As we flit up and down levels in this dystopian elevator dance, I find myself gripped with hiraeth, a Welsh word to describe a nostalgia for a home you can never return to.
I long for the days that I could hug friends; go on a date where the prospect didn’t fill me with existential dread; a time where kissing people didn’t constitute an irreversible and life-threatening lapse in judgement. I yearn for long-haul flights to far-flung destinations and wine-spurred conversations before hitting the dancefloor, arms flailing wildly to one hit wonders. I may miss these things, but the reality is I was already in the throes of a health crisis of my own before Covid hit, so I haven’t had ‘normal’ for quite a while.
A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) just over a year ago at the age of 32 felt like my life was over. Thoughts of wheelchairs invaded my mind, a lazy symbol of disability – many of us living with MS don’t look visibly disabled so the unseen impact of the disease is frequently undermined. MS means my immune system is in a constant state of self-flagellation, mindlessly hacking into the protective layer of my nerves. This causes irreparable damage, affecting mobility, senses, and cognition. As my medication is an immunosuppressant, I am incredibly vulnerable to illnesses like Covid. It also carries fun side effects like liver failure and fatal brain disease; a life stake many of us take over the debilitating alternative.
At the end of last year, I had a relapse. Replete with peripheral numbness, leg spasms, and He-Man quantities of steroids, it took months to recover. Then Covid hit. As Ireland shut down, I fled Dublin to quarantine with my parents and grandparents in the countryside. For four months, our days were planned around mealtimes, the six o’clock news, Netflix, and walks through the surrounding woodland. Grieving for your health is a strange self-absorption and living with MS during lockdown meant grappling with crippling anxiety,...