After dealing with the fear of a suspected case of coronavirus in her family, Maria Rushe states why the stigma of the illness must be eliminated.
Last week was a bumpy one.
Not only was it the girls’ first week back at school and my first week back at work, but it was also the week where we were stopped in our tracks… by a cough.
On Tuesday morning, one of the girls woke having developed a stuffy head-cold and nasty cough. It was quite a sudden onset and so, because there’s this global pandemic happening and we’re all now conditioned to panic at snuffles and splutters (that would once upon a time not even have raised an eyebrow), I rang the doctor.
Long story short, Doc referred her for a test. We all started to self isolate at home. I rang work. I rang school to let them know. We waited for the appointment. We went to have her tested. We went home. She went to bed, still dosed with what I knew was a typical headcold… and we waited for the result on Wednesday, which, thank the powers above, was NEGATIVE.
But try as we did to remain calm until we HAD to panic…the panic and “what ifs” did set in.
What if it’s positive?
What if she gets more sick?
What about her sister?
What about her school friends?
What about my work?
What about my colleagues?
What about our business?
What will people say?
IF she had it, who was to blame?
Where did she get it?
What did we do wrong?
And that was when I stopped myself in my own spiralling train of destructive thoughts and slapped myself out of the panic.
We did nothing wrong and no one was to blame.
This virus is dreadful. It’s frightening and it’s impacted us all in ways that will take years for us to fathom.
But it is a virus that we have to learn to live with. To live beside.
The vast majority of us are being cautious. We’re being careful. We’re aware of the constant danger. And yet we’re trying to go about our lives as normally as we can.
So whose fault is it if one of us contracts the virus?
Why do we automatically start to attribute blame? Why is needing a test or testing positive automatically equated to irresponsibility?
Unfortunately, picking up this virus is as easy as catching a flu, or chicken pox, or head lice. The difference is, when we catch one of the viruses that we’re USED to, we deal with it, look after ourselves and try to get better. I’m not comparing or demeaning the virus by the way. Covid is deadly. No one wants it. I’m simply leading to my next point.
Along with the threat of or the diagnosis of covid, comes a strange guilt; a worry about what people will say? A stigma.
Because the person diagnosed is deemed responsible for any ripple effect diagnosis around them.
And none of us wants to be the person who starts a covid ripple.
So I’m calling Covid Out… because we all have enough to be dealing with right now, without piling on another level of shame or guilt or whatever you want to call it.
If you need a test, get a test. If you need to self isolate, don’t be embarrassed or worried. Just be responsible and do it.
We need to talk about it, because with schools reopened and typical back-to-school snuffles and colds coming at us fast, there’s a good chance that most houses are going to have to use the phrases “Covid test” or “self isolating” in the next few weeks.
There will be days missed from school. There will be days missed from work. The ripple effect of one person in a household needing a test is something that until it hit OUR house last week, I honestly hadn’t thought about.
But for those 36 hours I had nothing to do BUT think about it. I didn’t sleep a wink until we had the results. And most of my worry was about other people; my parents, his parents, my Granny, my colleagues, her friends… it didn’t bear thinking about, and yet we had no choice BUT to think about it.
Covid-19 and the shitstorm we have been through this past 6 month, has exacerbated our anxieties and worry. But as parents, we need to know that people getting tested and indeed testing positive is NOT something to criticise or gossip about. And none of us know if and when we’ll be in that situation ourselves.
So be kind. Stay out of the whispered conversations about who has been tested, or who is off work, or who has left school suddenly. Don’t get involved in hushed speculations about where JacintaNancy down the road picked it up, or where John Joe was last week that he might have gotten it. Being judgemental is another virus in itself.
If you or your kid need tested, don’t worry. It’s a quick process and while it’s uncomfortable, it’s over in 5 seconds. Here is the cartoon that another friend (who was going through the exact same thing with his kid) sent me. It really helped and is worth saving
And if you do find yourself going for the test, I hope it all comes back negative and that you are all OK.
Call Covid out…
Because it’s stressful enough being a parent in the current climate and we need to support each other through it all.