I’ve seen some disturbing things lately about wearing masks.
On one hand, people not wearing them are immediately labeled as Republicans, right-wing whack-jobs, people who think the COVID-19 virus is ‘no worse than the flu’, or standing up for their ‘constitutional rights’.
On the other hand, people who are wearing them are immediately labeled as Democrats, left-wing crazy liberals, paranoid over-reactors, and sheep.
In other words, damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
So let me tell you a mask story.
A few years ago I was lying on a table. A warm, soft, pliable mesh was placed over my face and neck, and pressed tightly into place. It was held there until it hardened. Imagine how that felt. If you can’t take two fingers and press them against your throat until you gag.
That was the first step in radiation treatments. Every morning I was on that table, the mask pressed over my face, and then bolted down. Because I was receiving very precise radiation, no movement was allowed. Even if you thought you were holding still enough, you weren’t.
Eventually my throat swelled. Eventually I struggled to swallow water. And then eventually it was over.
At the time, I knew it was difficult, but during treatments themselves, I just daydreamed. I’m a pro at sliding off into my imaginary world. The staff gave me roses and a certificate afterwards for being the first person they’d had who was able to go through it without sedatives.
I convinced myself it wasn’t that bad. I truly believed that. It was hard, yes, but just something to get through one step at a time.
Now people are wearing masks. Stores require them. A co-worker brought me a package last week. I took one look at them, burst into tears, and had to leave the office because I couldn’t breathe. My throat closed up. I couldn’t swallow. I stood in the fresh air, telling myself over and over ‘you can breathe’.
My husband, being the brilliant man that he is, suggested I practice at home, putting the mask on as long as I could stand it and building up to being able to wear one. I tried that this morning. For maybe a second.
The flip side of this is that my husband has an auto-immune disease. So he wears masks out in public to protect himself. He has no problem wearing them and needs to.
In other words, when you see someone wearing a mask, or when you see someone not wearing a mask, there are more stories involved than simple judgements. More hardships involved than politics.
Please be kind, no matter where you fall in the spectrum of this virus specter.