I was doing mostly fine, honestly I was. I was just barely surviving at work after several discouraging and exhausting months. I was starting to feel pretty significant shame and uncertainty about whether my body was healthy enough to get pregnant. I was tired and burnt out from managing a chronic illness. But, really, I was fine. I was functional. I was okay. Ish.
I heard about coronavirus on the news every day, but it was difficult to understand the impact. The number of confirmed cases and deaths climbed daily. It sounded scary, sure. But it also sounded familiar. I still remember other epidemics like SARS and H1N1. The world survived that. How different could this be?
But then, a whisper. Of course, there was only one person here in Washington. And he was quarantined, so there was no need to worry. They caught it early. Everything was fine. Then there were a few more. But still, it was fine. Seemingly overnight, the panic began.
I started operating under the assumption that everything I touched was contaminated. My mind began playing out worst-case-scenarios: Losing my husband. Getting sick and my blood sugar going crazy and being unable to get medical care. Over and over and over these scenarios played out in my mind. But I was still required to go to work. And be present and compassionate for those I work with. And function like an adult.
I could do it. Sort of. But I was falling apart at the seams.
As someone with Type 1 Diabetes, I am among those listed in the “high risk” group for COVID-19. Very suddenly, harmless things became possibly deadly. Doorknobs, high fives, grocery stores, card readers, gas pumps. All potential threats. All terrifying. I was perched on the edge of a kind of existential panic, and yet required to masquerade as functional. I knew I couldn’t manage for long.
I still feel guilty about the relief I experienced when school was cancelled for over a month. I know the implications for the students I work with. I understand that systemic inequities perpetuated within our society and our education system are being magnified a hundred fold. I know there are people who have no choice but to continue living “on the edge of existential panic”, day-in and day-out, because if they don’t, their families won’t eat. Or because people are relying on them for care. I get it.
It is unfair that I get to feel some relief when others do not. We should all be able to stop and focus on keeping our communities well without fearing a loss of income, of food, of shelter. (Can I get a PSA for Universal Basic Income & Healthcare for All & Mandatory Paid Sick Leave? Do we understand that these are human rights and that we are better off as a community if all people are given basic human dignity? How can we possibly see this more clearly?)
We already have so much work to do to begin healing. Wounds that already ran deep in our communities are now festering. The path forward is unclear, but I believe we are resilient. I believe we will grow stronger as we lean on one another. We have to. It’s going to take all of us.
I’m doing my best to continue supporting local businesses, to donate to relief funds and food banks, to protect my community by staying home as much as possible, and to check in with friends and neighbors. I still feel helpless and afraid and a little like I’m falling apart. But we are in this together. Despite everything, I still believe in humanity.
Please let me know if you have more ideas about how to support our communities during this crisis. Because I am in a high risk group, I can’t go out and volunteer, but I can’t sit and do nothing while I watch this unfold.
Stay healthy. Stay connected. Stay compassionate for those who don’t have the same privileges you enjoy. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Wash your hands. Stay home if you can.
Deep breaths. I love you all.