Finding a way to live with COVID-19
However, her experience with the dreaded virus has taught her the importance of balancing physical health with mental well-being, and she is determined to share this lesson with others.
“People need to know that you can get this illness and still be OK,” Temkin said on Tuesday. “Yes, there are difficult days, but unless you are at high risk, you have a very good chance of working through this virus smoothly.”
When she spoke to the SA Jewish Report, Temkin was over the worst of her illness after testing positive almost 12 days earlier. Her test came after experiencing daily fatigue and exhaustion. After initially putting it down to burnout, she decided to visit her GP for the test after a sudden onset of back pain and shortness of breath. Her results came through two days later.
“I was sleeping. My husband woke me to tell me that the doctor had called, and that I was positive,” she says.
“I was in shock. I burst into tears. I was so upset that I had the illness after repeatedly thinking that I didn’t. The fear was awful – would I be OK? Where were the others who had had it and had emerged from it?”
She immediately began a strict health regimen, including intravenous drips of vitamin supplements, a change in diet, and breathing exercises. Temkin came to the realisation that she had to overcome not only the virus, but the anxiety that came with it. Central to her own healing was the ability to share her situation with others, and establish a network of support to assist any others who had tested positive.
“I was the first person I know of in my circle who had it,” she says. “I had to tell other people so that they would understand it’s actually good to share this with others. I know there are many out there with it who are too scared to say anything, and that makes things worse.”
She took to Facebook to share her situation, addressing the anxiety she felt but also stressing that in spite of her illness, she genuinely believed that she would eventually get well. She also encouraged others to break their silence, making herself available to support anyone in need of comfort while battling the virus.
“The media is portraying only the very worst stories, and I can understand why,” says Temkin. “It wants people to take this seriously, and obey the rules. However, there is a side we aren’t being shown – the mild cases who are recovering at home and getting on with their lives. No one is talking about them.
“As a wellness coach, I help people deal with anxiety and stress. The fear of this virus, the captivity of lockdown, and the stress the situation causes has had a devastating effect on well-being. Psychological health affects physical health. I want to help alleviate the distress of others by sharing my experience.”
Most of us, she says, “will survive this, and be okay”.
She stresses that her experience is personal, and might not be the same for others. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t be vigilant or that you should stop wearing your mask,” she says. “You need to be serious about this. Our bodies react differently. I can share only what’s worked for me and my own belief system.
“I’m not a doctor, and I’m definitely not suggesting throwing caution to the wind. We must remain extremely cautious and vigilant.”
Still, she wants others to recognise that there is more to the virus than just a medical condition. “I simply believe we can’t live in fear indefinitely. While the virus is spiking now in South Africa and we need to be careful, we cannot become paranoid or fearful. We need to learn to live with this illness as it’s not going away in a hurry. We need to find ways to maintain our emotional well-being.
“We need to find a way to live in this new reality, but not be constantly fearful. If you need a cup of socially-distanced coffee with a friend to feel sane, do it! Humans need connection.”
It also means that people need to support one another now more than ever, whether because of COVID-19 or any other illness.
“I’m overwhelmed by the kindness, support, and generosity shown to me from family, friends, and the community,” says Temkin. “We need to support each other. Many people out there are suffering from illnesses, both coronavirus and others, and we need to connect with them. People need our attention.”
Practically, Temkin says that if most of the population will get the virus, there is little we can actually control, and we need to accept that if we are to remain physically and mentally healthy.
“We can control our inner environment with good nutrition, sleep, self-care, mindfulness, human connection, and support,” she says. “Manage your stress and anxiety, take the right supplementation for immune boosting as best you can.
“Be vigilant where you need to be, but remember we have to find a way to live with this virus, and your mental health is as crucial as your physical well-being.”