story by wwm

Sorted by: Theme: Mental Health/Wellbeing

Written Story by Win Win Maw

I am Win Win Maw, a dedicated individual who has called the United States home for more than  7 years. However, my journey has been marked by the challenges of managing diabetes, a  condition I have been coping with for the past 24 years. It requires constant vigilance and careful  management of my health.

In May 2019, on an ordinary day, I began experiencing troublesome symptoms. A running nose  and a persistent cough seemed to have taken hold of me. Concerned about my well-being, I  decided to seek answers and find relief for my discomfort.

On that fateful evening of April 2nd, around 10 o’clock, I found myself immersed in browsing the  New York News website. Amidst the vast array of news articles, one topic stood out: Covid.  Although my voice was hoarse, a result of my ongoing symptoms, I couldn’t resist reading more  about this novel virus that was starting to impact the world.

Little did I know that the unfolding Covid situation would dramatically alter my life. The global  pandemic forced me to make significant changes in my daily routine, mainly revolving around  staying home and taking all the necessary precautions to protect myself and my loved ones.  Wearing a mask even at home became a norm, as I lived in close proximity to my husband and  son.

This has been an incredibly challenging time for me. The fear of contracting the virus and the  uncertainty surrounding my health condition have been ever-present. Navigating through these  uncertain times has required strength, resilience, and unwavering determination.

Amidst these trials, I decided to visit a clinic in the hopes of finding some answers and relief  from my worsening symptoms. To my dismay, the chief physician informed me that my  condition was critical and that hospitalization was necessary. Thus, on June 13th, I found myself  admitted to the hospital, where a dedicated team of healthcare professionals would closely  monitor my health.

It was particularly distressing to recall the news report from New York News that I had come  across on April 2nd. The article highlighted the alarming escalation of the Covid situation, with a  rising death toll and a significant increase in cases across the United States. The gravity of the  situation weighed heavily on my mind as I lay in the hospital bed, fighting my own battle.

The impact of Covid on my health became more evident as the doctors diagnosed me with  pneumonia and additional upper respiratory complications. Each passing day felt like an uphill  battle, leaving me exhausted and drained. Not only was my health deteriorating, but my  concerns extended to my younger brother and sister, who also fell ill during this challenging  period.

Fever episodes were an all-too-familiar occurrence for me. Whenever my body temperature  spiked, I sought refuge in the emergency department, hoping for relief from my pneumonia and other respiratory issues. However, the situation seemed to persist, and my concerns grew with  each passing day.

The local clinic I relied on for medical attention was overcrowded, making it increasingly difficult  to receive the proper care and attention I so desperately needed. It became apparent that the  healthcare system was under immense strain, trying to accommodate the growing number of  Covid cases and the subsequent complications that arose.

Adding to my worries, my beloved son began displaying worrisome symptoms. High fever and  discomfort compelled us to rush him to the hospital. The waiting game began as we awaited the  test results, praying fervently that his condition was not severe. The doctors decided to conduct  an ultrasound, which revealed potential abnormalities in his lungs. We eagerly awaited the  chest X-ray results to confirm the diagnosis, while additional tests were ordered to gain a better  understanding of his condition.

Despite the personal challenges I faced, I found solace in the fact that I had received the Covid 19 vaccine.

I understand that there have been various challenges and difficulties in the country. It is  important to support and provide assistance to those who are affected. If someone needs help,  they can seek assistance from the relevant authorities or organizations. In 2020, during the forth  waves of COVID-19, the situation was quite severe. People should follow the guidelines and  receive medical treatment at the designated healthcare centers. Both physical and mental well being should be taken into consideration. My mental trauma had worsened because of my  husband also got heart attack after one month of his post Covid . I was so tired too taking care  of him as well as my Covid also was very bad . My mental trauma is still bad because of  consequences of Covid.

Artwork Story by Torea Frey

Words Fail

Written Story by Tonya Jones

Mama’s Burden: The Struggle of Childcare 

I’m a pragmatic person. I like to get to the root of why things are the way they are. When the  pandemic first hit, it caused me to think more about what it means to be a mother in our  society. Despite the rhetoric of sweet sentiments of motherhood (often dished out during  Mother’s Day), our country hasn’t really done a great job of supporting mothers. Particularly,  mothers of color (MOC). It was reported millions of women had to drop out of the workforce,  primarily due to childcare. The struggles around childcare has been the Achilles heel of most  working women. It was exacerbated during the lockdown, as caregivers found themselves  having to homeschool children, while they also worked from home. The ‘double duty’ of  mothers (household and outside work responsibilities), turned into a triple duty. In some cases,  quadruple duty, if elderly or more vulnerable family members became sick with the COVID-19  virus. Their care also became another task for mothers. Yet, with all these burdens being placed  on caregivers, there was limited societal support.

MOC were especially at a disadvantage. Ms. magazine discussed this in the article, “Women Are  Still Disproportionately Suffering from Pandemic Unemployment.” It is noted that childcare is  the overwhelming reason why mothers have not bounced back as quickly regarding work  opportunities. MOC are at the forefront of this issue. I’m a Black single mama. I spent the past  year unemployed. I had to leave my position, as the demand of return to the office became the  mantra of employers. It didn’t matter we were still in the throes of the second wave of the virus  (delta corona). It didn’t matter schools were still closing left and right due to students/teachers  getting sick, or staff shortages. It didn’t matter that many childcare places were closed or  limiting enrollment for safety.

I had no one to help with before/after school care. The burden was on me. It’s still on me. I still  have not found reliable childcare, almost three years later. Then the economic stress of not  working. The biggest fear was losing housing. I was lucky and qualified for pandemic housing  assistance. There was also some relief with the child tax credit checks. Of course, those were  snatched away, despite the fact it was proven it helped caregivers tremendously with day to day  living expenses. The pandemic years have not been kind to MOC.

I’m a lover of books. Recently, I read Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change, by Angela  Garbes. Garbes discussed how the pandemic impacted her as a mother. Overall, the book delves  into the challenges faced by mothers, whether married or not. As a MOC (Filipino-American),  Garbes gave voice to the unique barriers of women from her community and MOC outside of it.  Her overall argument was that our society needs to acknowledge that childrearing is work. That  MOC are the most economically exploited and there tends to be no respect for the essential  labor they provide.

The pandemic showed me we still have a long way to go in empowering and supporting  caregivers.

Written Story by Sierra

Archived

This is what it feels to be archived.
Tucked away in the dusty basement
in a filing system few remember
existing out of circulation

This is what it feels to be archived.
I haven’t caught the plague
it hasn’t killed me yet
but for now, I am a faded artifact
they want out of sight

This is what it feels to be archived.
To those with their heads in the ground
I am a emblem of their ignorance
a keepsake of their wrongdoings
a time capsule of their broken promises

This is what it feels to be archived.
And yet,
I will not let them ignore me.

Written Story by Anonymous

I am a nonbinary physician of color. I actually worked for the state governmental COVID 19 response here in Oregon, as my first job in this state.

I felt tremendous responsibility and pride in doing the work I did when I did it, because  there was an acknowledgement of community stake, partnership and investment with the way  we did our work. Blue state vs. Red Federal policy clashes somewhat helped with the ability to  do the work, above and beyond what the CDC was publishing in those days. We were in a group  of about 18 physicians and scientists writing policy and guidance from a variety of lived  experiences. I contributed heavily as a physician of color and made some of my first few friends  in Oregon working in POC predominant teams as the scientific liaison to state based community  engagement work. I was publicly shamed and ridiculed on the internet by trolls and those at  odds with the state’s policies that emphasized community action and non- pharmacologic  interventions to keep everyone safe from a new, scary and unpredictable threat. Yet through all  this, I persisted.

I ended up leaving my position in early 2022 when after more than a year of conflicting  policies, shifting narratives, the politicized CDC influence on state-based policy making was too  great and overrun by individualistic public health policies to an airborne pathogen. For  something as contagious as COVID-19 and with ongoing high mortality and even higher  morbidity, an individualistic approach just serves to marginalize the few- the disabled, the  elderly, the chronically ill, and really a lot of female bodied people without any of the above  conditions with the disproportionate and increasing toll of long Covid in all these populations.

Out of concern for my own safety and to avoid new disability, I have continued to avoid  getting infected. These days it has been getting increasingly difficult. I spent the 6+ years of my  medical training suppressing and coping with a moderately disabling condition to know how  terrible it was to feel even moderately disanled compared to peers. A friend even casually  mentioned one day that I was a 27 year old in a 40 year old body. Ableism exists and even worse  so for people in the health professions. I also don’t have the luxury to assuming that my family  with chronic illness including immunosuppression will survive repeat COVID infections without  worsening of their chronic conditions, or loss of their transplant organ.

Since COVID-19 continues to kill 1.5 times as many people as seasonal influenza, and  maim even more even in the times of Omicron sublineages, I don’t have the choice to ignore it.  Ignoring it could potentially risk my livelihood, my intellectual ability, including the brain that  got me through years of medical school, and the physical ability that allows me to enjoy life  without pain and restriction.

As an extrovert, my life has changed dramatically. Negatively? Not necessarily. I’m  selective with my friendships, I have stopped seeing a lot of my friends who have moved on  mostly because of dismissive or slighting comments, and unwillingness to make  accommodations to see me. My life is full of outdoor patios, and masked brief indoor outings  here in the states. I have traveled and continue to travel with my partner- albeit in lower  frequency than pre 2020 – in fit tested n95 respirators. I got to go to Japan to experience life in a collectivist society, even if for a brief while, earlier this year. My respirator kept me safe, as did  community masking through all kinds of crowded venues.

The costs of my life are that I know more, and care more about chronic illness and the  dangers of reinfection. Much more than my immediate family, my partner and oftentimes some  healthcare providers. That’s been a side effect of always staying appraised and up-to-date on  this virus and its accompanying set of illnesses. It’s a burdensome role, shared by many other  new branded COVID experts, even larger of a burden for those studying long COVID, those  studying end organ system and immunologic impacts, who then have to share this data with the  public. It’s a tremendous moral injury to be a caregiver of people and of populations in these  times.

I returned to clinical practice for a short while between policy changes, for a half day per  week from the summer of 2021 to 2022. I had a mostly substance use reduction based practice  and felt uncomfortable in increasing workloads of COVID-19 positive patient care that I knew  were upcoming especially with increasing community transmission. However, with societal  reopening and the end of the mask mandate on transit, my commute on crowded max trains  got increasingly uncomfortable, and especially so during times of high community transmission.  I left in-person clinical practice, a year after I had re-entered it. I feel increasingly reluctant to  return especially with the loss of universal masking in healthcare settings even more recently.  Unfortunately, this virus is not at a virulence that I can tolerate workplace exposures without  reasonable mitigation. Despite some personal and group based advocacy I engaged along with  others, mostly disabled, suffering from long COVID, or other chronic illness that puts them at  risk, we failed to achieve a stay on healthcare masking. I have been lucky enough to not require  frequent healthcare services for myself during this period of sustained viral infectivity and  severity combined with falling mitigations. But these compounded losses as a healthcare  provider, I will grieve for longer, and more deeply than some of my other social and community  losses where I could rebuild and forge new connections from the small but still strong  community of people who care about community caring, love, support and wellness.

The only times I feel concerned for my wellbeing and mental health are in the gaslighting  and minimizing comments by healthcare providers, and colleagues both in public health and  healthcare who have “moved on” and make comments to indicate disapproval or worse,  incredulity.

I knew, years ago, when I entered Healthcare as a profession, that this was a place for  healthy people, who “worked out”, who experienced no chronic illness, both physical or  behavioral, or none that they could show transparently. This has been highlighted by the  Oregon Medical Board’s decision to remove stigmatizing language on the attestation forms for  physician licensure around mental health and substance use. But cosmetic fixes like this don’t  dismantle the very real systemic ableism in healthcare that continue to persist. Some of the  same reasons for physician suicide I see replicated in the gaslighting, marginalization and  repeated dismissal of physicians who desire and have very real physical needs to avoid and  minimize infections and reinfection with COVID as a reason to avoid or reduce the chance of  disability. If our healthcare workforce, agencies and systems can’t even care for our own, who  will care for our patients?

Written Story by Shariff Abdullahaziz

As the days went by, the symptoms of Covid-19 started to take their toll on my body. The loss of  taste and smell persisted, making every meal a bland and uneventful experience. However, my  wife’s culinary skills and creativity shone through as she experimented with different flavors and  textures to make eating more enjoyable for me. She also researched home remedies and  natural therapies to help alleviate the discomfort and boost my immune system.

Despite the physical challenges, it was the mental and emotional aspect of battling Covid-19  that proved to be the most difficult. Isolation from my loved ones took a toll on my spirits.  Missing the warmth of family gatherings, the laughter of my children, and the support of friends  became a constant ache in my heart. But technology bridged the gap as we connected virtually,  sharing stories, jokes, and even shedding tears together.

During this time, I also grappled with anxiety and fear about the uncertain future. The financial  strain caused by my inability to work for several months due to the illness weighed heavily on  my mind. Debt accumulated, and the burden seemed insurmountable. However, I leaned on the  strength of my family, friends, and the support systems available in the community to navigate  through these challenges. They provided guidance, resources, and emotional support,  reminding me that I was not alone in this journey.

As the weeks passed, I witnessed the power of resilience and the miracles of the human body.  Gradually, my sense of taste and smell returned, bringing with it a renewed sense of hope and  gratitude. The fever subsided, and the persistent pain gradually faded away. Finally, after two  long weeks of isolation, I received the news I had been eagerly awaiting – a follow-up test  confirmed that I was Covid-free. It was a moment of pure joy and relief for me and my family.

However, the road to recovery didn’t end there. The impact of the virus lingered, both physically  and emotionally. Fatigue crept into my daily life, reminding me of the battle my body had  fought. Memory lapses and difficulty concentrating became unwelcome companions. I realized  that the aftermath of Covid-19 extended far beyond the period of illness, and I needed to  prioritize self-care and seek medical guidance to address these lingering effects.

With the support of healthcare professionals, I embarked on a journey of rehabilitation and  healing. Physical exercises and cognitive stimulation became part of my daily routine as I worked  to regain my strength, memory, and focus. Therapy sessions provided a safe space to express my  fears, anxieties, and challenges, enabling me to develop coping mechanisms and build  resilience.

Slowly but surely, life began to regain its rhythm. I returned to work, grateful for the opportunity  to contribute once again. However, the psychological trauma of the Covid-19 experience  remained with me. The fear of the unknown, the memories of isolation, and the fragility of life  continued to shape my perspective. But through it all, I held onto the lessons learned – the  importance of gratitude, resilience, and cherishing the moments we often take for granted.

Today, as I reflect on my journey, I am filled with a profound sense of gratitude for the unwavering support of my family, the dedication of healthcare professionals, and the resilience  of the human spirit. The scars of the past may still be visible, but they serve as a reminder of the  strength and courage it took to overcome the challenges that Covid-19 presented.

In this new chapter of life, I strive to live each day with renewed purpose, cherishing the simple  joys, and never taking the gift of health for granted. The memories of hardship and triumph will forever be etched in my heart, serving as a constant reminder of the indomitable spirit

Audio Story by Lukulambo

English Translation

I had Corona, for those of you who do not understand what Corona is. I myself actually suffered from this Corona. In fact I prayed to God that Corona never comes back again. Yes, I really suffered and other people did as well. Two years without work, I was really in bad shape. People could not do anything because everywhere was closed and kids could not go to school .This is not a normal disease, this is something that scares the whole world. To date, you hear the word Corona and you want to run away, but I thank God. For me I remember coughing so much to the point where my ribs hurt. It made us also fearful and afraid of each other. Whenever you would see or hear someone coughing you wanted to run away. I remember companies were closed. It was not normal nor was it a joke. We suffered so much, people died and we do not wish it on anybody. We suffered a lot as a family and we had some people who died. We pray to God that it does not come back, because it’s something that is making the world suffer so much. There was no going out, kids could not play as usual, you could not go shopping, you could not just drive. I have never been so scared in my life. We need to pray to God that it does not come back. People were coughing so much that whenever you saw someone you wanted to run away. In fact, Malaria is even better. All jobs in America stopped, if anybody tells me that there is Corona again, we all would go away, and other jobs would never come back for years.

Swahili Transcription

Nilikuwa na Corona, kwa wale ambao hamuelewi Corona ni nini. Mimi mwenyewe niliteseka na hii Corona. Kwa kweli nilimwomba Mungu kwamba Corona isirudi tena. Ndiyo, niliteseka sana na watu wengine pia walifanya hivyo. Miaka miwili bila kazi, nilikuwa katika hali mbaya sana. Watu hawakuweza kufanya chochote kwa sababu kila mahali pamefungwa na watoto hawakuweza kwenda shule .Huu sio ugonjwa wa kawaida, hili ni jambo ambalo linatisha dunia nzima. Hadi leo, unasikia neno Corona na unataka kukimbia, lakini namshukuru Mungu. Kwangu nakumbuka nilikohoa sana hadi mbavu zinaniuma. Ilitufanya sisi pia kuogopana na kuogopana. Wakati wowote ungeona au kusikia mtu akikohoa ulitaka kukimbia. Nakumbuka makampuni yalifungwa. Haikuwa kawaida wala haikuwa mzaha. Tuliteseka sana, watu walikufa na hatutaki mtu yeyote. Tuliteseka sana kama familia na tulikuwa na watu fulani waliokufa. Tunaomba Mungu isirudi, maana ni jambo linaloifanya dunia kuteseka sana. Hakukuwa na kwenda nje, watoto hawakuweza kucheza kama kawaida, haungeweza kwenda ununuzi, haungeweza kuendesha gari tu. Sijawahi kuogopa sana maishani mwangu. Tunapaswa kuomba kwa Mungu ili isirudi. Watu walikuwa wakikohoa sana hata ukimuona mtu ulitaka kukimbia. Kwa kweli, Malaria ni bora zaidi. Kazi zote Amerika zilisimamishwa, ikiwa mtu yeyote ataniambia kuwa kuna Corona tena, sote tungeenda, na kazi zingine hazitarudi kwa miaka. mtu yeyote ataniambia kuwa kuna Corona tena, sote tungeenda, na kazi zingine hazitarudi kwa miaka.

Written Story by Anonymous

Socrates said, “The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” While Covid may not have been old when my daughter was born in late December of 2019, I certainly wanted to build a new foundation for my partner and I’d daughter. We had tried for years to conceive and in the spring of 2019, when the positive result appeared, I was overjoyed! My partner is an amazing woman and simply the greatest mother, my daughter and I are both so fortunate to have her in our lives. Knowing that she and I get the joy of preparing to bring into the world our greatest joy was a gift beyond measure. And boy did that time go fast!

The Sunday morning that my partner’s water broke was a whirlwind of movement to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. You see, our daughter was born 3 weeks early and we hadn’t yet prepared for her as much as we should have. While my partner is a very forward-thinking individual, I tend to focus on the present and worry about the details later. Let’s just say that I am so, so glad that my partner had a bag packed for herself and we had a crib (even if the mattress for the crib wasn’t being delivered until Monday). We drove to the hospital through a small rainstorm, but we made it safely and got checked in, ready to see our daughter.

My partner was induced and delivered our daughter within the same day. Look, I have seen tough people, having worked on several trail crews doing manual labor such as literally wrestling holders into the perfect position for a stone step (my partner has done this work as well, I’m proud to say), but no one could have handled the pain of being induced to deliver in such a small amount of time as my partner. To say I felt a little useless and a whole lot confused wouldn’t be a wholly invalid statement. But I tried to help how I could and my partner, the real champ, delivered our little girl into the world at 9 PM on the day she checked into the hospital. I will never forget hearing our daughter’s first cry or the warmth in my heart seeing my partner holding our wonderful child.

Our parents came to the hospital, along with my partner’s brother, and we all were so happy to welcome our little bundle of joy into a world of opportunity and love. While navigating a whole new world of parenthood in our hospital room, there was change brewing. Our daughter was placed onto a 2-hour feeding schedule to help gain weight as she was born early and needed to gain weight before being discharged. While I will do whatever I have to do make sure our daughter is provided for and I heard about sleep disruption with a new child, it was hard. Through the joys of navigating becoming first time parents, I realized just how little I would not do or change to give our daughter the life she deserved.

Nearing the end of our hospital stay we were watching CNN. This was early January 2020 and not more than a few days earlier we were celebrating the new year with my partner’s parents and brother while my daughter slept on her mother’s chest. But it was hard to be joyful, or optimistic, when witnessing people being forcefully quarantined into their homes in Wuhan, China. Change was happening and, even thousands of miles away, it seemed like uncertain times were upon us. It was frightening to say the least but, optimistic to a fault, I thought that whatever was happening in Wuhan would not come to Coos County in Oregon…

Well to say I am wrong is about like saying the surface of the sun is a bit warm. I expected life to change when I became a father. Maybe I will get less sleep, cut back on my gaming time, and be prepared to listen to some catchy kid songs if come to learn to enjoy (hopefully). But what I ended up with was a world where millions would die from a virus that spread globally within months. It was NOT what I wanted for my daughter.

During the Covid-19 pandemic many people experienced changes that radically altered their perceived future, their careers, their financial stability, and dashed away many hopes and dreams. While I cannot say that I had the worst of it by any stretch, before our daughter finally received her Covid-19 vaccine we had moved towns, I lost my job as a sole supporter to my family, began counseling services, and experienced the frustration of seeing my daughter grow up in a world in which my partner and I had to restrict seeing family and friends to ensure the health of our daughter. I understand I am not unique or alone in those situations but there was not exactly a handbook for this.

There were many parts of the pandemic that actually provided me with what I would never have dreamed of having before. I have worked completely remotely since my daughter was born, and if I can help it at all I will try in all of my power to keep it that way. The chance to be home with my family during the day was such an amazing experience. It has not been easy, especially when I was doing direct practice for a while, but my current job in a whole new field has been both challenging and rewarding. That change HAS been a silver lining from the changes caused by Covid-19.

Change is the only constant in this world. While I knew that well before Covid, perhaps it had shown me just how easy it is for society to radically change. So, as Socrates said, perhaps it is best to stop fighting the old and to instead pursue what I DO want for my future. The pandemic has shown me I want to be the best father I can, the best partner I can, and to be brave enough to fall. But more importantly the bravery to get up after falling. It hit me hard, really hard, when I lost my job. I went to school for that job, and it felt like sand slipping through my hand and floating in the wind while I was frozen in fear…

But that did not stop me. I continued to search for change, to search for good. What inspired that change was my daughter. No matter what I will do, I need to do to ensure she gets EVERYTHING she needs to have a happy life. I am sure almost every parent would say the same.  Becoming a parent was a change. Witnessing and living through the pandemic was a change. Those two events happened so closely together it is difficult to say which affected me the most. But I don’t have to choose which one did impact me, that is in the old. What matters now is the new.

A new life with love, life, and the opportunity to see my family thrive. To see my daughter go to pre-school and work towards becoming the veterinarian she says she will become. My wife will find a job she loves and be close to her family. And through it all I will continue to support them. My new change is to live my life for them because they are my life. I know that is cliché but I can’t help it. All I want is my loved ones to be happy, healthy, and to pursue the new that they are meant to pursue.

Written Story by Rebel Fayola Black

I haven’t gotten COVID….yet. But it has changed my life, for worse AND for better.

I have worn a mask every time I’ve gone into public since Spring 2020. First, I sewed them  myself, perfecting a pattern with a wire nose piece that fit my face snugly. The fabrics were so  pretty, and I used cool elastic for the ear loops. Now, I wear N-95’s with the headbands, because  they are so much safer. I’ve worn a mask every time I’ve gone into public since Spring 2020  despite having a trauma history of having my mouth and nose covered and being unable to take  a breath. It’s my responsibility to myself and my community to stay safe(r), even when it’s  hard…even when it triggers a trauma response.

When the mask mandate was dropped–the government kowtowing to business interests over  our health–it made it so much harder to go into public. It’s hard to take precautions when it  isn’t normalized, and it isn’t safe to be in crowds (such as a grocery store) when no one is  masking. When healthcare settings dropped the mask mandate, I felt actually in danger. Going  into Emergency or Primary Care settings where no one is wearing masks feels horrific. When I  see a provider wearing a mask, I thank them in order to reinforce their behavior. (To all the  people reading this who still wear masks, THANK YOU!)

See, I’m Disabled, low-income, have diabetes and a low immune system (low IgG), mast cell  disease, and am fat. When I get sick, I get REALLY sick. Statistically, I am less likely to be  prioritized by the healthcare system if there’s an outbreak that results in healthcare rationing. I  also have caregivers who come into my home every day: they wear N-96 masks as well, but I still  worry.

I was Disabled before COVID: I am mostly housebound. I’ve been isolated for years. It’s lonely,  and I often couldn’t attend meetings in person. I stopped being able to work due to complex  pain and chronic fatigue. I had trouble getting to therapy. Getting groceries was an almost impossible task for me even before COVID.

During COVID, suddenly it was more prevalent for my non-Disabled friends to be open to  meeting and hanging out over Zoom. So my social and political world opened up. I was finally  able to engage in organizing from my bed! I’m currently on a steering committee for a  transitional house for LGBTQ2SIA+ people coming out of incarceration, and that is exciting and  liberating. We meet remotely.I was able to see my friends’ faces when we talked, and they were  open to chatting more frequently. Instacart was more normalized and I felt less guilty using it  when I needed to.

I was able to start a Disability Justice and Racial Equity consulting business: Leaping Water. I can  engage with colleagues around the country. I am able to work from home, which is an access  need I have advocated for for years–to much resistance from the non-Disabled working world.  Using Zoom was normalized, rather than fringe. So I’m able to do work and attend trainings and  conferences and organizing meetings from my home, where I can breathe purified air and be  comfortable with my legs up (an access need).

To be honest, I resented when non-Disabled people complained about being newly isolated and  burdened by remote work, remote socializing, remote conferences, remote anything. “It’s just  not the same as being together in person!” they lamented. While I have empathy, it felt like a  slap in the face to all of us who have been struggling to connect to the outside world for  decades…even longer for our Disabled elders. Moreover, having these activities be remote  OPENED UP MY WORLD. Finally, my access needs were being met.

So, COVID has been a mixed bag. I’m worried about getting it, especially because of the  potential impacts of Long COVID, but the pandemic also forced structural changes that Disabled  people have been advocating for for years. I just hope those structural changes are here to stay.  With the mask mandates being lifted, it feels like non-Disabled people are going back to their  version of “normal,” while the rest of us are left behind. Please don’t leave us behind.

Written Story by Rabia Jabarkhil

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 led to significant changes in the  way people live, work, and interact with one another. Social distancing measures, lockdowns,  and restrictions on gatherings have resulted in widespread feelings of isolation and  disconnectedness. However, amid these challenging circumstances, communities have come  together, adapting and finding innovative ways to maintain connections, support one another,  and alleviate the impact of isolation.

Technology has played a pivotal role in maintaining community connections during the  pandemic. Virtual platforms and communication tools have become lifelines for individuals and  communities, enabling people to stay connected despite physical distances. Video conferencing  platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet have become commonplace for  work meetings, online classes, and social gatherings. These platforms have bridged the gap  between people, allowing them to see and interact with loved ones, friends, and colleagues,  providing a sense of normalcy.

Communities have rallied together to create support networks for those who are  vulnerable or in need during these challenging times. Local organizations, volunteer groups, and  neighborhood associations have organized initiatives to provide essential supplies, groceries,  and medication to those unable to leave their homes. These acts of kindness and solidarity have  helped combat the feeling of isolation, fostering a sense of belonging and community spirit.  Also, the pandemic has witnessed the proliferation of online communities focused on shared  interests and hobbies. Platforms like Reddit, Facebook Groups, and online forums have seen an  increase in users seeking connection and support. These communities provide spaces for  individuals to share experiences, discuss common interests, and find solace in knowing they are  not alone. Whether it’s a book club, a fitness group, or a mental health support forum, these  online communities have offered a sense of belonging and camaraderie during a time of  physical separation.

The pandemic has also spurred creativity and innovation in maintaining community  connections. People have organized virtual concerts, art exhibitions, and online performances,  allowing artists to share their work and audiences to enjoy cultural experiences from the  comfort of their homes. Local theaters have live-streamed performances, museums have  offered virtual tours, and musicians have hosted online concerts. These creative endeavors have  not only entertained and inspired individuals but have also brought communities together,  fostering a shared sense of appreciation for the arts.

Recognizing the toll of isolation on mental health, individuals and communities have  made concerted efforts to support one another emotionally. Mental health helplines, online  counseling services, and virtual support groups have emerged, providing a crucial lifeline for  those struggling with anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Communities have organized wellness  challenges, meditation sessions, and mindfulness workshops to promote emotional well-being  and encourage self-care practices. These initiatives have not only supported individuals in need  but have also strengthened the fabric of community connections.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges, with isolation and  disconnectedness becoming prevalent issues in communities worldwide. However, in the face of  adversity, communities have risen to the occasion, leveraging technology, fostering support  networks, and nurturing a sense of togetherness. By embracing virtual platforms, creating  online communities, and supporting one another’s mental health, individuals have found ways  to connect, support, and uplift each other during these trying times. As we navigate the ongoing  pandemic and beyond, it is essential to continue fostering these community connections,  ensuring that no one feels isolated and that everyone can find solace, support, and a sense of  belonging within their communities.