I won’t spend too much time detailing the situation we’re in because everyone with access to news and/or the internet already knows the (massive) puddle this is.
Here’s the catch, we collectively are in this puddle. And believe it or not, that fact sort of helps me cope.
Some background into me in case you’ve never read anything I’ve written prior to this and have no idea why this subject means so much to me. I’m a lupus patient who was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) in March 2017 so suffering, especially when it comes to health issues is kind of my thing already. It’s a norm for me to worry about my own health on the daily.
I weirdly feel like it’s for the first time that an impending health issue is upon me except I’m not the only one facing it.
Now with this public health crisis happening, I weirdly feel like it’s for the first time that an impending health issue is upon me except I’m not the only one facing it. Getting to the crux of why I decided to write this piece.
It was out of the need to acknowledge the fact that I’m not the only spoonie (someone who has a chronic illness) who is facing the “The virus only affects the elderly and those with an underlying disease! Nothing much to worry about!” messages going around. Messages that make me panic in my shoes because there are so many of us.
This is something that I don’t entirely expect someone who has never had an autoimmune disease to understand coherently, but not all of us are privileged enough to have a working immune system at a young age. To not have to worry about a deadly virus that’s spreading like wildfire because some of us might actually be its prime victim.
Not all of us are privileged enough to have a working immune system at a young age.
You see, with an autoimmune condition, even if you haven’t had a flare up in a while, your immunity is essentially still very much compromised. Your immune system does not work in the way it’s supposed to. And a lot of us are on immunosuppressant medicines which makes it 10x harder for us to fight viruses and bacteria that enter our body.
So essentially, in an effort to prevent our bodies from self-sabotaging, we make them susceptible to various and hoards of other illnesses in the process. But it’s not like we can do much about that either. It’s either the medication or being bed ridden and helpless, unable to lead a (near) normal lifestyle.
Which is why, it becomes quite privileged, insensitive and quite frankly, ableist for people to take anything related to their health in jest – especially a life-threatening virus that spreads so easily.
This messaging of trying to ease people’s anxiety about how the virus only affects a certain ‘small’ minority of the population then comes across as highly ignorant to us. It implies that someone with an immune-system issue is very susceptible to this deadly virus and you couldn’t give less of a shit about it as long as it’s not affecting you.
This also goes for everyone who actively ignores the social distancing instructions that have been passed across the world in an effort to contain the spread of this virus. If you think you’re healthy enough to escape it, you might give it to someone who isn’t healthy enough to even survive it, and you need to deeply consider those that are immunocompromised. You need to understand that your privilege and not acknowledging it is putting someone else’s life in danger.
I have every right to be angry and offended because this implies that you don’t care if I live or die
If I have an autoimmune condition and I repeatedly get told that the virus ‘isn’t so bad’ because of the mortality rate as compared to other viruses in the past, I have every right to be angry and offended because this implies that you don’t care if I live or die. You might be asymptomatic and immune to the virus, but not all of us are.
These messages and ideas reek of ableism because only an able-bodied person who has never suffered at the expense of a chronic illness would consider such a situation to be taken so lightly.
It makes us (those with immunity issues) feel extremely left out and lonely, which is anyway a feeling we experience regularly considering how debilitating it can be to battle against your own body every day. On top of that, we’re well aware of how badly this virus could complicate our conditions were it to affect us.
This is a kind request to everyone reading – check your privilege before you make loud statements about what anyone should or should not worry about – especially in times of crisis.