I haven’t really talked that much about what it’s like living with a disability and going through the pandemic (at least not from my very limited scope).
In the beginning, the whole thing was kind of a weird, horrible blessing. I had to stay home so I didn’t have to worry about falling and hurting myself outside anymore. I couldn’t go to the pool to workout and potentially hurt myself there (which I had been doing a lot at the end of last year and beginning of this year).
But now, as things slowly start to reopen, the challenges that are ahead of me are becoming more clear. My immune system isn’t affected at all by my disability. But because my body is so weak to begin with, any kind of sickness can take me down, even a cold. So I can only assume that my body would not do well if I did catch the virus. I mostly want to be careful for other people, people who are even higher risk than I am, but I can’t deny that I need to look out for myself too.
It’s hard trying to find a balance. I need to go out and do things like get groceries. I would like to make the occasional Starbucks drive thru just for something that brings me joy. I have to get gas (though a lot less frequently now and I never thought I would see the day when it was less than $3 a gallon here). But I need to keep myself protected. I can’t get frivolous.
I thought things were difficult before. Having to always plan ahead for stuff. Find out if there were stairs. Find ways to get all my groceries into the car and into the house. Making sure I don’t fall when I do go somewhere. Making sure I don’t hurt myself doing the most mundane of things. Dealing with people abusing services and features set aside solely for those of us with disabilities. Now I have to avoid people who aren’t wearing masks (and there’s a lot of them) and deal with that level of inconsiderateness. I don’t know which grocery stores have safety measures and which ones don’t (talking very much to you, Trader Joe’s). I don’t want to show up to one that isn’t implementing the social distancing and mask-wearing. I went into a grocery store before I came back here and it was insanely stressful. It was a huge store and everyone was wearing masks, but trying to grocery shop while also trying not to get a potentially deadly virus is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I bought so much but still ended up forgetting stuff because I couldn’t even think straight.
When I fell out in public before, most of the time people wouldn’t help me anyway, but now if that happens, people literally can’t help me because we can’t be that close to each other. So not only do I have to be careful about going outside because of the virus, I can’t afford to fall either. The pool was my only option for working out before and preventing the horrendous sciatic pain I get if I don’t work out. I can’t do most of the home workouts that are online now. I’ve managed to lift weights and then do some of the water aerobics moves on land for a short period of time which definitely helps, but still isn’t the same.
Everything is extra hard for everyone right now, there’s no doubt about that. I still have my job, my house, and (hopefully) my health. I’m able to do grocery delivery and I have some very kind friends who have offered to get me anything I might need from the store when they go. I know there are people both within the disabled community and outside of it that are struggling way more. They can’t get to much needed doctor’s appointments because of the virus. COVID-19 can be fatal for people with auto immune disorders. People have lost their jobs and are losing their medical insurance.
I’m just trying to navigate dealing with two big things at once. I’ve had trouble dealing with my disability my whole life and now I have to deal with it alongside a global pandemic. I always had anxiety before this too. I no longer have to worry about a lot of things that I did pre-pandemic, but the one thing I do have anxiety about now is a really huge thing. I always had to try make peace with the fact that the world was constantly telling me it didn’t care about me because of the lack of accessibility and the way people often treat disabilities, now I have to try make peace with that in a whole new way with so many people not caring about the virus or being safe.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a great way to learn more about the disability community and the activism in the community that often hasn’t been talked about or covered on the news, I highly recommend Crip Camp on Netflix. I learned so much about my own community and the fight for equal rights and equal treatment. There was a lot happening when I was a child growing up with a disability that I didn’t even know about, and that I wish had been talked about in school or with me.
Stay safe and be well ❤