Below is the full text of a story shared by a woman who could not wear masks due to past trauma. Please contact Covid Stories Archive if you would like to use or reproduce this essay, in whole or in part, for your research or writing. Also, please consider sharing your own stories for preservation in our archive.
Before COVID I was a Democrat with other Democrat friends living in a blue area of a blue state. I felt a strong sense of acceptance and belonging where I lived
Almost 3 years later, I no longer live in the same place or have the same friend circle. Every part of my life feels different now and although I’ve landed in a better place there is so much grief and loss over what I’ve given up.
What happened? Well, I grew up in a super abusive environment and in that environment, I was suffocated by my father when he held his hand over my nose and mouth. Over the years I’ve done therapy and trauma work around that and other things and once I was more on the other side of that work being suffocated wasn’t something I thought about a lot. Until COVID and masks. (spoiler alert, for me a mask feels way too close to being suffocated).
Initially, I was on the COVID bandwagon and doing the whole social distancing, staying home, supporting all of the emergency proclamations, etc. I had just started a new job that happened to already be 100% remote, so my daily life and routine didn’t change that much.
As masks became more of a thing during 2020, I also wanted to do my part to “stop the spread” so I started wearing a mask. Well, trying to wear a mask. I felt claustrophobic and super anxious with wearing one, kept trying and trying but there wasn’t a type or fit that really worked. I also started thinking about being suffocated a whole lot more and quickly realized that wearing a mask was causing me a trauma response.
Being a good little Democrat that bought the propaganda, I researched other options for face coverings and one was a face shield. I was able to wear that just fine and for 4 or 5 months that was acceptable to the world around me. Until it wasn’t. I had been volunteering at my local food bank quite a bit and had sort of become the de facto lead of my group. Until one day I showed up for a shift and they told me that I couldn’t wear the face shield any longer. I tried to wear a neck gaiter instead for my shift, even with having it only on one ear and taking it off a whole bunch when away from others, I was up at 3am crying and screaming. This was the first big loss.
Also, I tried for a medical exemption with the food bank but they wouldn’t even consider it. No one else allowed me a medical exemption either. Apparently, in blue (Democratic) bubbles an accommodation for a disability is only granted when it is an “approved” disability.
I started staying home more and dreaded going outside to exercise even, as people would yell at me to put a mask on. I started finding places in more rural areas to exercise and that worked pretty well. No longer feeling safe in my regular exercise place was another big loss.
By then it’s around the end of 2020 and I’m looking forward to the vaccine and imagining that once I am vaccinated I’ll be able to be part of the world again because of course they’ll lift the mask mandate after people are vaccinated. Delusion number 1, I really underestimated the religion of masks.
I got vaccinated and masks requirements were lifted in many places for the fully vaxxed. For about 3-4 months in 2021 I was able to be part of the world and engage in most indoor activities again. But then the mask mandate came back, even if it hadn’t though people had already started retreating from in person activities and stores were putting mask requirements back in place. Losing these activities and the ability to go into businesses again was another loss.
The mask mandate started in late August 2021, and I felt hopeless and depressed. I was starting to question the narrative more and didn’t get why a mask mandate was even needed since even the fully vaccinated could get COVID and spread COVID. A study came back in September 2021 showing that cloth masks didn’t do anything and surgical masks only did a little bit. I remember telling one of my (now former) friends that and she looked at me like I was crazy and then went on to criticize people who weren’t wearing masks correctly. I started to realize that I was losing my friends, this was by far the biggest loss.
In September 2021 my husband and I went on a preplanned trip to another state (blue state but in a purple area), and I fell in love with the area. I still wonder if the falling in love was more because I felt safe there. Safe because no one was yelling at me for not wearing a mask.
We came back home and I felt even more depressed. After a couple weeks I reached my breaking point and told my husband that I couldn’t live in this city any longer. I told him I wanted to move to where we had just vacationed and he agreed.
Because I don’t procrastinate, that night we started the home buying process. We made more trips to the area to get more familiar and also to look at homes in person with our agent. In six weeks, we placed an offer on a home and then officially moved about two months later right after the holidays.
Moving was the best thing I’ve ever done. All of the sudden I felt safe again and wanted to be part of the world. There was a moderately ignored mask mandate in our new city, but I quickly figured out the places I could go where people wouldn’t care. The mask mandate was lifted a few weeks after we arrived and immediately masks came off everyone it seemed.
Since early 2022 I’ve gotten more distant from my friend circle in my former home and have become very disillusioned with the Democratic party. I would consider myself politically homeless now, that is another loss. I now have friends locally that I probably wouldn’t have ever been friends with 2 years ago, they have been great and I’m so grateful to have found their support.
I still feel so angry about having the culture of my former city turn on me. I also feel tremendous sadness and loss for having to give all of that up. Even though where we live now is a super desirable location in the United States and I feel like we upgraded, I still miss what my former city used to be to me.
I have found myself a therapist to get support around all of this and that is helping. I really want all the people who villainized me for so long to apologize and make amends. However I doubt that will happen and then I wonder how I move forward.
I wish I had a happy ending and it seems like moving to escape a bad situation would be that happy ending. However, life is rarely that simple and I don’t feel as though I’m on the other side of the pain and loss I experienced in 2020 and 2021. Thank you for listening to my story and I hope people can hear how painful this time was. We need to figure out a way not to repeat this, especially how we treated people who didn’t wear masks or get vaccinated.
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