Living as a “high-risk” person has remained painstakingly and importantly slow, lonely, and scary as our nation has decided to pretend this pandemic is over.
It is unfair..
It is beyond frustrating.
And it is incredibly scary.
Many in my online community know that I have struggled with chronic illness for the past 3 years. I filled 40+ prescriptions since my freshman year of college- all blind attempts of finding the solution to chronic pain and recurrent infections. Each step forward meant three steps backward, as ruled-out diagnoses were crossed off the list and possibilities grew. Surgery, treatments, specialists were all aimed at killing what is making me suffer, with some helping and others hurting. Our world has been battling COVID-19 since the fall, but I have been battling this invisible, uncertain illness for over three years, as well as diagnosed ailments that are each a piece of the puzzle- asthma, gluten intolerance, recurrent EBV and severe allergies.
20-somethings have led the country’s rise in cases and hospitalizations. As my peers have ventured out to bars, beaches, parties and restaurants, I have remained indoors, masked, isolated and 6-feet-apart spare from my family, my boyfriend, Bryce, and his family. The past 5 months or so I have felt forgotten as the world has moved on, and reduced from a thoughtful, motivated, fun friend, a person with many plans and ambitions, to those two words I mentioned before, “high risk”.
An image probably comes to mind when you think of being “at risk” for COVID- an elderly grandparent, a cancer patient. What has become more clear to many as the virus and death counts continue to tick higher in the U.S. is that many of us “high risk” folks are invisible, your friend, your family member, the person down the street, your co-worker, your favorite Broadway actor, a politician you’ve heard speak, an 8 year old child. Black americans and Latinx americans have faced higher rates of the virus with more severe outcomes. I ask that you keep these people in mind. I ask that you keep me in mind.
Many of you have made the decision to go back to normal, and yes, it is a conscious decision. You have options. Every day when we wake up, we are presented with a series of choices- to stay home or to go out, if we must go out- to be indoors without a mask, indoors with a mask, to remain outdoors. These choices may not only be the difference between infection and health for you and your family- but for the beating hearts and wonderfully passionate, complex souls of each living being in your community.
There are so many unknowns right now- when a vaccine will be out, when life will return to “normal”, when masks won’t be the norm. It breaks my heart that Americans have vastly decided that their new normal be instant gratification at the expense of lives, beautiful lives, whose potential, whose aspirations, will go unfulfilled.
Without hatred or malice, I sincerely ask of you, at whose expense are you behaving? How can science and humanity better inform your decision making before we can safely return to normal? All I ask is you keep me in mind- for those who love me, who care about my well-being. I understand isolation. My freshman year of college, I missed out on so many firsts, experiences and relationships for doctors visits. The loneliness and loss of purpose that comes when an in-person community is impossible is all-too familiar to me. With my arms virtually outreached to each of you, I urge you to combat the loneliness and lifestyle changes in ways that are safe for you- and safe for me, as well, keeping in mind your privilege.
Wearing a mask tells me that you respect science, honor your role in our human family, and value the existence of others. Wearing is caring.