I've been a type 1 diabetic for nearly 17 years.
I've also had Celiac's Disease (that "weird gluten thing" you might have heard of- it's an allergy) for 13 years.
Both of these diseases are autoimmune, which essentially means that my body is attacking itself. All the time. Which isn't great for the immune system.
In all these years, I've rarely felt as vulnerable as I do now. I literally haven't left my house since March 15th (which happened to be my 29th birthday). My husband--God bless him--has made a few runs to the grocery store for essentials. I ALWAYS stay home, and that is what I will continue to do.
At first, I went on random and panic-driven cleaning sprees, frantically Lysol-wiping and alcohol-spraying every available and "frequently touched" surface I washed my hands until they became dry and raw (I might still be doing that...). Five minutes after my husband would come through the door, I would bear down upon him and ask, "Have you washed your hands yet?"
It's funny -- and others may be experiencing this too, high risk or not -- I have a driver's license, but I don't like to drive much. I'm one of those drivers that will only drive to places I know. I pretty much refuse to drive anywhere new. I'm not a recluse; I like being out and about just as much as the next person, but most of the time I would choose to stay home if all of the driving depended on me. But now, since I definitely shouldn't -- cannot -- leave the house, the more I want to. Like a lot of people, I feel trapped in my own home, fighting an invisible predator that I can't see.
At my worst times, I've sat virtually paralyzed and thought, "What if COVID-19 is already in this house, right now? What if I've been exposed to it, and it's already in my body, waiting to manifest itself? Am I hot, all of a sudden? Is that a heaviness in my chest?"
My husband has one of those essential jobs that has to keep going, and he works nights. During this time when I'm by myself, my brain just loves to whisper, "If he gets exposed, then we're both in trouble. What if, what if, what if..."
Things came to a head on that front when I demanded that he wash his hands when he gets home, takes a shower, and puts his dirty clothes - especially his work clothes - somewhere far away from mine. "I won't and can't touch them," I said, probably with a slightly manic look in my eyes.
Now I've (mostly) moved past the hysteria that we all felt when this whole pandemic started. I felt much better after my husband and I discussed a game plan if the situation arose where one or both of us got exposed, or got sick. I have plenty of my medications. I'm stocked up on everything I need for my insulin pump. My endocrinologist is a phone call away. Look at me, being a rational person!
Seriously though, panicking doesn't help anyone. All it does is make you lose essential sleep and waste stomach acid. Do I still feel vulnerable? Sure. I'm only human. But all we can do is take it one day at a time. I've accepted that I'm "high risk," but I don't think I'm really any more high risk than a family with young children, or the grandmother living with her son. Now I just think of it as, "I just have to be a little extra careful, that's all."
My love and good vibes go out to all those with the pre-existing conditions the CDC has outlined which
make an individual "high risk": other diabetics, those with lung and heart conditions, kidney issues, etc. And to the very young, and our senior citizens. Everyone, really. Aren't we all a community in this? Keep fighting. Eat as healthy as you can. Wash your hands. Take up a new indoor hobby or discover a new favorite book. Help those who need help (but be smart about it). And keep smiling. This, too, shall pass.