Give Me Hope, Help Me Cope

Give Me Hope, Help Me Cope

So many people, sensing something profound and historical is afoot, are blogging and journaling and tweeting their way through the stress and confusion. “Isolation: Day 12” someone writes, and you know what? It kinda throws me. And it kinda throws me that it throws me.

How long have I been doing this isolation thing, now? I mean, yes, I can go look up when Governor Pritzker directed social distancing and when he gave the shelter in place order, but the dates don’t stick out to me the way they do for others. Instead, I’m realizing how isolating life with cancer—disabled life—has always been. I haven’t driven since 2015. I haven’t been to a movie theater since…I don’t know…definitely before that.

So the social distancing things setting this time of crisis apart from Before for so many people don’t stand in all that much contrast for me. I haven’t started working solely from home this month, wondering if I’ll lose my wits. I did that in 2016. I haven’t lost my job and signed up for social benefits this week or panicked about how I’ll get health insurance. I did that four different times between 2017 and 2019.

I haven’t even just recently started viewing contact with others as a potential threat to my own life; I’ve been doing that since cancer and chemo tanked my immune system.

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not that I am not as stressed as everyone else about coronavirus. It’s just that I have been this stressed for a relatively long time already.

I see people fretting about the $1200 stimulus payment, shouting loudly, “That’s not enough!” and think to myself: It’s not. But people on SSI and SSDI are forced to make do with so much less for years at a time, their entire adult lives sometimes.

I know people are scared, like I was scared. But a new way will emerge. It’ll be hard, but in time what doesn’t get easier will eventually be accepted. Maybe the new way will be a beautiful one where the majority of people finally understand that universe healthcare isn’t such a bad idea after all. Where we realize if we stop handing trillions over to artificially prop up corporations and the stock market, we can instead ensure a universal basic income for real people with real families who need to eat real food and get real medicine for real illnesses.

Anyway, I think my message to the scared, able-bodied, unemployed right now would be: hang in there. The future might not be unfolding they way you pictured, but you’ll adapt. Ask a disabled person how they do it. We’re bursting at the seams with coping mechanisms.

It’s funny. I used to not-so-jokingly joke that nobody would pick a broken-ass me on their Zombie Apocalypse team. I can’t run. I can’t hunt. I can’t amputate limbs. I can’t drive the getaway car. But I am starting to realize now, that I can teach people what I know about how to cope.

To start, might I suggest everyone who needs a distraction start Zentangling? If you knit or play video games or garden or cook. Keep doing those things at ground you and make you calm. But if you need something like that, try meditative drawing. Pairing it with written journaling in the same notebook can be really, REALLY helpful. Ask me how I know.

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