Life Lately (Interrupted), January 2022

I’ve been writing Life Lately posts for a few months now – sharing the day-to-day of what I’ve been up to; the things that don’t necessarily make it to a stand alone blog post. I started writing them about a year ago now, because it felt like life was slowly starting to pick up again. And after I was fully vaccinated in February, it felt like I could go out again and actually had things to share.

Heather, a white woman in a power wheelchair, is inside in front of a window that shows her backyard. She's wearing a dusty pink waffle knit sweater and has a tan and cream chevron printed ChappyWrap blanket on her lap. She's holding a Starbucks holiday cup in her hands that's resting on her lap.

But now, almost exactly a full year since my first COVID vaccine, I’m back to feeling stuck again. Cases are surging in Pittsburgh, as they are in many other cities, with higher numbers of cases per day than we’ve seen at any other time. But it seems like, mentally, people are less willing to be careful and take precautions. There’s this prevailing feeling that because this variant is “more mild,” and, frankly, because people are over the pandemic and the calculus involved in trying to figure out what constitutes a risk and what doesn’t, people are making choices that don’t reflect the reality of what’s going on around us.

Pittsburgh doesn’t have any sort of masking requirements, and neither does Pennsylvania as a whole. It’s hard to get tested – both to find PCR testing appointments and to buy at-home tests. People are being told it’s okay to go back to work shortly after a positive test, if they are able to get tested. It might seem almost inevitable at this point that you get COVID, given how contagious this strain is.

But that belief in inevitability terrifies me. Because “mild” is subjective – mild for a healthy person might mean not hospitalized, but could still mean sick for a few weeks. Mild for me? I could be hospitalized with even a mild case, especially if it settled into my lungs. I could go into acidosis if I don’t have an appetite or am too tired to eat enough (though I am grateful to have my feeding tube to help with this, my sister doesn’t have that option). I am vaccinated and boosted, which certainly gives me some protection, but it should be clear by now that vaccination alone isn’t enough.

And at least in in 2020, people were taking more overall precautions. There were mask mandates, restaurants weren’t at full capacity, and indoor events were limited. Now, most of that is gone, at least in my area. And so I’m back to feeling worse than I did before I was vaccinated, because people are now taking less precautions and more risks. So I have to painstakingly weigh each and every decision about leaving the house and interacting with people. I’ve had to stop going out to eat completely, and I’ve already had to miss one of the touring musicals that I had tickets for. I know that for the next few weeks at least, I’m going to have to keep trying to do this exhausting risk assessment all the time.

I want to be clear that I have so, so much empathy for the people who are forced to make tough decisions about this every day – about being forced to go to work because of their employers’ policies, or about childcare. I know that I’m not the only one struggling.

So my “life lately” has looked very interrupted. And I’m tired, and frustrated, and just feeling kind of forgotten about. Not with my friends and family, but just with society as a whole. The protections put in place (or lack of protections, really), the choices people make – none of them are designed with people like me, the most vulnerable, in mind.

I’m hopeful that this current phase will not last too much longer, and that I’ll be able to get out again soon. But until then, this is what my life looks like.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Diana

    I’m sorry Heather and I understand the sentiment. I have a 2.5 year old daughter and we spent the past two years trying to avoid getting COVID. We moved out of NYC for 1.5 years (just came back in Oct), optimistic we could live life again. We locked down in Dec with the surge and yet in early Jan we all got COVID despite all our efforts (how – we suspect a window repairman as that was the only indoor interaction we had – and double masked).”Mild COVID” was still two weeks of stress and anxiety that I don’t want to repeat – and we are privileged because we got through it and are almost back to normal health. Things have to get better eventually, but until then the mental tax is enormous especially for the immunicompromised. Sending healthy thoughts and know you have many allies.

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