Life In Quarantine: Surviving a Pandemic
I asked each of the Gestalt team members to share their thoughts about the quarantine and what life has been like for them during this difficult time.
Having a Chronic Illness During a Pandemic
By Dawn Hosmer
This is a difficult time for many of us with fears about COVID-19 and the impact it could have on us, our family, our finances, our future. As someone with a chronic illness, it has been a mixed bag of emotions for me. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease fifteen years ago, and my condition has progressed so much over the years that I’m no longer able to work outside of the home. I devote all my time and energy to writing now. Because Crohn’s is an auto-immune disease, my immune system does not function properly. If everyone in my family gets a cold, all of my family members will be over it in about a week. For me, a simple cold sometimes lasts months. In addition to having cold symptoms, my disease also flares up because my body gets confused – instead of my immune system fighting the cold, it attacks me instead.
I had to quit working in social work several years ago because of this. At the time, I was working with inner-city children in a large public school system, and I picked up every single illness imaginable. As much as I hated to stop working, I knew I had no choice if I wanted to have any chance at being available and present for my family. For the past several years, I have become a pro at social distancing and isolating because every time I leave the house, it seems I end up with some illness.
In some ways, I don’t think this has been as hard on me as it is on others because of my chronic illness. I’m used to being afraid of illnesses and germs because I know what they will do to my body. I’m used to staying home most of the time to protect myself. I’m used to being cautious when I go out in public in terms of wiping down carts and washing my hands. Many of the things that are now being asked of the masses are things I usually do just to stay safe.
But, on the other hand, this disease terrifies me because I know if I catch it, I will probably get very ill or die. I’m not trying to be dramatic, just realistic. If I catch COVID-19, my body will not be able to fight off the illness and, if by some miracle it does, my Crohn’s would flare up so badly in the process that it could kill me from complicating factors. At the very least, if I catch it, I have no doubt I’ll end up in the hospital, probably in the ICU.
Prior to everything in the State of Ohio going on lockdown, my anxiety was so high every single day when my husband would return from work or my son from school. I couldn’t even see them as people anymore. Instead, I saw them as giant germs that could potentially kill me. That was an awful way to live. I cried tears of relief when our Governor shut down the schools, and my husband’s employer announced he could work from home. Because finally, I felt like I had a fighting chance of making it through this pandemic. I have no doubt that if my husband and son continued going out into the world each day, I would have the virus by now.
The other thing that’s been hard for me during this is how dismissive some people can be when talking about the virus. Some are calling it a hoax. Or I’ve seen comments where people are dismissive about the seriousness because they aren’t elderly, nor do they have underlying health conditions. I’ve seen people continue going about their daily lives without taking the necessary precautions, and it infuriates me. Each time I read a dismissive comment or see someone not taking this seriously, it feels like a personal assault against me. It feels like they are saying my life doesn’t matter. If I die, it’s no big deal.
Guess what? To my family and me, it does matter. I’m only forty-nine and have a bucket list a mile long. I’m not ready to die because someone might feel inconvenienced by social distancing. I have four kids, and I’m about to be a first-time grandmother. I want to be able to hold my grand-daughter, watch my thirteen-year-old son grow up, see my other children get married, and possibly raise children. I have many more books to write, and so much life left to live.
I hear many people say they can’t wait for life to get back to normal. I’m envious of this because, for those of us with chronic illness, the current state of things will probably be our new normal for a long, long time. It will have to be for us to protect ourselves against this new, unseen enemy.
I wonder how this will change us as a society. Or if it will. While some people aren’t taking this as seriously as I wish they would, I see others making enormous sacrifices for the greater good. I hope that moving forward, we cling to that and look out for those around us in a non-selfish, caring way. For those of us who have underlying health conditions, it could save our lives!
Coping with Life Under Lockdown
By David Voyles
I feel a little guilty.
Social media is full of the anguish people are experiencing due to the varying degrees of quarantine they are living under. Many are worried sick that they aren't going to be able to keep their jobs. Others are literally sick with the virus or caring for family members that are sick and are fearing for their lives. Some folks I know with compromised immune systems deal with the constant anxiety of not knowing when, or if, they will ever be able to resume a normal existence.
And then there are those who flout the restrictions, defiantly brandishing their semi-automatic weapons as they protest the tyrannical government that won't let them out to get a haircut. I'm not even going to comment about that. If I allow myself to go there I'll never shut up.
Meanwhile, I go about my daily routine in my writing loft pretty much following the same routine I've followed pre-COVID. My wife and I are comfortable, lower middle class I'd say, so we can survive a financial catastrophe or two, like a major roof repair, a refrigerator breakdown, or god forbid, a medical emergency before we'd find ourselves homeless, unlike many I know who live paycheck to paycheck. I live pretty much like a hermit, secluding myself for most of the day, joining my family around 5pm for one beer or glass of wine, the news (PBS NewsHour, if anyone cares), and then my favorite programs which will include some sort of horror movie or series.
I haven't sacrificed anything. I haven't gone out of my way to serve the community, unless you count ordering take-out from a family-run business in order to help them stay in business. Don't think that's gonna earn me the Medal of Freedom. (Although if Rush Limbaugh can earn…stop! Not gonna go there either.)
Perhaps the most civic-minded thing I do is to offer anyone who happens to read the spillage that leaks out of my head and creeps its way into their world an escape from the real horrors they are facing these days.
That, and the encouragement that I do care about what you are going through, and that I believe that like every catastrophe we've endured before, this, too, will end. That in spite of the craziness the best of humanity does surface. If you look for them, there are hundreds of stories of wonderful EMT's and first-responders and other truly essential personnel who risk their own lives to offer comfort and service to the rest of us.
Writers are by nature reflective souls, reflective in multiple meanings of the word. We reflect about our own existence and the world we find ourselves in. And then we hold up a mirror to show humanity itself, warts and all, whether that be through fiction and non-fiction books, thoughtful articles, insightful poetry, or yes, even crazy horror stories. And we hope you'll do some reflecting, too.
So maybe I am doing my own small part.
Bottom line, no matter what's going on in our lives, I don't know of anyone who can say no to the question, "Mind if I tell you a story?"
David Allen Voyles would like to invite anyone who wants to hear a story and escape this world for a few minutes to join him at his Dark Corners podcast at gestalt-media.com/darkcorners and also to download his free horror story "Captain Buchanan's Return" and receive bi-monthly email updates of his spooky projects with stories and videos of Eileen, the three-legged mama bear and her adorable cubs at https://dl.bookfunnel.com/y83ic544jh
Blood & Tears
By Ryen Lesli
How am I coping with the lockdown?
I’m not. Not only am I out of candy, the Warrior is needy. You know, it’s unnatural to spend this much time with your life partner. In all of our almost twenty-two years of unholy matrimony, this is the most time we have ever spent together. And I’ve come to the shattering realization that the main reason we’ve been married for so long (besides the naughtiness) is because I work out of the Haven, he goes into the office.
My breaking point came when he wandered into my office, wanting to have a serious conversation about making bread. The pros and cons. Now, I was in the middle of an emotional scene, sad music playing, heartbroken, and surrounded by death. My rage was instant, my beautiful, silver dagger-letter opener within reach…as my hand slowly inched across, I had visions of blood and tears…but the Warrior sensed his death. (he always does) He took one look at the dagger before he gave me the look, you know, the look. My violence turns him…violent.
The next thing I knew, I was being dragged out of my office and across the hall to our bedroom. When he slammed the door behind us, I smirked. Maybe having a conversation about bread wasn’t so bad after all…
Blessings & curses, whichever you have coming for you and as always, your dark Witch.