Isolation and Perspective

Perhaps it’s time for a bit of perspective. A couple of days ago I came across a meme about Anne Frank, basically saying that if she can hide in a basement for three years, we can self isolate for a few months. That struck a chord, but I’d like to add something to it: people are now moaning that they’re bored, stuck at home, not allowed to go out; yet for me it’s not that different from when, say, my powerchair breaks, or from when before I got my first powerchair and was dependent on someone else to be taken anywhere.

And I had it easy. Boy, did I have it easy. I know from the history of disability that it wasn’t long ago that people with conditions like cerebral palsy, particularly severe cp, were confined to institutions and long stay hospitals: unable to walk, feed theirselves or communicate, they were assumed to have severe learning difficulties and treated like babies in adult bodies. People like Anne McDonald, who notably likens her institution to a ‘sugarcoated concentration camp’: she endured around fourteen years of her childhood lying in a hospital bed, barely being fed. Unable to tell anyone her wishes, or that she understood what was going on around her, she was seen as little more than a breathing doll. She was spoon-fed mushed up food, rarely taken out for fresh air. Such horrific accounts litter the frighteningly recent history of disability. Indeed, Lyn went through something similar. I can only imagine the tedium and frustration of day after day of being treated like that.

I cannot help but think of such accounts when I come across people on the web complaining about having to self isolate for a few weeks. Even after all they experienced, people like Anne McDonald or Lyn do not bemoan their fate but take it in their stride; the same goes for my mates from school who had muscular Dystrophy. They knew how much worse things could be and counted theirselves lucky; they all had friends who did not make it. What we are all going through these days might seem harsh and restrictive, but I know that there are far worse fates to endure. I can get up when I want, choose what I want to eat, sip my coffee and browse the web. And in a few weeks or months, life will return to normal. People might feel isolated compared to the freedoms they enjoyed a few weeks ago, but perhaps they just need a bit of perspective.

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