Living with fear and anxiety

On my social media I have recently been posting about the fear and anxiety I have been trying to deal with. I have discovered that I am not the only one who is having the same experience. This is reassuring as it says to me that my fear is justified but it is awful that so many others are finding life just as tough and for the same reasons.

Unless you live with lung disease it is hard to comprehend the fear that many of us are experiencing just now. Lung disease is terrifying, when you have an exacerbation and have to fight for every breath not knowing when your energy supply is going to run out and you need to give in, but add into the mix COVID-19 a virus that attacks the lungs but there is no real understanding of the best management for it or who will get hit with it the worst.

Initially when the virus first hit other like me were protected. We were advised to shield and basically hide away from the world to ensure we don’t catch this new deadly virus. But now shielding is over and everyone is back out in the world trying to get on with their lives. There has been a clear shift in behaviours and the rules that were adhered to initially but they really are not anymore and this is pretty scary in itself. Masks and social distancing seem to be haphazardly done (the one advantage of walking with a stick is that it can double up as a way to make sure people don’t come too close, I just stick it out a bit further- very handy when I have had to be in a queue and can feel someone breathing down my neck).

Now that the vaccine has been rolled out and many of us have had all my doses you would think we are safe and we are on our way out of the pandemic. But NO. With the latest mutation of COVID-19 and the speed at which it has spread through society is scary. This has prompted fear and anxiety like never before.

Many who have severe lung disease like myself have immune systems that don’t work well. What this also means is that we don’t respond to vaccines in the same way as a healthy individual does. For example I have had chicken pox a couple of times, I have had immunoglobulins for it, I have also had the vaccine for shingles yet if you test my blood is shows nothing. This has been the same for some of the mandatory vaccines I had to have when I started nursing. So for despite having the COVID-19 vaccine my antibodies are not what they should be so essentially I am still at risk (the Scottish Government also likes to remind me of this with its letters telling me I am in the highest risk category for COVID-19).

This is what terrifies me. COVID-19 is still just as much of a risk to me as it was before but I don’t have the added luxury of shielding or lockdown like before.

Me expressing my fear and anxiety has also caused conflict however. I am really scared of going into hospital and catching COVID-19 while there (part of this stems from something that happened at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic), when I am unwell in hospital you cannot be socially distanced from people especially those who are helping you with care or examining you etc. This is the prime time to potentially catch COVID-19 (when acutely unwell with my asthma I cannot wear a mask to protect me as it is just too claustrophobic) especially if the people looking after you are not vaccinated.

This statement about vaccination is what has caused the issue but I really feel that if you work in the health profession like in England and other places it should be mandatory to be vaccinated. You have to have other vaccines so I do not see why this one should not be the same. It has been proven that vaccination is the best and only way in which we can suppress the COVID-19 virus and the sooner this is done the better as it is mutating so much that current vaccines may not be effective in the future. The history of vaccines show that they work for example smallpox or polio, through vaccination these are no longer an issue and we no longer need to vaccinate against them.

In the press a Dr spoke out about how he did not get the vaccine because he will have antibodies etc. This sparked outrage, and it was really refreshing on various social media outlets such as Twitter the number of people who were in favour of the vaccine but also saying why they got the vaccine and it is the why that I want to highlight.

The why for the majority was to protect not only themselves and loved ones but to protect the vulnerable who they may have to look after. The vulnerable people like myself.

I thank all the Nurses, Drs, and all the other professions in the National Health Service who have voluntarily had the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves, their family and friends and all those people who they don’t know who are vulnerable to COVID-19. It was so nice to see the tweets which had the extra bit in it about protecting vulnerable people because they did not need to put that, they could have stopped at friends and family but to me it shows how seriously they not only take their jobs but also they are acknowledging just how devastating the COVID-19 virus is for people like myself.

For the time being I am limiting what I do, who I see, where I go because of the high prevalence of COVID-19. I don’t want to, but I know I have to. The fear and anxiety around the thought of catching it is all consuming. There are a few reasons why. Firstly because I know what it is like to not be able to breathe sacrificing things just now is a hell of a lot easier than trying to fight for breath which would no doubt occur should I catch COVID-19. Secondly, I personally know people who have died of COVID-19 both before there was a vaccine available and also since there has been a vaccine.

I think until COVID-19 is suppressed I will never be able to really live without some fear and anxiety. My view to fighting COVID-19 is much like 100 years ago, everyone pitched in to fight to protect their country in some manner and COVID-19 is no different except that we are fighting an invisible enemy. To win the war on the COVID-19 pandemic we all need to do our bit otherwise it will never be over.

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