Sometimes on the journey, it’s necessary to compartmentalize and focus on one emergent section, but it’s always connected. It’s important to take a step back occasionally and see the bigger picture. Now, with so many veils ripped away, the picture is A LOT to take in. An individual can’t heal without their community. It demands a lot of time, and I’m taking my time with it as much as I can. I’ve been giving the whole picture my fullest attention, which has often been actually very fragmented.
This letter has a lot of densely-packed ideas and information. Please take it at your own pace, and reach out if you want to process some of it with me or someone else you trust.
There are three intertwined pandemics I’m holding right now, and we need to pull together to address all of them:
The information about the longterm effects of COVID-19 has continued to come into fuller focus. This is a serious virus that can be deadly, but even when it’s not, it can change lives. Put simply, inflammation is one of the top causes of disease and aging, and this is a very inflammatory virus. Do everything you can to avoid getting it.
There is evidence that wearing a mask reduces viral load and therefore reduces severity. Please always wear a mask when you are indoors with others!
And rest as much as you need to even after you think you should have fully recovered. The post-viral phase is crucial as your body works to clear out pockets of viral material in multiple organ systems. Common longterm symptoms include debilitating fatigue and inability to concentrate, and may seem to be intertwined with anxiety and depression. They resemble the same multi-system mystery conditions that I’ve studied and successfully treated for years.
Ideally, you will get herbs early, or not, and have a mild two-week case, end of story. But for anyone who is struggling with symptoms long after, I can help them get through that. This work is deeply rewarding for me. No one should experience these symptoms without relief and support.
The beautiful and terrifying thing about this virus has been the way it has revealed the severity of other, ongoing pandemics. The way it is creating opportunities to address them, and creating immediately harsh consequences for trying to ignore those opportunities. Why do some of us feel such rage right now? In my own case, it’s coming from a part of me that doesn’t want to change. I see people denying the reality, and it reflects back an image I don’t like of myself, denying reality for the sake of convenience and ease. It’s a lot of f***ing reality in our faces right now! Especially if we’re white and have had ways to stuff it away (onto others) without really noticing. But we need to take back our share, and chew through the reality, tough as it is, one bite at a time.
Systemic racism is a health crisis that has been mismanaged in this country, with its effects suppressed and lied about. We all have struggles, but the color of our skin shouldn’t be one of the reasons we struggle. We can all get sick, but the color of our skin shouldn’t automatically increase our chances of dying. The way to address it is to keep educating ourselves – I’m speaking as a white person to a group of people who are mostly white. Keep examining our roles and assumptions, keep centering Black leaders, and keep showing up when there’s heavy lifting to do.
July 20th has been set aside as a day to strike in support of Black lives. If your absence at work would make an impact, please consider joining. In my work, my presence makes more of an impact, so I will be working that day, and making a donation to support BIPOC families in need. Visit j20strikeforblacklives.org for more information.
The third pandemic is one I’ve been banging on about for years, mostly ineffectually. Isolation and loneliness are killing us. Trauma is isolating, capitalistic stratification is isolating, heteronormativity and cisnormativity and all the ways we feel different and othered are isolating. Post-viral, amorphous, longterm disabilities like I described earlier are isolating, as is white supremacy in all its explicit and implicit forms. And then, like a snake eating its own tail, isolation is itself traumatizing, making us feel helpless and frozen and unable to reach out.
I know how powerful it can be to feel seen and heard. For some, the epidemic has meant profound touch starvation, and acupuncture is a safe way to nourish that very human need. Consider making an appointment for that. My hours are still very limited, but if you’re reading this letter, we have a connection that’s important to me, and I’m here for you. We’ll work together to work together.
Another way to connect is around the Refuse to Return movement. Acting with others is profoundly healing, and standing up together in recognition that life is valuable in itself is healing. The lives of children, teachers, healthcare workers, and their families are more valuable than the economy. Insisting that schools should only open when there have been no new cases in an area for 14 consecutive days is a way to say that we choose to care for each other over caring for companies and profits. There can be no economy without healthy people interacting with each other. You’re welcome to join the movement on facebook or twitter, or, as always, to talk with me about it if you want.
Finally, if you’re interested in reading some of what has been influencing me lately, please enjoy the following (with frequent breaks to stretch and breathe and drink water and listen to your body):
The Political Consequences of Loneliness and Isolation During the Pandemic by Masha Gessen
The Pandemic is a Portal by Arundhati Roy
Teachers: Refuse to Return to Campus by Harley Litzelman
An Open Letter About My Health by Elena Delle Donne
COVID-19 Can Last for Several Months by Ed Yong
Shouting “self-care” at people
who actually need “community care”
is how we fail people