Five Things Longhaulers Hate to Hear: Number 1!

Hi, my name is John, and I’m a Longhauler.

Today we’re going to start the list of “Five Things Longhaulers Hate to Hear.”

So here’s the deal: People mean well. They do. I’ve been through some pretty bad stuff in my life, and I know that, when confronted with a difficult situation, good people stay stupid things. For example, a week after my first son, Jacob, died shortly after he was born, a very caring, loving friend said, “Well at least you’re young. You guys will be able to have other kids.”

Oh. My. God.

The fact is, people often don’t know what to say when they’re confronted with something that they can’t really relate to or that makes them uncomfortable. And Longhaul COVID makes people uncomfortable. People are “supposed to” get sick and then get better. For every person in your life, there are multiples of people he or she knows who have been hit with COVID, been sick for a handful of days and then recovered to go back to normal.

Beyond the rarity (for now) of us Longhaulers for most people, there’s the fact that we scare people. For those who haven’t been oh-so-fortunate to get COVID, our existence as people who are still suffering things they don’t want to ever be suffering makes them fear for their own safety and the safety of those they love. This is especially true of Longhaulers who aren’t 70-plus years old or with coexisting nasty conditions. If someone sees you, a relatively health 46-year-old, unable to function on some days, well, it’s hard to stop them from imagining themselves or their spouse or their child in that condition too.

So yes, I have sympathy for people who are confronted with Longhaulers. Frankly, I just want to help them. So today I start this list. I imagine this list is going to be longer than five as time goes on, but hey, I’m not above clickbait headlines.

These are in no particular order of egregiousness or annoyance or difficulty. But they all are, indeed, egregious, annoying or difficult.

Things Longhaulers Hate to Hear, No. 1: “How ya doing?”

Photo by Mental Health America (MHA) on

Americans suck at greetings. For every 100 interactions that begin with “How ya doing?” 99 of them do not mean “How ya really doing?” They mean “Hello. We need to have some sort of back-and-forth to kick this conversation off because it really would be rude to just jump into this.” Again, people mean well. We, as a species, simply are awkward.

“How ya doing?” is an enemy of the Longhauler because, well, most of the time, we’re doing pretty crappy. For me, most of the time I’m some combination of exhausted and/or brain foggy, I have a horrible taste in my mouth and whatever is going on in there is causing random lip and mouth sores, my left index finger aches/hurts and, if I’ve met you while walking down the street or something like that, I’m probably out of breath.

But dude. How many times can we say that to people? How many people really want to hear it? And if they’ve heard it before, do they really want to hear it again?

The thing is, we want to tell you how we’re doing. Because we need people to hear us. To understand. To help. But we don’t necessarily know who those people are who are wanting to get down in the trenches of this hell with us.

So we say: “Pretty good, thanks,” or some other lie.

Which can lead to all sorts of awkward. Some will follow up with: “Oh, that’s great! I’m glad you’re feeling better!” At which point we’re backtracking and telling people all the ways we’re not doing pretty good and feeling horrible that we lied to you. Others will follow up how most people, the 99 people who really are just using “How are ya” as a way to get into a conversation starter, will follow up: By starting a conversation. And if we really aren’t doing “pretty good” at that moment, that conversation can be extremely challenging. Brain fog, which is next to impossible to explain and a huge pain in the butt to live with, could make following that conversation really hard. It could also lead us to respond with something that makes no sense, as we try to say what we’re thinking but some other random word comes out of our mouths. Or we’ll start responding and then, suddenly, we’ll lose our train of thought and trail off into silence.

If you’ve asked a Longhauler “How ya doing?” you’re not doing anything wrong. You’re not a bad person. You’re not insensitive. You’re just wanting to talk and you’re following a societal norm.

But if you love a Longhauler, realize this: Something as simple as “How ya doing?” now has become a thing your Longhauler loved one has to navigate. It’s item 1,921 on a list of things that used to be easy and is now… not. So no, we don’t expect you to stop asking “How ya doing?” Just be aware of the struggles your Longhauler is facing. And every once in awhile, throw in a …

Things Longhaulers Would Rather Hear, No. 1: “I got you, bro’”

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If you know of a Longhauler in your life, they need you. Because, man, this sucks. I have been through a lot of stuff in my life, faced many, many challenges that have knocked me down. I’ve always gotten back up. This one, though? This one knocks me down day after day after day. Future blogs will detail the many hardships and indignities that come along with being a Longhauler, but one of the biggest is how freaking isolating this can all be.

So if you can say, “How ya doing?” you can also say, “Hey man. I got ya, bro.” (Correct the pronouns for the situation so as to not show ignorance of your Longhauler loved-one’s gender, yo.) What does this look like? Check-ins, texts, cards, emails, hugs, visits, words of encouragement, the simple asking of “How ya really doing?” so that, if we need to, we can vent.

Dude. Just be there.

We need you. Help us. If you don’t know how, figure it out. You’re in our lives for a reason. You got this.

John Agliata is a professional storyteller. You can try to start a conversation with him by emailing him, commenting or sending him a carrier pigeon. He was diagnosed with COVID on Nov. 14, 2020 and is now officially a Longhauler.


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