DEALING WITH TWO ILLNESSES AT ONCE
In the interest of not burying the lead, I believe that I have COVID-19. I say believe because getting tested is not something I am interested in. My symptoms are still relatively mild; I have a big boot of pressure on my chest, a dry cough, and a mild fever. It’s painful, but I can still get air. So I have no interest in leaving the house to endanger vulnerable people just to get a cotton swab shoved into my brain cavity.
But it’s got me thinking about what it’s like to be physically sick when you have an invisible illness at the same time. You see, whenever I get ill, that RSD inner critic starts to eat at me. It calls me a hypochondriac, a drama queen, it savagely whispers, “No one will believe you. No one will care.”
This is, of course, because I spend the majority of my time trying to convince others about those differences that I live with- those “illnesses” that require some occasional accommodation, i.e. ADHD, agoraphobia, autism, OCD, etc.
Now, you might say, but COVID-19 isn’t invisible. You are coughing, you have a fever. You look like shit. (Thanks for that last one.) And still I find myself on my phone, texting my sister about what else it could be. And then the obvious, irritating, always on the edge of my tongue question- Is this just anxiety?
It should be an honest and innocuous question, and it would be, if it weren’t for the ungodly amount of real life illnesses and complications that I have had that were blamed on my anxiety. And I know I am not the only woman to have this problem. Let’s get real. Female hysteria was a “legitimate diagnosis” for a very, very long time. And not that long ago, unfortunately. Ask me about Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy if you want a real medical horror story. Or do yourself a favor and read all about it.
TRIGGER WARNING: The article I’ve linked to about Rosemary Kennedy discusses an extreme form of ableism, medical assault during her mother’s labor, medical malpractice, and special needs abuse- abuse, in general. Even if you aren’t sensitive, it will effect you. If you have trauma in any of these areas, you might want to research a different source on Rosemary’s story.
Leaving the gender issue behind, people with diagnosed mental health conditions, including autism, are also being under-treated when it comes to physical health problems. (Judging from the information available about Rosemary Kennedy I think she was most likely autistic, if not intellectually disabled from her traumatic birth. So she had two “conditions” going against her.) In my life alone- where I was mostly only recognized as “anxious while female”- gallstones, pancreatitis, allergic reactions, dermatographia, and chronic infections were all vaguely blamed on my “stress.”
In one stunning moment at the ER, someone had the gall to blame my physical symptoms on my son’s autism diagnosis. I’m a very, very polite/timid person, mostly because of my RSD and anxiety, but I believe my direct quote was, “Are you shitting me?”
Maybe I just said that with my eyes. I’m not entirely sure. I was in a lot of pain.
The point is… and this is pretty much my continual, all-consuming, message… is this:
Demand help. If you are sick, take up the space that is necessary to protect yourself and others. Even if someone wants to downplay your symptoms, it’s on you to not only get help for yourself, but in this time of contagion, it’s on you to protect others. (Not just medical help either. Demand it from your family, your friends, your roommate, whomever. I’m not going to the doctor yet but my husband and I took the time to recognize my symptoms and make a plan if it gets worse.) Anxiety may lie to you and call you dramatic, but a virus will still infect your loved ones, whether they are willing to believe you or not.
A virus does not need outside confirmation to be legitimate, it just is. So in this case, just this one time, be like corona. Rear your ugly head (I told you I look like shit) and demand to be noticed.
It’s the only way we can live.
For interesting information on the effects of COVID-19, check out this New York Times article: What Does Coronavirus Do the the Body?