergencies I have had. You go from simply trying to survive to focusing on how to approach a new life. Essentially learning how to return to “normal” and to thriving rather than simply surviving.

Naming the feelings that cause confusion and challenging feeling always helps me understand them.

  • Do I go for that vaccine or not? If a good friend or family member decides to choose differently than you, can you maintain respect and acceptance?
  • If I get the vaccine, how long will it keep me safe?
  • Will all of the new variants be covered by a vaccine?
  • Will one vaccine work better than another?
  • A year has gone by and many have lost others and/or dealing with long-term issues, will that affect our relationships?
  • It is really safe to travel and begin to open our worlds up after our vaccine?
  • Will people shun those that have chosen to not get vaccinated or wear their masks?
  • Will one be expected to carry confirmation of a vaccine and if one doesn’t have one, what will happen to their lives?
  • How will I feel traveling around those that choose to not get vaccinated or choose to not wear their masks?
  • Will I continue to still live with some fear about contracting COVID? Due to my medical issues,  numerous doctors have stated they fear my breathing issues would make it deadly.
  • How do you let all this go and feel safe, secure, and ready to return to life?

Something just feels insecure, unsettling, and confusing right now. I am so grateful to have gotten through this, so far, living with two incurable conditions, but as life is slowly beginning to open, how will I handle this? I just want to go back to feeling free, maskless, open to move around, socialize and live the life I knew. But is that possible? This pandemic has changed our lives. It is up to us to figure out what we have gained from this and how we can build from that learned knowledge. It is up to each of us to decide how we will act around others, no matter what their choices have been. I want to be stronger, tolerant, accepting but I need to be safe and sensible, too. May we all find peace from this horrific experience we have lived through.

May life be kind to you.

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.