Chronic Pain and Pandemic Anxiety

Ellen, 40, has been dealing with severe neuropathy (nerve damage) in her feet and legs for several years. So far, it has been manageable and she is grateful that she’s been able to keep her job with the city government, especially because of the additional medical benefits it provides.

Lately, however, Ellen has been struggling. Her pain has gotten worse which prevents her from doing everyday tasks. It also makes it difficult for her to get a good night’s sleep. As a result, she’s been exhausted and feeling as though she’s dragging herself to work every day. It’s been nearly impossible to stay motivated or productive.

For years, Ellen took public transit to work. She appreciated the time to herself and was grateful that she didn’t have to search for a parking spot or pay exorbitant parking fees, not to mention the cost of filling her car with gas more than once a week.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Ellen has been afraid to take transit. When she heard stories of drivers and passengers getting sick, she started driving to work. Being stuck in rush-hour traffic in the mornings and evenings means it takes longer for her to get to work so she has to get up earlier in the mornings. Getting home later at night leaves very little time for her to spend with her husband and two kids. Ellen’s kids are young and active kids and since she hasn’t been at home as much, their behaviour has changed. They have become cranky and resentful. It’s been nearly impossible to keep them from throwing tantrums on a daily basis.

If this wasn’t bad enough already, Ellen’s husband was recently laid off from his job due to COVID downsizing. Although he is receiving EI, Ellen is deeply worried about how they will pay their bills.

5 am

Another day getting up two hours earlier than I am used to. It’s just too risky to take transit now. Who knows how much sicker I would get if I contracted the COVID virus? I don’t want to take that chance… But I’m also so afraid that I’m going to fall asleep driving to work in the dark. My legs hurt so much already and being in the car for so many hours every day makes it worse. I wish I could just take one day to rest.

12 pm

Only a few hours left before I get to go home. I honestly can’t believe that I’m so tired all day, every day. Some days I want to take a nap on my desk. Sue told me that she applied for long-term disability after her car accident a few years ago and that gave me hope. But would that provide enough money for us to survive since we’re already struggling financially?

5 pm

I’m so upset. Someone else at work said they had applied for long-term disability because of their chronic pain  and they got denied. What hope is there for me then? How am I going to possibly keep going? How would we pay for our mortgage with just EI payments? How are we going to afford to feed the kids? I feel hopeless.

12 am

I can’t sleep. I feel like I have no options. I’m so worried about what will happen if I apply for disability and get denied. A lawyer would probably cost even more money. I wish I knew what to do and who could help me.

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