Individual Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.
As if coming down with Covid weren’t bad enough, a lot of people are feeling something else along with their physical ailments — shame. Especially for people who felt like they were being responsible — getting vaccinated and boosted — contracting a “breakthrough” case comes along with a feeling that somehow they just weren’t careful enough.
Writing for HuffPost, Julia Ries says “If you contract Covid-19 this winter, it by no means indicates that you made a mistake, behaved selfishly or weren’t ‘good enough’ at preventing its spread. The coronavirus has mutated to be significantly more infectious than it was in 2020, and even those who have been strictly adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance and recommendations are now testing positive.”
Our attitude about the virus and people who contract it was heavily influenced from the beginning of the pandemic by the advice government officials gave. We were told that staying home would save lives. Consequently, people easily believed that anyone who contracted the disease wasn’t following guidelines and was simply being selfish. It’s a classic recipe for creating a stigma.
But there’s a problem with this attitude. “This type of all-or-nothing messaging,” writes Ries, “disregards the fundamental needs people have. (Not to mention it also ignores a large group of people who can’t just stay home ― essential workers.)”
The omicron variant of Covid is changing the game. It’s simply so contagious that no one will be able to hide from it. Dr. Anthony Fauci said that “Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody.” So if you have been infected or know someone who has, give yourself or them a break — it’s not some kind of moral failing. It’s simply the nature of a virus that is rapidly becoming endemic to every country in the world.
Of course, simply saying don’t blame yourself is a lot easier said than done. Many people who have been infected are tending to isolate themselves for fear of being judged. That’s not healthy.
The answer is to try and look at the pandemic from a different perspective. “It’s important to recognize that you aren’t alone — the pandemic has happened to all of us,” says Ries. “It can also be helpful to accept what you cannot change. We live in a world where an extremely infectious virus rapidly spreads through communities.” Citing a clinical psychologist well versed in the mental health aspects of the pandemic, she stresses that it is important “to recognize two truths at the same time: One, that we should continue to be as cautious as is reasonable in our lives, and two, recognize that we can only do our best in a world where there is a prevalent risk of transmission.”
Consider that it may be time for a change in thinking. If you catch Covid, give your family, friends and anyone you’ve been in close contact with a heads-up. Then do what you can to feel better. You don’t owe the world an explanation.