Let’s be frank, this pandemic was traumatic. It took a toll on everyone’s mental health. Especially targeting those with disabilities. With new variants arriving in the United States, it has been extremely scary. I for one can speak to that. I have Type 1 Diabetes, Addison’s Disease, and Hypothyroidism. When the pandemic hit I became stuck. Stuck in place. Leaving my job in coffee and having to quarantine for gosh know how long. The future was unpredictable at that point.
The issue for me was leaving the house — unless to exercise or to grab the mail — was impossible. Given the severity of my conditions interacting with people was dangerous for my health. If I caught COVID I would have become seriously ill or died. The CDC has listed my illness as the top thirteen diseases to most likely die or become severely ill from COVID.
I often ran into some pretty risky scenarios. Friends rarely seemed to understand the severity of my illnesses. I would also not go into detail about what I had. I thought they would simply respect how sensitive my immunity was. Unfortunately, I was wrong. One friend failed to tell me she was working with someone who had come down with COVID and their entire work needed to be shut down. It petrified me I could catch it from them given how often they would go out. I explained my concern, and they met me with “don’t make it all about you.”
This leads me to my next point. Friends, family, and dating. I am a very private person with my illnesses. Often when I made myself vulnerable to friends about my conditions, they treated me differently. They developed preconceived notions about me and my abilities. People often misunderstood my diseases. Sometimes even blaming me for them. This is why I often put my guard up with telling people. I only have three friends that I trust with my health and know they will not judge me for it. This is always helpful in case you run into a medical emergency and you’re around someone who you know can help you.
A friend of mine convinced me to join Bumble and Tinder over quarantine. Honestly, I still question if I should have. When potential dates would ask me out, I would have to either make excused or politely decline. Why? Because when I explained, “I have pre-existing conditions that may be difficult right now.” They met me with dismissive attitudes pushing my boundaries. One bumble match told me over the summer of 2020 “I’m sorry, sweetheart, but quarantine is over.” Were we not living through the same pandemic?
Never would I ask someone to inconvenience themselves to get tested and wait two weeks in quarantine. No one should have to change their life to possibly connect on a first date. I get that. However, don’t ask a disabled person who has stated they are not comfortable going out during a pandemic due to their health to meet you. Why should we have to inconvenience ourselves for you when you can’t respect our boundaries? Why do I have to relive my medical trauma to make you feel more secure?
Often I would have to reveal personal medical trauma that I went through or make myself uncomfortable to friends or dates explaining to them why seeing them in person would be tough. Some would ask me over and over again to meet up. Put me on the spot. Saying “I have pre-existing conditions” should be enough for you.
We do not owe you a personal retelling of our lives and medical history to validate your hurt feelings. It is not because we do not want to get together, it’s because our very lives could be put at risk doing so.
The pandemic truly revealed people’s feelings towards their disabled friends and family. The truth seems to be most do not care. Why should they, right? They were able to restart their lives much quicker than we were. We must have been too cautious right? Well, I’m still standing writing to you, so thankfully my “caution” saved my life. Should we ever have to live through another pandemic I urge you all to check in on your disabled friends. Be a bit more understanding and welcoming. Give them the opportunity to trust you.