• Cristina Waldner

Coronavirus World Pt. 3: News, Conspiracy Theories, and a Hall of Mirrors



Trick or… trick? It just so happens this week’s post coincides with Halloween but it's actually perfect timing. In this upside down pandemic, it has been difficult to discern fact from fiction from people just trying their best in a bad situation.


It seems we are all trapped in a haunted maze of trick mirrors. Once inside, it’s

so easy to get angry and confused at the hundreds of reflections and corridors vying for our attention and allegiance.

We see our loved ones going down a path we’re convinced is dangerous. We see others heading down another corridor only to turn around and try again.

Writing about Covid is hard, emotional work. It’s like looking our reflection straight in the eye. The truth isn’t always pretty and depending on the mirror, our flaws are highlighted for all to see. This is my reflection of media since March.

Mirror Obsessed


I had already been on a social media break for awhile but when Covid-19 escalated in March, I took two extreme approaches. I withdrew from social media and started to take in more news.


I went from someone who never watched the news to someone who spent 1.5 hours a day immersed in it, checking reputable sources and the Manitoba government website for case updates. I also became addicted to opinion talk shows like The Social and couldn’t wait to hear people’s take on the day’s headlines.

I craved finding out how others were handling the Covid crisis so that I could act accordingly. If people were doing y as a precaution, then shouldn’t I too? And maybe even z as well because of my pre-existing condition?


I desperately wanted answers to what I should do and where I fit into this new world. I looked to media to tell me where I belonged because my own world sure wasn’t giving me any indication.


When my mom and I went to a greenhouse in June, I felt people were judging me for being in a wheelchair and not staying home. I told my mom, “I feel I don’t belong in public spaces anymore.” Now, obviously I have no idea if people were judging me, but I was taking in too much media and opinions to think objectively.

When my family spent the first weekend together in early summer and I had no choice but to participate, I knew I had to stop taking in so much information. I quit being a news junkie and instead turned to Netflix and chocolate.



Try, Try Again


I do not regret being so informed. I think it is people’s responsibility to listen to medical experts instead of pseudoscience, but I also think it was important for my mental health to set boundaries around news and media.


However, as I watched a Zoom call put on by SMA specialists it was undeniable the added burden being placed on people with SMA. Let’s not forget, Covid-19 is a respiratory virus and SMA specifically weakens people’s respiratory system. The main concern of people with SMA getting Covid is how quickly it makes the lungs fill up with fluid. A person with a smaller lung capacity (me!) would struggle to breathe as a result.

Hearing this medical information, it was difficult to turn off the switch and pretend it’s safe for me to go out in my community or have a friend over for coffee.

For me, then, finding the right balance when it comes to media has to take into account both my mental and physical health.



Spot the Fakes and Run!


Notice that nowhere on this graph is a place for conspiracy theories. I want to be very clear here. Conspiracy theories have no place in the discussion of people’s well-being with chronic illness during this pandemic.


While I do not want to give a lot of attention to conspiracy theories, we can probably all name one or two “theories” that blame certain groups of people, organizations, or governments for Covid-19.


But what you might not realize is that every time a conspiracy theory gets passed around or bought into, it undermines a person’s life with a chronic illness.

People with serious health concerns do not have the luxury of going against the status quo.

This does not mean that I abandon critical thinking skills and blindly trust everything and everyone.


What it does mean is that I believe Covid-19 is a serious issue and not a hoax. It means that I believe people need to be avid about hand-washing, physical distancing, and staying home when sick. And finally, it means that I will be getting the vaccine when it comes out because it is my best chance at staying alive.


And that is a fact.

Conspiracy theories and ableist beliefs are a scary corridor in the haunted hall of mirrors. But it is not the only pathway.


I hope and pray enough people—out of decency and respect for themselves and others—will turn from harmful beliefs before it’s too late.

Take care,

Cristina

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