Covid-19 and My Trip to the Emergency Room, Procuring Food and Cooking

Christian Espicha Eye

When I first wrote about my reaction to quarantine it has just begun. It affected me in ways I had not anticipated. If I had only known…

By Christian Espicha

Today we are exactly a month in – April 20 – and it feels much longer to me. I am tired of it, but not for reasons I could have known in the beginning.

One may have guessed boredom to be a major negative reaction and one would have guessed correctly, but there are other effects as well.

I researched the psychological impact of quarantine – anxiety and uncertainty about the future is a major reaction. I have noticed this most with my relationship with the medical profession itself – in fact my relationship with doctors, pharmacies and dentists has been THE major stress during this time.

I was seeing various doctors and a dentist at the time this hit and was on some medications I don’t always take trying to ferret out the cause of some funky lab results. This was causing a pressure to do so as soon as possible as I have always been anxious about my health; I studied medicine informally and formally from the age of 8 until my early 20’s and was not immune to the hypochondria which is common among med students. I also don’t trust most Western medicine and try to avoid it whenever possible.

Lately my allergies have been so severe I made an exception and began seeking out specialists and had even made some appointments which have since been postponed and the allergies are raging.

Unable to procure the medications I need has been a major meltdown maker and I actually have had 2 ER visits via ambulance in the past month.

Talk about frightening; the ER looks like a Scifi movie, all temporary structures, cordons and professionals acting harried in gowns and masks.

I was told to go outside and I would be called. I could barely walk! Still, given the choice to go away from the potentially infected ER waiting room was the choice I made and paced outside until they gave me a Benadryl and said a ride was on its way. Benadryl?! WTF? I was incensed – I needed something stronger than Benadryl; I needed the medication I usually take! The one they injected me with but did not prescribe.

And the guy who drove me home was a d*** too, yelling at me to quit stimming and “keep that mask on your face” or he would “drop you off right here”, the guy who dramatically wiped down the vehicle after I exited it, blocking traffic as he did so. I almost called him an a******* when I got out but managed to restrain myself. There are all kinds of reactions to this pandemic and his was just one of them.

A horrible experience. Yet not as horrible as the next visit where I was sedated against my will only to have a severe allergic reaction to that drug.

In the hospital.

I vowed never to return, as I do after every hospital visit.

So I am going without medications except for those I still have. This is difficult and I actually have a phone appointment with my primary to try to resolve this tomorrow. Wish me luck. So, to say the medical profession and I have an uneasy alliance would be apt.

Equally it’s cooking and eating for me which have been both the source of frustration as well as satisfaction after I began utilizing cooking as a tool to combat my own boredom and optimize my physical health. Eating healthy was previously a priority for me. (After I abandoned the keto diet which I was on for A YEAR and which actually damaged my health according to labwork. I don’t know if it has improved yet since I quit going to the doctor when this hit but I suspect it has. But that’s another story…).

I didn’t think I would experience much boredom as I don’t usually go out much, spending most of every day – this is embarrassing – in bed. Reading. I read up to a book a day, sometimes more and this is the activity I most enjoy. I was wrong.

For I DO venture out. For food mostly. I love to cook and make frequent trips to procure fresh ingredients. On foot usually. Whether on foot or by car I found I really look forward to those excursions, however brief.

Though I am loathe to admit it, this is partly because food procurement IS my social activity – think of Europeans in days gone by traveling to the various markets several times a day – bread in the morning and I miss that. I don’t need much contact with others, but I do need a little. I have countered that by texting a few like minded autistic buddies throughout the day. One day I decided to stay incommunicado for the day but only lasted till noon. Too depressing. Which is unusual. I often go silent for days at a time. There is something different now. I haven’t quite analyzed it successful. Working on it though.

Having my routine disrupted is especially difficult as an autistic is tied to routine even more than most people and I am no exception.

Especially when you have gone from being a certified foodie (And food snob – I admit it) to making do with the free food I can have delivered. I read something on the BBC today about disabled people starving because they are unable to get food during this time.

I felt that could happen to me about 2 weeks in when I needed food and had no money for delivery from Amazon or Walmart, the places I was referred to by well meaning officials. I had to really be persistent in my calling before someone – my own social worker – finally told me about Aunt Bertha.

Aunt Bertha is great. It an online site – naturally – so if you are unfortunate to not have internet access, as some people are, you are out of luck.

From Aunt Bertha I was able to find several local food banks/churches who were willing to deliver and so far I have received free food 3 times, expecting numbers three and four this week. One woman, Debbie, even brought me my favorite Starbucks drink. Thanks, Debbie! I have been amazed how helpful some people are being and really appreciate it.

I also got a delivery from my new autistic friend Stacy whom I had not even met and that is the first time we met. The brevity of the visit along with social distancing made it easier for me; I get so awkward around people after about 5 minutes – or less. When I asked Stacy if this was true for her she said, “Definitely”.

Food for free is usually not food for me, but I realized – after a week of eating ice cream (I never eat ice cream) that I had better make the best of limited availability and use my culinary background and skills to craft creative and tasty meals.
Example: Elderly salad from Trader Joe’s with Top Ramen noodles crumbled on top as “croutons”. Toss the toxic “flavor packet”.

Beans WITHOUT rice. No rice available and I am technically allergic to it anyway. I have onions, though, so chopped onions flavor the beans. I found I really like navy beans and a tsp of baking soda near the end of cooking, when they are almost tender, really guarantees a great texture. Just be careful as baking soda can burst the cell walls of the beans resulting in mush. I actually do this on purpose with pintos – instant “refried” beans!

More chopped onions and some limp zucchini marinated in a vinegar/sweetener mixture make “Greek” salad and also keeps a long time in fridge.

(Running out of sweetener and found this is a more difficult item to obtain from giveaway food sources. Sugar, but especially the stevia I normally use).

I had a flat of semi mushy strawberries and apples I don’t usually eat because I don’t like hard textures. I also had a bunch of sweet potatoes I needed to cook NOW. Peel the apples and cook as if for applesauce. Cook down strawberries separately to a semi-jam consistency. Cook sweet potatoes and remove skins. Cool and mix everything and mash. Mmmm, better than applesauce OR sweet potatoes alone. The addition of the sweet potatoes really makes the other sing! Plus, now I could freeze individual servings baggies for later. Dessert is served. Or breakfast as “cereal”.

The preoccupation with food and eating is very prevalent lately and here is just one link – NPR’s cooking during Covid-19 Family Meals and Fantasies of Future Dinner Parties.

On a related note, and I mention it here as there is a correlation between eating disorders and autism, here is a link for anyone suffering from increased eating disorder symptoms, which can flare during periods of stress and uncertainty. There are also some good resources here on other topics, like helping children with anxiety. I read the children’s stuff for myself as my own reactions are often childlike.

I live in a mostly Latino community where there are more open doors than is typical in a Caucasian neighborhood. The kids are all home so there is nearly constant activity as they play and interact with their family. Not to mention the music and TV sounds. I would usually be irritated but lately I am enjoying it. I have even begun leaving my door open part of the day as a way of feeling included and part of the community. Even if others don’t see it that way – though I have noticed more residents smiling and being more friendly when I go to get the mail every day.

My daily excursion has become walking to the mailbox! I just have to remember to wear a mask and step back 6 feet when greeting anyone else – which I do. As a lifetime physical avoider no hugs or handshakes is heaven for me. Plus, by doing so I set a good example as the authorities begin enforcing the new rules. I draw the line at reporting people though…

Summoning gratitude I imagine how it must be to be in another country such as China or Singapore or to be really old, sick or whatever in ANY country. Gratitude really helps.

So there you have it – my reaction to the Covid-19 lockdown, day 30.

Thank you for reading and be well.

Christian Damian

I am Christian Espicha, an adult woman with autism. Though diagnosed with autism as a young child, I didn’t receive appropriate services until recently when I became a client at Autistry Studios in San Rafael, CA. The reason I didn’t receive services is partly because I possess a genius IQ. At age 45, I was the oldest member to graduate from the Humboldt County Structure Firefighting Academy. I completed EMT training and worked as a firefighter/EMT in Trinity County, California. I performed with my fellow firefighters montain resues and recoveries, assisted the Forest Service with fires in the Trinity National Forest and assisted with water rescues/recoveries on the Trinity River. I’m also a writer and an artist. See my website at my art and writing can be seen on Krishnachameleon. Follow me on Twitter @KrishtianDamian

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