I have COVID-19 PTSD.
According to the Henry Ford Health System, I have event-triggered anxiety and avoidance. This occurs when you become easily anxious or upset by anything that reminds you of the event, and you go out of your way to avoid coming into contact with these reminders.
No, I’m not a front-line worker, and had to deal with the horrors of seeing people die daily. But I did have COVID myself, and although it was one of the worst illnesses of my adult life, it doesn’t scare me. What scares me is reliving the trauma of the last 18 months, the separations, the job losses, wearing stupid masks.
I hate masks. But I wore them religiously. (And I really don’t want to again, but I will if I have to.)
And as soon as I was able, I became vaccinated.
That’s what scares me the most and puts my own mental health – something I fought for hard the last three years – at risk.
No, I’m not scared of the vaccinations. I’m pissed at the yahoos who aren’t getting vaccinated for political reasons.
I understand those whose health may be compromised by the vaccine, or those who may not understand enough about the vaccines due to socioeconomic status or language barriers that are keeping them unvaccinated. We can get to them and explain why it’s so important. I’m pissed at those folks who listen to Tucker Carlson – and believe him – and the misinformation they read and believe out there that is keeping them from being vaccinated.
No, vaccinations don’t make you sterile. They aren’t a Russian plot to implant a device in you. They aren’t trying to turn everyone into AO-C supporters.
They are quite simply an amazing way to save your life and others.
And I’m not on a political soapbox here, although I am really pissed at people who won’t get vaccinated because “It will make Biden look good.” Last time I checked, it was President Trump who ordered Operation Warp Speed to develop the vaccines. He himself was vaccinated and urged all Americans to do the same.
I am on a health soapbox, a physical and mental health soapbox.
I’m not the only one. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Thursday called for a national effort to fight misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines, urging tech companies, health care workers, journalists and everyday Americans to do more to address an “urgent threat” to public health, according to the New York Times.
In a 22-page advisory, his first as President Joe Biden’s surgeon general, Murthy wrote that bogus claims have led people to reject vaccines and public health advice on masks and social distancing, undermining efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic and putting lives at risk.
His warning comes as the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations has slowed throughout the U.S., in part because of vaccine opposition fueled by unsubstantiated claims about the safety of immunizations and despite the U.S. death toll recently passing 600,000.
Misinformation about COVID-19, deemed an “infodemic” by the World Health Organization, can be just as deadly as smoking, he said.
“Misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation's health,” Murthy said during remarks to reporters Thursday at the White House. “We must confront misinformation as a nation. Lives are depending on it.”
Murthy goes on to say that social media has to step up and reduce the spread of misinformation about the vaccines. In a response to Murthy, Twitter noted that it has removed more than 40,000 pieces of content that violated its COVID-19 misinformation rules.
“We agree with the surgeon general,” Twitter said in a statement. “Tackling health misinformation takes a whole-of-society approach.”
Murthy's recommendations went beyond tech firms. Teachers, he said, should expand lessons on media literacy and critical thinking. Journalists, he suggested, should work to responsibly debunk health misinformation without inadvertently spreading it further. And public health professionals, he added, should do a better job answering questions and explaining why public health guidelines sometimes change based on new information.
For instance, here’s a stat: For those who are afraid of breakthrough cases, those cases of COVID-19 that the vaccinated contract, you’re more likely to get in a car accident – way more likely – than get COVID again.
And here’s another “anecdote” from Erik Fredrick, the chief of staff at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri: Most of the patients who are currently hospitalized, and those who are the sickest are unvaccinated. “We really have seen less than 4 percent of the patients who are hospitalized that are fully vaccinated, and we have not had any vaccinated patients in the ICU level of care yet,” he said.
“Misinformation hasn’t just harmed our physical health — it has also divided our families, friends, and communities," Murthy wrote in the advisory. “The only way to address health misinformation is to recognize that all of us, in every sector of society, have a responsibility to act.”
There is a ton of more evidence out there reported by responsible journalists and healthcare workers alike: vaccinations save lives. Even those yahoos – and I have no trouble calling them that, although my son and many others have harsher names, and many of these yahoos are educated and live in million-dollar mansions – who won’t get vaccinated. For those of you who aren’t vaccinated, despite medical science backing up most of the vaccines, you are killing yourselves and others. Maybe not through COVID-19, because we’re vaccinated. But through the mental health anguish you continue to put this country through.
It’s a physical emergency now, especially with the Delta variant dancing its way across the U.S.
But it is also a mental health emergency. And that, more that the physical emergency, will destroy us all.