I continue to be shocked by what I’m seeing on social media and from friends who are trying to not have full blown meltdowns. It’s image after image of stores completely cleared of all kinds of necessities by panicked buyers and opportunists who figure they might as well exploit this thing as not. There have been numerous articles full of preparation advice, lots of official announcements that begin and end with “wash your dirty hands” and a lot of people who seem to be legitimately confused about what to do now.
This is where I shine. I’m great in crisis. It might be because I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 19 (that was almost 21 years ago). The things I’ve learned in all those years of living with a chronic illness have taught me a few things, I think, and they’re probably things you could stand to know right now.
My First Bit of Advice: Deal With Your Emotions
You may not even realize that you’re feeling panicked, but if you’re hiding inside a fort of 1,000 rolls of toilet paper, it doesn’t take a pro to diagnose your anxiety.
These are scary times, it’s ok to be scared. If you’re not a little scared, frankly, you’re not paying attention. There’s no need for me to rehash the news, you know the numbers in every category grow daily and that America is in no way prepared to care for the number of sick we could end up with.
Just like when I was told I had Type 1 Diabetes and it would change everything for me forever, you’re gonna feel a lot of things.
You’re going to try to shrug it off, you’ll try to minimize the issue, you may even try to stare this thing in the face by doing something truly stupid (I’ve been there, I’m not at all judging).
You want life to go back to how it was last week. I know you do. But it won’t, at least not for now.
So, today, scream, howl, cry, punch a bag, meditate, drink copious amounts of coffee, do whatever you do when the worst comes and you are forced to have to deal. Do your thing, people. Do it and get it all out. We need to be clear thinkers come Monday morning.
You’re grieving and there’s no right way to do it. Even if it’s a temporary sort of grief right now, I know plenty of you are already counting your dead. I did it. I gave into despair. But as someone who has spent their entire adult life facing hard shit on the regular, I also recognized that I was falling into that pit because experience clued me in.
You may not have that to look back on, and that’s ok, too. That’s why people like me are here to help people like you.
Accept you’re having whatever emotions you’re having and work through them. One step at a time, ok? You will be ok if you follow the very good advice of medical experts everywhere. You will not be ok if you continue to panic and behave irrationally and neither will the people you come into contact with.
My Second Bit of Advice: Buy What You Need
Look, you don’t need to prepare for the zombie apocalypse. Yes, it’s going to get ugly and things will slow down a lot and we may even face a small recession over the novel coronavirus. What this isn’t going to do is end humanity as we know it or China would literally be wiped off the map right now. They got it first. They are not all dead. Granted, they have a very different sort of government that can enforce public health policies in a way those of us in the West cannot, but China’s experience is a strong sign that we, too, can handle this.
BUT, if you keep clearing out the shelves of every market, we’re not going to survive this.
You may feel pretty safe with your freezer full of goods and your cabinets literally stuffed to the gills with every kind of non-perishables. But remember that we actually live in communities that are made up of all sorts of other people. If you buy all the goods, you’re only fooling yourself. Your neighbor may not be in a position to purchase or store as much, which means that when their limited supplies run out, they may not be able to get what they need.
This is where a normal person stops to consider things. If you just thought, “So what?” you’re literally banned from my presence for life. Just like that. Be human, you goblin turnip.
Even if you don’t care about your neighbor, have some fucking sense. If they can’t get what they need, sick or not, they’re going to be hunting for it. That means they’re going out in public again and again, exposing themselves to risk and increasing the risk for your entire community. And you’re part of that community, whether you like it or not.
Bottom line: no goods at the shops means increased risk because of increased touch points.
If you have more than you need, see if that neighbor is ok. Ask them if they need a roll of your precious toilet paper, if they want to split some of the hand sanitizer you bought in bulk or if they could use one of the 17 turkeys you now have in your freezer.
Trust me, you’re not going to notice the difference over a prolonged timeline and all of that stuff has a shelf life. If all your neighbors donated one roll of TP to the old lady on the corner, she’d be in a lot better position than she is right now. It’s just one roll, dude.
My Third and Last Bit of Advice: Support Each Other
This goes back to the toilet paper generosity. One of the first things you learn when you’ve been diagnosed with something where you wake up every day knowing you might not have survived is that you only have this one day.
Every day is that one day you get.
If you’re lucky, you get another and another. But the time will come when you don’t. You can be a royal prick to everybody you meet or you can support others who are just starting to have that realization, it’s totally up to you.
You get to choose who you are, barring extremes like personality disorders, obviously. You get to choose if you’re going to be selfish and go down with your hoard or if you’ll lift everybody up by providing moral support, shaving off a little of your stock if need be, and making sure your community has what it needs by not profiteering off of this calamity.
Who are you going to be today? The sailor who kept the ship afloat or the selfish shit who helped sink it?