Cripping Quarantine: Corona Virus, Disability, and Mental Health

Content Warning for mentions of mental health and abuse

Image Description: The words "STAY HOME" written seven times in shades of green, purple, red, and yellow on a pale mint background
Image Description: The words “STAY HOME” written seven times in shades of green, purple, red, and yellow on a pale mint background

I have been in self isolation since March 16, I have only gone out twice since then and those trips were unavoidable to collect prescriptions. On March 16th, I woke up early because I knew that more serious restrictions due to the coronavirus were likely about to come into effect soon and I wanted to make certain that I had enough of my medications to hopefully weather a lengthy stay indoors so I was going to my local doctor’s office. I have preexisting conditions that may put me at higher risk for a severe COVID-19 infection. Those same preexisting conditions also put me at risk of potentially being denied life saving care in the event that I need a respirator.

I as a mad, physically disabled, autistic person may not meet the standards of the often terrifying triage that is taking place in areas where hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of too many patients with too few resources.

Better if I just don’t leave my apartment, my doctor agrees.

March 16th it turns out was the day everything was going to start shutting down, including the medical clinic I had just arrived at. The staff had apparently received word overnight that they should no longer see patients on site and start figuring out how to set up appointments over video chat.

As I and about a dozen other people waited outside the unexpectedly closed clinic for word from the staff inside, we tried to keep 6 feet apart. Ultimately, the doctors decked out in plastic scrubs, gloves, and face masks decided to see patients while only allowing us into the clinic two at a time.

My doctor renewed my two regular anti-anxiety medications and also wrote me a third prescription for Lorazepam to be taken as needed just in case. While I did not question the additional prescription I rather cockily assumed that I would be fine with my regular regiment of meds. I’d been doing very well up to that point hadn’t I?

It only took a few hours for some very severe anxiety to kick in as I realized that maintaining access to food was going to be difficult. The demand on delivery services which prior to the outbreak had never been a problem was suddenly very difficult. This in turn created a lot of financial anxiety as I realized that if I was going to get enough to eat during quarantine, I would be spending more on service fees as what orders I could get through showed up with less than half my requested items. Since then even getting a delivery slot has often been impossible. I may end up having to rely on takeout delivery which is much more accessible but also far more expensive.

I have been grateful for my doctor’s consideration that I might be put under even more stress and her efforts to lesson that burden repeatedly.

At the start of all this none of the emergency assistance measures had been put in place so the financial concerns were particularly stressful. Since the implementation of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and other form of financial assistance, some of those concerns have been alleviated but because the criteria for eligibility is ever changing and because all applications are being approved, the stress has just been put off for a later date. I now have to worry about having this money clawed back next tax season when I will most definitely no longer have it. I’m pretty sure I qualify but there is always that doubt lingering in the back of my mind.

Aside from the stress caused by figuring out how to survive in a changed world, I have also found myself succumbing to some of the symptoms of the shared trauma of this pandemic. For the first couple of weeks I tried to remain active and productive. I exercised as much as possible in the confines of my apartment, I tried to diligently work on my comprehensive exams. I ultimately succumbed to terrible emotional exhaustion which was made worse by the almost nightly vivid nightmares.

I have more recently slowed down significantly. I spend much of my time reading novels while only getting minimal work done. While I am not making great gains on my comprehensive exams, my stress level is much lower and I am sleeping better.

Please give yourselves permission to just give up expectations, it’s the best advice I can give you in this situation.

One of the things that I and several of my disabled friends have noticed during this time is that with the while world isolating, it brings the extent of our own isolation in general into sharp focus. It’s not normal to be a recluse when everyone is doing it.

To make matter worse, I haven’t been able to stay as reclusive as I’d like to. Two weeks ago, my estranged mother with whom I have not spoken for nearly two years decided to use the pandemic and my mental health history to try and force contact. She did this by calling York Campus Security on me. I have no idea what she told them. All I know is that one minute I was contentedly watching YouTube videos and the next I was answering the door of my apartment to two security guards because “a family member (my mother) had called and expressed concern for me”.

They seemed quite surprised that I was up and dressed and was not displaying any characteristics of either illness or distress. They even asked me to show them my student card so they could verify that they were speaking to the right person. While they were apologetic, it did not stop them from informing the university that I had been subjected to a wellness check. Based on the email I got from them it is clear that they did not explain that the check had been unnecessary. I also told them that I was not in contact with my family and had not been since well before the current global crisis started. I have no faith however that a security service that would subject someone to medical overreach my the university would have had the decency not to call my mother back after her interference and “concern” proved to be unfounded.

It is important to remember that abuse is actually more common now even for those of us who have put over 1000 miles between ourselves and our abusers.

That episode took me days to recover from and the university has no interest in recognizing that they have acted as a proxy for an abuser twice now.

In the midst of all this stress and coping, the one new thing that I have been working on is finally figuring out how to do my own makeup. Here is a picture of me trying to be goth

Image Desrcription: A pale woman with dark lipstick stands against a woodgrain wall. The shot is from below giving the impression that she might be lying down. She is wearing a dress reminiscent of Wednesday Addams

You can see some of my other attempts on my Instagram but be forewarned, I am not good at selfies or Instagram.

This pandemic has been hard on all of us but it has been an additional burden on disabled people as the response has not meaningfully considered our needs. People receiving disability benefits are largely not receiving further aid despite CERB being higher than disability payments. We are also a population that already relied on grocery delivery and nothing has been put in place to ensure that we maintain access to those services. Many of us do not have the option to even choose to risk our health and pop to the store. Shopping was already inaccessible to us.

This is such a stressful time and I am making my way through it, the best that I can. I hope that better policies are coming for disabled people but I’m also not holding my breath.

How to Support Me and My Work

The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a lot of financial precarity for me, so I would really appreciate any assistance you are able to offer

Please if you are able help the most vulnerable in your communities by practicing social distancing responsibly and by not hoarding resources.

I personally am experiencing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19 and would appreciate any assistance you can offer, even if it’s just to share this blog post.

If you are able please consider helping me financially during this time. My situation is quite precarious.

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