Unmasking the Truth: Your Selfishness May Kill Me

Coping with the COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for all of us, but for those of us with chronic conditions it is a nightmare. I live in a state where the majority of people refuse to wear masks and if I go out in public, I invariably end up with a panic attack. I live in constant fear and I do not see that changing any time soon.

People here say “masks are a violation of my rights” and that my state is so rural that COVID-19 is not a problem here. And yet, the cases continue to rise, disproving them every day.

I am angry because their behavior and refusal to understand that with rights come responsibilities. Their behavior puts my life and the lives of those like me in danger.

As a historian, I know that their vision of their rights is incomplete and incorrect. If you read Federalist Paper Number 10, you will see that James Madison was concerned with the common good versus domestic factions. Madison’s thesis: you cannot disregard the public good or welfare based on your factional point of view, especially if it poses a threat to the nation.

And as a chronic illness warrior, their viewpoint makes me incredibly frustrated and angry. The anti-mask faction with their myopic view of rights and selfishness is a threat to my life. I have managed my illness quietly on my own with my doctors. Besides my family, most people around me would be shocked to know how sick I am. I have done my best to hide it and try to live a “normal” life, but this pandemic and how people have responded to it has changed everything.

I believe that each one of us matters. I know that our nation’s founders were flawed and applying their notion of “liberty” to all of us means we may be free to live as we wish. But we are not free to endanger one another.

I have lived with my illness very quietly. It has impacted every aspect of my daily existence for a long time, but I felt that it was mine to carry and not anyone else’s issue. For decades I have downplayed or minimized my symptoms so I could maintain a façade of normalcy. I did my best to handle it without complaining, to balance it in a way that I was not seen as that “sick girl.” I wanted people to view me through the lens of my education, my professionalism, my teaching, my approach to motherhood, anything but my illness.

That is until now. When the COVID-19 virus hit and life was turned upside down, I found myself at home fighting my anxiety and fear, in addition to my normal symptoms. I lost a lot of sleep and found myself feeling as vulnerable and fragile as when I was diagnosed. I felt as if I was sliding backwards down a cliff.

Enduring four decades of a terrible illness mostly on my own suddenly seemed like a bad idea: I had no community to lean on and while my family is lovely, I felt terribly and utterly alone.

What hit me with the onset of this pandemic is whether I like it or not, I am vulnerable. I am immunocompromised and knowing my body took months to recover from the normal/typical strain of flu a few years ago, I realized that were I to contract the COVID-19 virus, it could get quite ugly very quickly.

I have exceeded what the doctors projected for my life. Yet suddenly, my life was focused on fear and the unknown, much as when I was diagnosed.

As politicians politicized mask wearing and social distancing, I became a virtual shut in. I am vulnerable. I am frightened. And yes, I am angry.

I have never asked for special breaks or treatment and while I do not want to start doing so now, I am currently living in a perpetual state of angst with no end in sight. Watching or reading the news each day takes a lot of emotional effort as the death toll rises and cases continue to spike; yet people refuse to alter their lifestyle because they will not be inconvenienced as they head to the local supermarket.

I do not understand how we came to this point and I would never put my rights over potentially harming another person. I am coming to terms with my personal feelings, but I am sad for our nation. This pandemic has unmasked the truth that as mighty a warrior I may be, there are people to whom people like me do not matter. They simply do not care. Of all the medications I have taken over the years, this is without a doubt the most difficult pill to swallow.



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