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  • Writer's pictureHoosier Doc

Sorry, but you don't get to call me weak!

This weekend, I got into an "argument" about why people need to stay home with someone I thought respected to me and was fairly close to me. This person seems to be very much of the opinion that opening the economy is the only way forward - as if flipping a switch could just happen. This is in complete contrast with the approach our governor has taken which has been metered and small-c conservative. I didn't vote for the guy. We don't agree on a lot. However, he's been a great governor as of late. I can give credit where it's due. The person in question built a straw man leaving a wall-of-text and saying they did not want to argue or "get political". Look, to a political scientist, everything is political. When you make choices about public policy or the health of an entire population of people, you are making a political choice. I believe that the person in question did not get that political != partisan. Nothing I was saying was partisan. I wasn't hating on our Republican governor while, instead, focusing on a great failed effort made by political officials in the federal government. I did not mention any policies, even. I asked people to take this seriously and stay home to protect people such as my 90-something grandmothers and, yes, myself. I'm asthmatic. This person, close to all of us, determined that our lives should be collateral because we could be sacrificed to save the businesses (never-mind that economists and experts dispute that killing wide swaths of the American public can "save" the economy)! This is not the first time I've gotten into this. I culled my facebook last week and then left it for the better part of a week. I have still no reinstalled the app on my phone. No regrets! I had to make the painful decision to block this person who I otherwise respected and had no issues with prior to that moment. They messaged me telling me I was weak and I told them to leave me alone. Blocked. I shouldn't have to explain that I'm a strong person. It takes a strong person to shoulder what I have in my young life. While I have had a lot of privilege and opportunity, I have also had challenges and lived a lot of life. Dealing with asthma since childhood, I've struggled with physical illness. I have also had to deal with mental illness for a very long time - only receiving help as an adult walking into a college counseling office. I have been in therapy 14 years this fall. I am proud of what I've done in my life despite these invisible disabilities. I am a diligent worker who takes pride in her work. I graduated with my doctorate in my 20s. I am a strong mother who gave birth to a very strong-willed child. I will make different choices with her than were made for me based on learning what works for our family and my own mental health. All of this made me remarkably strong. My sophomore year, I took several of my fall finals fully-loaded on a cocktail of high-dose inhaled and ingested steroids, albuterol, and hope. I left the hospital and took a bus as far as I could from arriving back at my dorm to then walk half a mile to my European Politics final. I aced that final and that class. Now, would you call that person weak? I was at the worst point mentally my second semester of graduate school struggling to get my medications right and managed a 4.0. Would you call that person weak? I wouldn't. I have tools in my toolbox and preparedness skills other people don't have. I think a lot of people can relate to this. People with disabilities - seen or unseen - are good at adapting. They are strong and resilient. The image of "at-risk" people in this pandemic doesn't apply to people like me. It doesn't seem to cover the image of a young woman who works out daily and never drives. It doesn't fully realize that I am a person who could be killed due to poor lung function. It doesn't realize that as a child, I spent time in and out of the hospital and doctor's offices - that I can remember very vividly having life-threatening asthma attacks at school. The "at-risk" label doesn't apply easily to children, either. Many of my friends have children with various medical needs who could be gravely affected by Covid-19. One of my dearest internet friends has two living kiddos - each born pre-term. She almost died giving birth to her youngest child who, while very premature, had it easier than her other living child. His big brother was a micropremie who fought hard to live and, while thriving, is still at high risk for a number of conditions. Knowing these children, you would not ever label them "weak". I can't describe the fighting spirit of this whole family in words. They are the strongest folk! Parents of children with chronic health conditions and NICU parents amaze me in their resiliency and ability to get through anything and everything with a type of optimism and measured approach I cannot effectively describe here. They are strong by necessity. If you ask my mom how scary it was to hear her daughters wake up in the night having a coughing fit, she will describe it as terrifying. It's probably why even when I was home from graduate school recovering from bronchitis once, she woke me up to check on me. Her 20-something adult child was coughing and she couldn't let it go. So, never doubt the strength of parents of kids coping with chronic illness. When you talk about people at-risk for death from Covid-19, think about not only our parents and grandparents. Think also of those of us left out of this conversation of yet - the adults with illness who are otherwise healthy, the children at risk, and the parents scared as hell of the possibility that their kid could die this way. These aren't weak people. They are strong as hell! However, the poor choices made and poor public policies granted can harm even those of us who have fought all of ours lives to not succumb to any of our disabilities. And when you say you're willing to sacrifice the "weak", you're talking about actual human beings. You're talking about my parents, my grandparents, myself, and my friends who have children at-risk. We're actually not weak at all. We're strong. And your ableism is showing.

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