• Dr. Howard Gluss

How my childhood isolation has empowered my understanding of COVID-19

As a child from the age of six to about eighteen years old I suffered from a bone disease called Osteomyelitis. My body could not fight off infection, and sometimes for weeks to months at a time I would have to be isolated and quarantined in the hospital. I really was the boy in the bubble. I had to endure six surgeries, bone graphs, leg and body casts for twelve years. When in the hospital I lived in a tiny isolation room big enough for a bed, a chair, and a small window. Living with my infected body filled me with feelings of shame, disgust,

and envy.  

Each time after surgery I would have to learn how to walk again. And each time I had to muster up the courage and fortitude to face the arduous task of starting over. But with each attempt at learning how to walk again I came to discover that my biggest obstacle was not in my body, but in my brain. Deep within my psyche I knew that my feelings of self-loathing, self-pity and self-entitlement were a choice. I could choose to stay in this self-absorbed place, or I could look at my life experiences as opportunities to deepen my understanding of myself and the world around me. In my mind I had to transform my experiences of isolation in the hospital into opportunities for intense self-reflection and meditation. 

I quickly discovered that I could not always control what happened to me in my life, but I could control how I chose to deal with those experiences. I found that there was so much more joy and excitement to experience in the world if I stepped outside of myself and focused on others.  That my true power did not lie in whether I could fight infection, but how I chose to allow that experience to empower and embolden me. 

Covid-19 is tough. It is asking us to embrace the experience of patience, self-isolation, and self-care. It is demanding we be kinder to our bodies, and deepen our understanding of our neighbor. Surviving it physically and psychologically will probably be one of the hardest challenges many of us will face. We will ultimately survive Covid-19, but will we become better human beings in the process? The choice is ours.

by Howard Gluss, PhD

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