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COVID, Ableism, and Your Voice

Radical self care and advocacy through acute and chronic illness

As a voice therapist who uses her voice and breathing for a living, while battling a mystery chronic illness since 2019, I have fiercely protected myself from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Before the vaccines, I was terrified of the effect COVID-19 would have on my everyday debilitating symptoms. Protecting myself from the virus involved boundary setting and speaking my truth. I had to become comfortable with saying, "I don't feel comfortable with that."

My risk was relatively low on a day-to-day basis since I have been working via Telehealth and my virtual voice studio. I would always wear my mask when going in and out of stores. My friends are also very health conscious and aware of my situation.

I am beyond grateful for my support system.

When I was exposed to COVID-19 in Fall 2022, became symptomatic and tested positive within 5 days, scared was an understatement. I knew I would be okay, but would COVID prolong my chronic illness? Would this prevent my body from fully healing? Would this lead to a host of other long term chronic symptoms?

I don't have the answers to these questions quite yet, but I do know that I trust my body's ability to heal.

Trust me, I knew it would happen eventually. But I was hopeful that I would be further along in my health journey before coming in contact with it.

Now, I'm not saying that the entire world should close down and we should all just live our lives terrified of this virus! But what I would love to bring awareness and attention to are the ableist and privileged views surrounding COVID.

For the average young and healthy individual, COVID may present itself as a common cold or at worst, a flu. However, to say "COVID is not a big deal anymore" is extremely dismissive towards the thousands of disabled and chronically ill individuals still at high risk.

Politicians and public state officials have deemed covid less of a threat because it mainly sickens the elderly, disabled, and chronically ill.

As if the elderly, disabled, and chronically ill lives serve less value than able-bodied community members.

When the vaccines became available, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses struggled for priority access. Focusing only on age was not sufficient enough to reach everyone at high risk. Additionally, accessing vaccines and tests are not easily accessible to those who struggle with mobility and/or travel.

One morning while battling covid, I woke up and couldn't turn my voice on. It was as if the way I felt silenced and unseen was manifesting itself in my throat. I attempted to take a deep breath, which resulted in a coughing fit. My voice eventually came back later that day, even though it lacked its natural healthy resonance for several days following my voice loss.

Feeling silenced and unseen can manifest itself spiritually, physiologically, and emotionally, and can cause deep physical pain along with a feeling of isolation.

If you have suffered from chronic illness, long covid, difficulty with breathing, voice changes, neurological conditions, and/or any particular challenge, I see you. I hear you. Your concerns are valid. Your symptoms are real, and you are not alone.

As I navigate chronic illness, I am aware that I am at a much lower risk than thousands, perhaps millions of other people battling much worse, but I can be a voice for those who feel unseen and unheard. Disabled lives matter. Chronically ill lives matter.

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