Being Vulnerable During A Pandemic

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t anxious when COVID-19 emerged. As a chronically ill person with a bad immune system, I don’t take viruses lightly. I know how violently my body reacts to a simple cold or flu; replicating that on a larger scale isn’t something I want to do. As the situation has worsened in Canada over the last few days, I realize that I need to be doing as much as I can to protect myself. However, it’s difficult to prepare for that when some people are panic buying, hoarding, and generally losing their minds.

As I’ve scrolled through social media, I can’t help but notice all of the inaccuracies and the sheer lack of empathy, especially when it comes to understanding the most vulnerable people’s fears. The amount of times I’ve seen people say something along the lines of, “well most of the cases are mild, so we don’t have to worry” is considerable. However, there’s a fatal flaw with that train of thought; for the elderly, the immunocompromised, and others with underlying health conditions, COVID-19 is especially dangerous. Unfortunately, this isn’t a situation where one person can solve the problem. If we don’t work together and try to understand each other’s situations, this virus will keep spreading and killing those at risk. Now, more than ever, the vulnerable are relying on others to protect them. As a vulnerable person, that’s a terrifying thought. We all know people out there that are sorely lacking in the empathy department, and sadly, this situation has put my life in their hands.

The chronic illness community is understandably upset. Between the comments that disregard their risk and those that are fussing about the virus making their lives difficult, a lot of people have had enough. For those that don’t understand where this anger is coming from, let me explain further. When you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness, your life is turned upside down. You can go from a social butterfly to an extremely isolated person. Your condition can make it very difficult to keep plans and you often have to cancel things that you were really looking forward to. For me, these are all things that I’ve struggled with and that I know the whole world can empathize with right now. In my case, I had to give up dance. I had to give up volunteering. I never got to graduate and throw my grad cap in the air. I can’t have a job because workplaces can’t accommodate the unpredictability of my illness. I’m stuck at home, even though I have the same ambition and desires that I’ve always had. Along with all of these things comes intense judgement from people that simply don’t understand. For many chronically ill people, their isolation and poor situation was never acknowledged by the healthy. For this reason, it’s hard for a lot of chronically ill people to feel empathy towards those that are currently being affected by the virus. Especially when we know that this is a temporary problem and not a long term situation. However, while I completely understand the anger, I don’t think this is the time for it. If we are going to ask for protection and empathy from others, we need to give empathy to those that are also being affected by this. We know how difficult it is to lose everything and be forced into isolation. We know how much this can affect people’s mental health and well being. We are experts in this field right now. Which is why I think it’s time for us to be the bigger people and help others navigate through this situation, instead of acting out of spite because we weren’t always given the same support.

I hope that by the end of this pandemic, people will have more empathy for what chronically ill and disabled people go through every day. I hope that we can look back and see what amazing things happen when we protect and support each other. However, even if these things don’t happen, at least I can say that I did my part. So, for those struggling with isolation and the loss of regularity, here are a couple tips from an isolation queen:

  1. Establish a routine. Consistency is key.
  2. Make a goal for yourself everyday. It can be big or small, but it has to be achievable.
  3. Eat as healthy as possible and at consistent times.
  4. Try to wake up and go to sleep at your regular times.
  5. Move your body. Whether it’s just a stretch between Netflix shows, a walk, or a hardcore home workout, your body will thank you.
  6. Don’t stay in your PJs all day. Shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, and make the bed.
  7. Get fresh air and sun. If you’re under a complete quarantine, open a window or sit on the porch.
  8. Exercise your brain. Do a puzzle, read a book, write, make art, or learn something new.
  9. Keep your space tidy. You don’t have to pull a Kenzie and deep clean the whole house, but keep things neat.
  10. Make time for self care. If you’re in a house with a couple people, set aside some “just you” time.

And for my, and everyone else’s sakes, STAY HOME as much as you can.


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