Lately, #HighRiskCovid19 has been trending. It’s a small but effective way for those at high-risk of contracting Coronavirus to been seen as real. By posting a portrait and a quick rundown of their reasons for being vulnerable, social media users might absorb the reality that their world is full of physically compromised and invisibly ill individuals. Maybe if they see us, healthy people will be more aware of the importance of flattening the curve and social distancing. At least that’s the hope.
It has been interesting to watch the world adjust to our daily battle of…”Is _____ worth it?” The chronically ill ask ourselves variations of this question throughout each day. There is often a hefty dose of internal bargaining and guilt thrown in as we grapple with making choices. If I walk to the kitchen I can get food, but if I stay sitting here I get to feel less pain. Is walking to the kitchen worth it? If I go to the pharmacy I can fill my prescription, but if I wait an extra day I might have more energy and do some shopping. Is going to the pharmacy worth it?
Most of the dilemmas I am hearing would sound frivolous to the typical chronic sufferer. They revolve around stockpiling groceries, attending events, and taking trips. But the actions and consequences of these seemingly easy life choices have morphed into a level of risk verses reward that many people have not experienced. (When I say many, I’m speaking broadly of healthy, non-elderly, middle/high-income bracket individuals). Now, those people have to consider that their decisions have an element of life or death attached. It has put them into a state of unpreparedness, fear, and confusion that they don’t know how to handle.
Even if someone is in the lowest possible risk category, they can be a carrier, often asymptomatically, and pass the virus to strangers, friends, and loved ones. There is also a possibility that they could get sick and succumb to the terrible difficulties caused by Covid-19. If a person has empathy and a basic understanding of germs, I can’t imagine they would want to cause harm through a selfish decision. It’s a new pressure and level of societal navigation that they haven’t grasped. That means that we (the chronically ill, underrepresented, misunderstood, and ignored members of society) have to deepen our well of patience and understanding for their new reality. And yes, we have to do it while doubling down on protecting our bent bodies and overloaded minds.
I know it’s a lot to ask. Here’s the thing, when the sky is falling and the world seems to be in utter chaos, it is the ones who spent their lives surviving minute to minute and day to day who have to show those who haven’t struggled how to dry their eyes and move forward. We are the calm in this storm. So be a bit gentler with your naïve family members. Talk to friends with honesty and afford them sympathy about staying home and missing out on their “normal” lives. Take a deep breath pun intended when listening to politicians and seeing false information spreading. Smile through your windows at a neighbor.
Most importantly, take care of you! Laugh between crying about the panic buying and material hording that places us all in danger. Use fancy lotion after scrubbing your hands raw with soap multiple times a day. Lean on your support system to run errands and help you out with your responsibilities. Remember how awesome it feels to not have to leave your home for a few days. And if you think that you have no one or that you can’t stop engaging with the outside world or if obligations fall heavy on your shoulders, know that you do have a community of people who understand and who honestly care how you make it through this time.