'I'm now trying to enjoy my time in isolation'

Hi everyone! My name is Olivia Salvati and I’m a 3rd year BA English student. I’m writing this post to help ease some of your anxieties during this really difficult time, especially if you’re like me and have a disability! 

I have epilepsy, and I have three different types of seizures. I’m on medication to control my seizures, which is fantastic, but I do suffer from the side effects, which give me other mental and physical health problems. 

When Covid-19 first erupted on the news, I was terrified. As this is a new virus, there’s not much research surrounding the effects on how the virus could or could not affect epilepsy and other neurological conditions. If you have any kind of disability, feeling completely vulnerable is completely natural and understandable. And due to Covid-19, we’re all experiencing something surreal. Disabled people are believed to be resilient due to everything we have to go through, and unfortunately, Covid-19 is another hurdle we must face. 

I will say this now to not scare you, but I did end up contracting the virus (which I have to say, is typical of me!), but luckily, my story has a good ending. I come from a very traditional Italian family, and on the 11th of March, some of my family members and I visited my grandad’s house to celebrate his 88th birthday. 

Two weeks on, everything seemed to have gone downhill. My family fell sporadically ill, all with different symptoms. We were extremely confused. My cousin’s family too, experiencing the same at home. However, it was my grandfather and grandmother, who despite eating a bowl of pasta every day and a glass of wine, (as they believe this is the best medicine!) suffered the worst from this virus. They both ended up in hospital in critical conditions and both tested positive for Covid-19. Therefore, we all knew why we felt the way we felt.

I do not always experience auras when I am about to have a tonic-clonic seizure (these are the seizures where someone convulses on the floor uncontrollably, varying in duration), but the day before I fell unwell with Covid-19, I had alarm bells going off in my head warning me about a seizure. At this point, I was in complete panic mode, but I was able to calm myself down through some breathing exercises. I then informed my family and sort of prepared for the worst. 

Fortunately, the worst never came (YAY!). However, the fever, sickness, joint pain, headaches and sharp pains in my lungs that I experienced, were all completely new to me. The only way I can relate to people who’ve not had the virus, is to say, imagine the worst head cold you have ever had whilst you feel constantly rubbish throughout your body. 

Without my grandparents getting diagnosed, I don’t think I ever would have understood why I felt this way, so in a way it was a kind of blessing in disguise. 

As the weeks have passed by, we’ve all slowly improved. My grandparents were released from the hospital, and we are now trying to enjoy our time in isolation. So, to the disabled community, here are some tips that I learnt and that helped me and my family during this crazy time: 

1. Don’t panic - I know this is so much easier said than done, as I am a massive over-thinker myself. If you’re feeling well, try and practice some mindfulness activities, like yoga, meditation, even simple breathing exercises. Yoga with Adriene is a YouTube channel I recommend for these sort of exercises, as it is great for beginners, people who do not exercise and cannot exercise, and is free!

2. Be open with how you feel - this is not an easy task for everyone, but even shedding a small light on how you feel to your family and/or friends will ease some of that pressure off your chest, so you do not feel like a pressure cooker.

3. Create and stick to a routine! Even though it is so easy to sleep till noon during this period, getting up early or earlier, creating a to-do list or day planner, and planning when to do your university work and planning your rest breaks is important for your mind. It is just about finding the right balance for you. So try and create a routine, but do not be too strict on yourself, you can still have a routine and still have fun!

4. Online! Apps like Headspace and Calm can also help clear your mind and help your focus. If you cannot afford these apps, Headspace does have a Youtube channel, and there are many other Youtube channels that are free, like Tara Branch, Brain Education TV, Moojiji, The Mindful Movement, Mindful Music, Medication Vacation, and Quiet Mind Cafe. If you are looking for something a bit more upbeat whilst studying or relaxing, ChilledCow on Youtube and Spotify is usually my go-to as well!

5. Keep busy! If you are struggling to find motivation, getting outdoors once a day to exercise your body and mind will help lift your spirits. If you are unable to get outdoors, there is a great magazine called Breathe that focuses on mental health and mindfulness and will also lift your spirits wherever you are! (You can order from their website with free delivery! 

6. If you do feel unwell and you think you are experiencing symptoms, please call your doctor or 111! Your health always comes first. 111 were a lifeline to my family when we were unwell. They were so helpful and answered all our questions, so do not be afraid to call them.

7. If you are feeling overwhelmed due to everything that is happening, and are becoming anxious about your university work, inform the university immediately. Do not worry if the university does not reply straight away, as there will be a record of your email to the university of how you feel. Your mental health is as important as your physical health!

Keep calm, stay safe, and don’t forget to take your meds!