Welcome back to the blog!
Today marks one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. And since then, nearly all of our lives have been impacted, changed and disrupted by this virus and by the pandemic. We faced at least once, if not multiple times of lockdowns; we’ve been kept isolated, and away from our loved ones and our friends, in order to keep all of us safe; we get worried and anxious whenever we step out of our homes, and not to mention, not everyone has a safe and warm home to stay safe in; we learned to follow public health guidelines; we learned to wear a mask, to protect others and ourselves. No one could’ve anticipated our lives could be altered this much, but humans are resilient, and we’re able to adapt to change. As we continue to live through this pandemic, we also acknowledge, there’s been so much loss (of lives and of our daily routines), so much struggles (trying to make ends meet), and so much grief (of losing a loved one, or grieving of our old life before this crisis). But for the most part, we’re still all doing our best, pushing and moving forward. Because we believe, that one day, life could go back to normal, or, it could be a better normal than before.
Throughout this pandemic, I wrote several blogs documented my journey of living through this pandemic, through my eyes and experiences. From the first blog, I wrote on thoughts on COVID-19, just days after the WHO declared it a pandemic; to how I tried to keep myself busy while I stayed at home during the first lockdown; to mask wearing in 2020; to highlight on some of the accessibility challenges and disabled experiences of living through this pandemic as a young, disabled adult. As we all know by now, COVID-19 is an evolving situation, so our adjustments to change must be kept up to speed with that as well.
In today’s blog, I want to share with you, despite a year of loss, of challenges and of grief, I still managed to seek and find some positives from this tragedy. I found my own strength and resilience; I found new work interests; and I found the importance to keep things low and slow, just taking one day, one moment at a time. And I believe, not all of what’s been going on with this pandemic has been bad or negative.
To start off, when I said I found my own strengths and resilience, I meant that, throughout this pandemic, I really learned that “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have.” Because after all, for over 10 months out of the year of this pandemic, I lived through it physically alone, in my tiny apartment I call my home. I managed to take care of my physical health as well as my mental well-being. As a disabled and chronically ill person, I can tell you, this really challenged me, but it also allowed me to build my strength, and became a much stronger person (definitely mentally and emotionally). I remembered just a week before the first lockdown, and when people started panic buying in grocery stores, I was there one time and saw people doing that, I was so scared, I panicked, and I cried, in the grocery store, and nobody reached out to help me, which was sadly not a surprise, because I bet, people who were panic buying were also scared as well. But after that incident, I worked out a strategy, I went to the grocery store only in the early mornings, or I got things I need delivered to me. From this simple example, I pulled myself out of that fearful state, to coming up with a logical plan, and if that plan didn’t work, I’ll try to work out a different plan. Because I know, the situation with the pandemic is a serious one, so I also need to get serious, I have a job to do, and that job is to take care of myself, in the best ability that I can. And even as someone like me, who’s not that easy to adapt to change, I managed to do so, and building my strength and resilience along the way.
It is also during this pandemic, I discovered that my work as a disability and social justice advocate, I’ve been telling people with pride about this work since I started and whenever I share my own disabled experiences through blogging and public speaking, that is actually only just a part of what being a disability and social justice activist means, and there’s much more, to this very important work. Here, I’ll only give one example, but in the near future, I’m hoping to write a blog on activism beyond storytelling, and by then, I’ll be able to share more on my recent and continued activism work, that’s beyond just telling my own story.
The pandemic has revealed how disabled people have been and are being treated by our society and our governments. I for once, have been very lucky and grateful, for anyone and everyone that is in my life, for helping and supporting me, no matter in small or in big ways. I’m also thankful that there’re supports, financial or otherwise, to begin with. But, I’ve failed to acknowledge, that that support is very much inadequate, for many, if not, a lot of disabled people, that for instance, don’t have family, friends, partners, loved ones or professionals, to provide that extra support, especially financial support, for disabled people. If you didn’t know, I can tell you right now, being disabled can be expensive. We have a lot of needs that the average person don’t even think about. And yet, disabled people in general (especially those that don’t or can’t work) in our society (even before the pandemic), have been left out and living in deep poverty. Most social supports already exist in our society and made by our government, purposely put disabled people in poverty. People with disabilities have been helped the least by our governments in power, and provided with the least amount of support that not EVERY disabled person could apply or qualify immediately. Throughout this pandemic, I’ve read, heard and spoken to many people with disabilities, struggling to make ends meet, to pay their bills and to put food on their table, some even lost their homes or getting kicked out by their landlords and became homeless, in a global pandemic. Of course, many people in general also struggled, too. But supports for them for the most part, have been easier to get than supports for disabled people. And again, I still want to say, I’m grateful to have the support I have, I’m able to, for the most part, make my ends meet, before the pandemic and throughout this crisis, even sometimes just barely, but I still do and can still make things work. I have some of that stability, that a lot of disabled people don’t have, and are crying out (literally) and begging for help. I feel sad that I can’t physically or financially help them, I’m not in that kind of position yet. But, I still did things. Things like helping write letters, engage in campaigns, reach out to the few people in positions of power in our society, that have a heart to help disabled people. I also worked with other advocates on this very issue, to make our collective voices just a little louder and stronger. And I believe, if many of us do this together, and do it frequently, there’ll be people out there listening. So all there’s to say, I didn’t think I could be an anti-poverty advocate, but I guess, here I am, and there’s no turning. back. The pandemic made me realize, that sharing my story is good and important, but I could and should do more, that’s beyond just storytelling, and hopefully to bring real social change to the disability community. In saying all of this, there were times where I felt saddened, defeated and hopeless (not to minimize that), and that’s not because of my own circumstances, but because I couldn’t physically help those that are desperately in need of help. But through this experience, it also made me stronger, and love my job and what I do even more, and having the urge to do more, as much as I can.
If you recall, because of the pandemic we’ve all been told to stay home, and to stay safe. Many people that used to go to big office buildings to work traditionally, quickly moved to work-from-home. Students that traditionally learned and teachers taught in the classroom, started virtual learning. As a result of staying at home, some of my work has also been disrupted and changed. Even though I continued my blogging as usual, because I normally write at home. But, I’ve not been doing public speaking in front of people for over a year; I’ve also not attended in-person meetings or events for over a year. What I found from this (strangely) is that, my health has actually improved a bit. And that’s because, I’m not constantly, and physically on-the-move all the time. Because with my health and my chronic illness, most physical activities, even mild ones, are a challenge for me. Even though I very much enjoy attending events, or giving a speech, or going to meetings in-person, these activities tire me out easily. And this is not only true for work, but it’s also true for doing things like grocery shopping. Because of the pandemic, I go to the grocery store a lot less and sometimes, I get groceries and other essentials delivered to me, just so I don’t have to go out. So, in a way, the not having to physically go to a lot of places, and life since the pandemic has been relatively slow, had me realize, this is actually beneficial for my body. Working from home works well with me (except when I face accessibility/technology challenges!) This also made me realize, I was perhaps doing more than I should, or my body could handle. And even when the pandemic is over, I need to reassess, maybe I shouldn’t be going back to my old normal life before the pandemic, and should continue to take life slowly, one step, and one moment at a time.
To conclude, despite a year of pandemic, and a year of life being turned completely upside down, that created so much negativity into our lives. I managed to turn the negatives into positives; fear and anxiety into strength and resilience; building my work interests, and using my voice, trying to create actual social change for the broader disabled community. A year of pandemic, we can finally somewhat see light at the end of this very dark tunnel, it is so important to remain hopeful- our economies are slowly reopening and returning; we have vaccines (on the way to be distributed) to protect ourselves and to fight this virus. It could still be months away when we could finally see, shake hands with or hug our loved ones and friends again. Don’t give up hope now. We will get back to normal- or a much brighter and better normal. Just hang in there for a little longer, and we’ll all get there, together.
By: The Invisible Vision Project