The Ripples We Don’t See
“I’m not going to die because I get COVID, I am going to die because I can’t get medical care because of COVID.” This is a text I sent a close friend, verbatim.
I have been so unwell, again. For decades now I’ve lived with chronic illness and chronic pain, not to mention a myriad of mobility limitations, mental health struggles, and all the “check all that apply” options that exist. I share this not to elicit pity or sympathy, but out of fact. I don’t hate my disabilities or illnesses. Some days are hard and heartbreaking, but I view each of my life experiences as a teacher. My disabilities and challenges are a superpower that provide me with compassion and empathy that I may not otherwise have. In fact, I don’t think I would be where I am today without these facets of myself. As odd as it may seem, to me, they are a gift. However, during the pandemic, my access to healthcare has been so limited that it feels I’ve been doing more suffering than surviving.
Image description: A Filipinx person standing outside with a stroller/walker. There is a sweet looking, tan, fuzzy small dog sitting in the front of the stroller. The person is wearing a blue muscle shirt and long, light blue denim shorts and black thick framed glasses. They have crew-cut short black hair and have a slight grin on their face.
My body typically requires at least a monthly visit with my family doctor, routine bloodwork, monthly massages, and daily medication. Since the start of the pandemic, I have been able to see my family doctor twice. I have been without regular access to medication, many of which directly impact my pain levels and brain chemistry. And, I have yet to receive regular access to massages. When I refer to massages, I am not speaking about lighting candles and picking out scented oils and, trust me, I know those are needed too! But, without frequent access to massage, my muscles become so tight that it causes daily headaches and regular migraines. Since the pandemic started, none of my health needs have been prioritized.
I am not a priority.
Sometimes it’s hard to know when to speak and when to take up space. I know several people who have died from COVID. I am supporting many friends grieving for loved ones – life partners, parents, friends – who have died from COVID. Do I have a right to grieve for the ways the pandemic has harmed me?
I decided to write this not for myself, but because I know so many others are also suffering in silence. We are suffering in silence because we are not being seen – literally. As the nation collects data on the lives lost directly due to the pandemic, how many of us are dying from the ripple effect? Because we can’t see our doctors in time or not at all? Because we can’t get our medications? Because we can’t get our surgeries? Or because we can’t get the imaging or testing needed to find out what’s wrong with us to begin with?
I am also writing this as someone with the privilege of a full-time job with benefits. That must be named.
As LGBTQ+ folks, we are consistently pushed to the margins. As disabled, chronically ill, LGBTQ+ folks, sometimes it feels as if we don’t even exist. I decided to write this to help give us a voice. While others may not see these ripples, I assure you they exist, they are harmful, and many of us experience them every day.