I survived COVID-19, but not the shaming
Major diseases with fatal consequences have always burdened their patients with psychological as well as physical discomfort. For example, from Biblical times to the middle of the 20th century, people with leprosy were banished from their communities and sent to die in isolation. When HIV/AIDS first became known some 40 years ago, because it was first detected primarily among male members of the LGBTQ community, we ostracised and stigmatised them whether or not they actually had it.
COVID-19 is no different, and like all the diseases before it, a basic fear of the unknown, fuelled by conflicting reports that grow increasingly alarming every day can lead to paranoia. This paranoia can adversely affect those unfortunate enough to contract it, who may find themselves getting stigmatized.
For example, those who test positive and find themselves in an isolation centre may not necessarily receive a warm welcome after release from these facilities. We understand the concern, but that is no reason to banish them to one corner of the house, shun them if they go into their workplace or back to church, or “drill the safety protocols into their head” every time they leave home.
As someone who just experienced it first-hand, let me tell you that an isolation centre is not a “holiday camp” where there are so many fun activities available you never want to leave! It can be a sad and lonely place where you spend lots of hours ruminating on how you got there in the first place, how serious your condition really is, and how soon you will be allowed to leave. And if you think cabin fever is rough during a lockdown, it is even more so in one of these places because your movements are restricted. So when you do leave such a facility and people “diss” you, it only reopens your emotional wounds.
It is wrong to “blame and shame” patients who would have just had to deal with the fact that they overcame a condition that could have been fatal by telling them, “if you had washed your hands more regularly or worn a face shield with your mask, or not talk to anyone in close quarters without a mask, this would never have happened!”
Those arguments are unreasonable, unfair, and unfounded. Let us face it: there are people who eat “all the right foods”, exercise every day, don’t drink alcohol or smoke anything legal or otherwise, take all of their vitamins, yet they still get heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and cancer. Unlike other conditions, you cannot accurately pinpoint exactly where or from whom you contracted coronavirus, especially if you are constantly on the move and interacting with hundreds of people on a daily basis.
Here is another point. It makes no sense boycotting a business or refusing to buy its products if it was closed for a while owing to a COVID-19 outbreak among its employees. Business owners make sure they close down immediately and give the facility a thorough cleaning, and they do not resume operations until they are sure all of the employees are free of the virus.
Instead of chastising them for something that truly was not their fault, show them some love and compassion. Would you insult or isolate someone who told you they survived cancer, or would you cheer them on for their resilience? Well, you need to look at this pandemic in the same way.
Yes, by all means, you can insist on maintaining the protocols, and we believe those who have gone through this experience will understand the need to take them more seriously if they slipped up or took them for granted in the past. This pandemic is not over yet. Remember these two sayings; “Today for me, tomorrow for you” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
This article appears in the first issue of COVID Weekly. See link here to read the publication. https://bit.ly/2ZldNq