When I first travelled to Japan to teach I would walk into my yoga classes and see some of the students wearing masks. My translator explained that the mask was worn when someone was feeling unwell, living with a condition that required them to avoid colds and flu or as an ounce of prevention. I remember being in awe of their ability to
a. put themselves and their health first and
b. think of others
When I was diagnosed with diabetes I realised straight away how important it was not to get sick. Being sick meant uncontrollable blood sugars for a sustained period of time. Add to that the stress, trauma and tension of feeling doubly unwell.
My job as a global yoga teacher required lots of air travel so I donned a mask while flying and where it was acceptable, wore my mask in public places. When someone was sick I wouldn’t come over to visit and when my partner fell ill I would do my best to bolster my immune system and keep my distance.
When Covid hit, the directions from the government felt sensible. As there was no vaccine, no understanding of the disease and a variety of outcomes from no symptoms to loss of life, why not wear a mask to
a. protect myself and
b. help others.
I assumed that everyone felt the same way. Nine months later I have come to the realisation that people don’t.
I am living in South Africa right now. I have been here for a year. I am unable to return to Australia for many reasons. I look with envy at my friends enjoying maskless beach walks, parties with friends, their latest bookstore purchase or whatever.
I have not been shopping, partying or socialising for nine months. The few times I have gone out it’s been for doctors visits, a quick trip to an almost empty beach or a drive through the countryside where I don’t even leave the car.
People might think I’m paranoid, overreacting or have been brainwashed. I mean why not just give up and get it? Isn’t freedom and the enjoyment of life and all it has to offer more important than my personal fears? What comes to mind is that ‘people’ have never lived with Type 1 diabetes.
From the moment I was diagnosed I knew that freedom would have to be a compromise. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week tethered to medication that has no definitive outcome. Each injection could be a life or death sentence. Traumatic to say the least, living a ‘normal free’ life with diabetes is possible, but at the same time impossible.
Every outing requires careful planning, supplies, contingencies, every meal requires math skills, and a thought-out strategy. Every walk, yoga practice, garden foray requires something different. There is no room for error or spontaneity and yet you see people living with diabetes seamlessly. Why? Because they don’t talk to you about what it’s really like. And why would they? You will never understand.
Just like how you can’t understand why a person living with chronic illness might expect you to consider them when you make the choice to either maskup or be an avid antimasker.
I won’t go into details, but the details matter. When I come across a person on the path to the beach or in the forest without their mask, in a known hotspot, where I have been told the cases have risen 41% in one day… I can’t help thinking,” Wouldn’t it be smart for them to wear a mask? Or even turn around and walk away?”
Nope, guess not…instead they happily pass me by even waving and almost breathing on me, looking at me a little funny and perhaps thinking to themselves ‘brainwashed moron’. While I, the chronically compromised mask wearer, walks past in fear of my life. Not quite able to shrug off the incident because
a. I know people who’ve had Covid and
b. they’ve died!
I can rant and rave all I want, I’m still going to have people tell me, ” it’s a conspiracy, they’re denying us our freedoms, you can’t catch it in the open air. If I don’t wear a mask and you want to fine that’s your choice. Lockdowns don’t work.”
Duh? They do!
Look at Australia and New Zealand. Almost no cases, people enjoying backyard barbies, in person yoga classes, toilet paper available everywhere!
The next time you tell me it’s about freedom and my basic human rights, remember even YOU are conditioned to believe in an ‘idea’ called freedom.
Living with diabetes has taught me to let go of my ideas and instead I have learned to
a. accept what is and
b.protect this absolute precious life.
with great respect…