“It’s just a dinner date at her house. It’s basically still quarantining.”
“My boyfriend just came over for an hour. We just missed each other so much. He’s going straight home after. It doesn’t really count.”
“Neither of us have seen anyone for two weeks so we figure it’s ok. It’s a calculated risk we are willing to take. It’ll be fine.”
These are just some of the exceptions healthy friends of mine have taken upon themselves to deem ok, what with their medical degrees from WebMD University, during what can be loosely called their social distancing.
What immediately followed a recent text-formed meltdown to yet another friend with a cavalier attitude about how quarantines actually work, was a tear filled phone call to my mom who’s been stuck on a Spanish Island for months! I thought I was venting my frustration to my poor mother about how many of my friends aren’t taking the social distancing/quarantining seriously and therefore can’t be trusted not spread it to me once the stay-home orders are lifted.
In reality, and unbeknownst to me, I was voicing my heartache, my heartbreak that healthy people so often lack empathy for those of us with chronic illnesses and vulnerable immune systems.
Empathy doesn’t require someone to have gone through exactly what another person has. God, I wouldn’t wish this illness on anyone. (Well, I wouldn’t be too sad if the world’s dictators caught a case of Fibro and found themselves to tired to terrorize the masses.) Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and act accordingly, that’s empathy.
Look, we are all struggling right now looking for new ways to cope. I don’t take for granted for a single minute that I’m not quarantining alone, away from a boyfriend or girlfriend. I even get to be shut in with my favorite person in the world: my husband, Frank. That doesn’t mean I can’t try to understand how lonely this can be for those living solo.
But aren’t we all making sacrifices? My own husband hasn’t worked for nearly two months because his job at a hospital could cause him to infect me. It was a risk he was terrified to take.
As I cried to my mom like the emotionally lost teenager I’d once been, she uttered something through the Facebook Messenger phone line that stuck.
“Baby, the only people you can rely on to keep you safe and healthy are you and Frankie.”
Although I know she is right, that truth comes with immense sadness. Healthy people take for granted the risks they can take because of their privilege of health.
Those of us w/shitty immune systems don’t have the luxury of ignoring the facts, the science, the uncomfortable reality of how communicable this virus is.
In the (hopefully near) future, when the city, the country, the world begin to slowly go outside, I know people in my life who didn’t take the orders seriously. I also know they could have exposed themselves during their “exceptions” and now could be carriers. I also know I can’t trust them to take proper precautions that could keep them from putting my life at risk.
They’ll think then, as they do now, they only broke the rules a little bit, so it’s ok. They’re fine, right?
Maybe. Maybe THEY are fine because they don’t have a chronic illness or weak immune system. Or maybe they have health insurance so figure it’ll be fine if they get sick. But the thing is that with Covid-19, just like their run-of-the-mill cold, they may easily deal with it like a champ, while it takes my weak ass out in one fell swoop.
No matter how much I plead with them, send them the science, reiterate what Dr. Fauci says since they “just don’t like to watch tv” (lucky them, don’t worry I’ll do it for both of us), and to think bigger than themselves, I can’t expect them to be concerned for me or others who are vulnerable.
It sucks. There’s no simpler way to say it. It’s frustrating, hurtful, and feels like a punch to the gut. It just sucks.
You know, It’s not just about them keeping me and the vulnerable safe. It’s about personal sacrifice. I wonder often if keeping me safe meant them having to sacrifice something, would they do it? People support me in my illness when it’s easy for them. Will they do it when it’s hard? Its not just about my immediate health, but also about my chance to experience a life outside of these 4 walls at the same time they will.
For every exception a healthy person makes, time is added on to all our house arrest sentences. But for each of those same exceptions, double time is added on for those of us in the “vulnerable population.” How do we not take that personally?
But, I have my husband; my ride or die partner in life who will always have my back and make sure I stay as healthy as my body will permit. And that’s not nothing!
Many people with autoimmune disorders, chemotherapy, asthma, etc are in the same boat. There are so many more of us that you can see. All we ask is that you don’t ignore us. Know that if the shoe were on the other foot, and God-forbid someday it may be, we will see you. We will protect you and not hinder your efforts to live the best life you can.