So, it’s now “Freedom Day”. After watching people attack disability activists for supporting the delay this last month, here it is. I watched last week’s Downing Street briefing from behind my fingers. The Prime Minister stood there ignoring all of the figures. Chris Witty and Patrick Valance flanking him, giving his b*llocks an air of respectability. Both of them appearing to be trying their very hardest not to outright say “I don’t agree with this decision.”
Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Delves about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way.
When mask wearing became mandatory in July last year, I was mostly still not leaving the house. We’re a high risk family, and I felt the government were too hasty in unlocking everything.
When I did have to pop to the shops, I’d don a reusable mask (trying to combat waste) and more often than not I’d only just finish my shopping before having to run outside to fresh air to stave off a panic attack. Face shields were slightly better, although they did elicit some funny looks, and there was still an issue with allodynia where the sponge rested on my forehead.
Back when I was legally blind instead of totally blind, I was lured in by covers just as everybody else was. If I spotted a brown boy on the cover, I’d eagerly pick up the book, wishing to read different perspectives and experiences, and even injustices. I knew a lot about my own injustices as a gay blind man, but I was very ignorant of the system’s ways of stomping on POC every chance it got.
Almost 25% of the British population are disabled, not every disabled person is required to shield, or may be mask exempt, but myself and millions of others are. So we should be entitled to exercise that right without fear of repercussions.
In the time before Covid, being deaf in a hearing world was tricky, but manageable. Those of us living with hearing loss found ways to handle our interactions with hearing society, be that technology or interpreters. For the most part we vaulted our hurdles as naturally as walking. It meant adaptations and hard work but, in the main, we got along with the status quo.
But then the world changed with the arrival of Covid-19 and entirely new hurdles presented themselves; tall, mighty and unmovable. Our strategies had to adapt, and we were going to need help.
It’s been an awful past 12 months, I don’t need to tell anyone that. For disabled people it’s not just been the threat of the pandemic that’s been weighing on our minds. Ever since lockdown was announced last year, disabled people were the first to be thrown under the bus and it hasn’t stopped.
By now you’ve probably seen what the government thinks constitutes for a week of meals adding up to £30, but just in case you don’t inhabit Twitter let me whet your appetite.
‘My body is betraying me’
This was the thought that flitted across my mind the first day the post-Covid fatigue took me down. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, actually betraying me, but I was upset and felt helpless and needed to be melodramatic for a moment.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been the idea that the way to fight Covid-19 is to lock down all of those who are vulnerable and have life continue as normal for all that are healthy.