Coronavirus and Stigma
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that last week I tested positive for Coronavirus. My symptoms started 2-weeks ago today.
This is a really tricky post to write - it has taken me ages to know how to word it (and it probably still isn't right...) but here goes.
When HIV became prominent (and even now), there was a stigma attached to people who were HIV+. They were made to feel dirty and people were afraid to even hug someone who is HIV+ out of fear that they too would catch it.
With Coronavirus, it is very different but also has some similarities with the way you are made to feel, albeit for a much shorter time...
The only times I have seen people in the last two weeks, I have felt like an absolute leper. I've been out three times - once to get the initial test and twice to have assessments. Each time, I have been greeted with people in full PPE and I've had to stay in my car at all times.
Yesterday I was really breathless and ended up having to have an assessment to check my oxygen levels and blood pressure. Although the nurse was very kind, it does something to you when people have to wear so much protective clothing just to be near you. All of a sudden, people are almost scared of you, knowing that you carry something that could be deadly to them.
It's definitely had a negative impact on my confidence - I had to go back out for a follow-up today and I found I can't give anyone eye contact. I'm convinced people are looking at me and judging me - almost like I am this rabid dog with a biohazard symbol on my forehead.
I haven't actually told anyone other than my close friends/ family, readers of this blog and HR at work that I have COVID. I wanted to put a post on my personal Facebook to raise awareness that my first symptoms weren't the standard things we are told to look out for. I was actually told by NHS 111 online that the chance of me having COVID was minimal based on my symptoms.
But I haven't put any posts up because I was advised not to in case I caused panic amongst people I had seen in the last couple of weeks, despite following stringent social distancing rules.
I'm going to see my horses this afternoon for the first time since my symptoms began. I have to wear a face mask and gloves to make other people 'feel better' about my presence despite it being outdoors in an open space.
Being 2-weeks in, it's highly unlikely that I actually still have Coronavirus. My body is still feeling the effects, but I believe the virus is gone. Despite this, I still need to keep up the charade of wearing PPE to put other peoples minds at rest. But I am okay with this because I understand that people are scared of Coronavirus.
My family, friends and partner have been amazing as usual. I've taken selfies of myself masked up whilst sat in my car to send to them so we can make light of it. We have had video calls so I can have a little bit of human contact without all the PPE. My partner has jokingly called me 'his leper' and has made it clear that if there wasn't 100 miles between us, he would be isolating with me so we would be in it together 💪🏻
Please, if you know someone who gets diagnosed with Coronavirus - just be kind. They didn't ask for it and the last thing they will want is to pass it on to you. Of course I am not asking you to go up and give them a hug. Continue to keep yourself safe and distance from the person.
But be mindful of how they are coping mentally, check in with them by phone, try to encourage them to do video calls and tell them they look good, even if they look exhausted. Just give them a little boost so they feel a little less zombie 🧟♀️ and a little more human 💁🏼♀️. It might make our re-integration with society that bit easier.