Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler.
Many people honestly struggle to see the world through anything other than their own filters. People believe the world is a certain way because their world is a certain way.
If you want Reason No. 1 for why things suck, there ya have it.
The truth is that the world bears little resemblance to your world because it is impossible for one person to have enough experiences to know how things work for even a tenth of the people out there, let alone all of them. Having an America-centric worldview turns this reality into a danger. I put forward that you have absolutely no concept of history, poverty, racism, economic disparity and many, many more important things if your anchor point is the United States. We are a charmed nation built on a false narrative propagated by government-sponsored education, which is a fancy way of saying that the average American don’t know shit about fuck.
It should surprise no one that so many of us come out so myopic.
The counterbalance to all of this is empathy, which I would suggest is the most important trait you can teach the next generation. The ability to truly understand the life of another is invaluable in bridging gaps caused by a system that survives and thrives on divisiveness. If all of us made it a goal to learn how to walk a mile in the shoes of someone who is absolutely nothing like them, this world would be a better place to live and people would spend a lot less time unintentionally hurting others through their thoughtless ignorance.
So if you accept this might be true, the question becomes this: How do we cultivate empathy?
It’s takes just one simple and incredibly difficult skill: Listening.
Here’s a truth that isn’t up for debate: People love to tell you their story. In what they say, what they do, what they are a part of, what they avoid, what they wear, what they listen to, what they buy, people are constantly telling you about themselves. Listen well enough and you’ll be able to understand most people quite easily.
The problem is that most people don’t listen — they hear and think that’s good enough. It’s not.
Hearing is passive. Air vibrates. Our ears and brains are magnificently and miraculously designed to pick up this vibration. All you have to do to have hearing happen is freaking exist.
Listening is something completely different, about as different from hearing as appreciating a finely cooked meal is from taking in calories via an IV drip while you play your 27th consecutive hour of video games. Listening is active. It involves hearing those air vibrations but adds the element of thoughtful attention with a dash of consideration for the talker’s experiences. In other words, to listen, you have to pull your head out of your ass or, these days, your phone.
Let’s talk about an example, and I’m going in full-throttle: If your response when you hear someone say “Black Lives Matter” is to knee-jerk it with “All Lives Matter,” I would contend you haven’t listened; you’ve merely heard (and/or are trumpeting the party line/right-wing 24-hour news station, which is a more egregious form of stopping at hearing). To listen would be to engage in some thought about the interplay between history near and far with current events from a viewpoint other than your own to see that it is actually quite possible and quite valid to, at this point in time, put forward the belief that Black Lives Matter without it meaning that Black Lives Matter More. Feel free to disagree.
So if empathy is extremely important to our future and listening to the viewpoints of those with different experiences from our own is key to developing empathy, why do so few of us spend so little time indulging in anything other than what reaffirms our own opinions? So many people’s entire belief structure is formed without any input from anything other than those who are veritable clones.
If your entire world is made up of people who, in response to your opinions, say the equivalent of, “Preach it, Brother!” well, I would say you’re doing it wrong.
Longhaulers Need Empathy
In my experience as a Longhauler, I have found empathy to be in extremely short supply. To be fair, walking a mile in the shoes of a Longhauler is challenging because Longhaulers themselves aren’t even sure what shoes they are wearing, and neither do the doctors. That said, I have found a stunning lack of effort among people who would love to consider themselves my friends and family in actually listening. It’s one thing to read an article and pass it along. It’s another to get down into the dirty, dank, fetid trenches with a Longhauler and — because he can’t leave either — stay there with him.
Yeah, I get it: Trenches are icky.
Bring a pillow.
I have spent many months giving a lot of people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their tepid “support.” Last weekend, I kinda sorta lost my shit and said “Enough’s enough with that particular line of crap.”
Because here’s the deal: Like I said before, people want to tell you their story, so it’s not particularly challenging to listen if you’d just stop being a hearer and engage your brain and your heart. Longhaulers are everywhere telling their story.
Need a suggestion? Bullshit your way into a few of the Longhauler Facebook support groups. It wouldn’t be particularly difficult. In fact, if you know and profess to care about a Longhauler, you don’t have to lie at all. You just have to honestly answer the questions about how Longhaul COVID has affected your life.
But yeah yeah yeah… I know that’s a bridge too far for many “supporters.” Why gain a truer understanding of what Longhaulers are going through when you could just… not? So let me bring some of this stuff straight to you and maybe you can strap on your listening boots for a while.
From D: “One of the new symptoms I’ve been experiencing along with all the others is really bad night sweats. Has anyone else experienced this bizarre symptom? I appreciate anyone’s response.”
From A: “I had Covid in November and lost my taste and smell, it came back after a couple weeks but not completely and things are starting to taste weird again almost like I’m losing it. Anyone else experience this?“
From K: “Anyone feel weird in the head and feeling like they are dreaming all the damn time… and anyone having non stop leg pain?!”
From G: “Hey guys, anyone dealing with hair loss? A lot of hair loss? 😔“
From A: “Has anyone been approved for FMLA through their employer? How long? I was approved and it lasted 26 weeks. Now it looks like I may not have a job to go back to. I am 6 months out from having Covid and haven’t been released to go back to work yet.”
From J: “Any one suffering from angular cheilitis they just won’t go away I tried 3 antibiotic serum I’ve tried antifungal cream etc and nothing they kind of heal throught the day however the next morning there back and worst“
From S: “My symptoms are all neurological, fog , taste , smell, headaches , sinus pressure and ear pain. Eye pain as well.”
From R: “Debating on whether to go to ER this morning (which I know they will do nothing), I feel worse than I ever did or to go get tested again, which if I am positive, what do I do? I feel like I want to die! 14+ months and this is the worst day yet!“
From J: “I am 10 months out and for the past week my nose has been running soar throat itchy ear and now chest tightness feels like it’s hard to breathe a little bit has anybody else a longhauler experience any of these symptoms? I’ve been getting flareups once or twice every week where I feel like crap.”
From L: “Anyone experiencing bloating all the time?“
From S: “Has anyone found anything to help with the extreme fatigue? It is ruining my life. I have a toddler and don’t have any energy to keep up with her whatsoever. I feel so bummed constantly. Fully vaccinated as of 2 weeks ago. Pfizer. Helped with the headaches and some brain fog but the fatigue has not let up.”
From D: “I was wondering whether any of you are teachers and how are you coping back at work?I’m a music teacher and I’m not back in school yet but would like to be ASAP! I tested positive mid November and am only now managing to do a few online video lessons. I’m terrified that I can’t just go for a lie down and/or that my words will fail me due to the extreme brain fog! Any tips/tricks/hints greatly appreciated.”
From S: “My family and I were all infected in March 2020. 3 out of the 4 of us have daily long term struggles. My 16yo has recently developed chest pain. His ecg shows a P wave inversion. Anyone else had P wave abnormalities and what was the diagnosis.”
From V: “Do people recover from long hauler symptoms or is it permanent.“
I didn’t have to comb the depths of the interwebs for these statements. This is from one support group in one 24-hour period… and this isn’t even close to all the posts. I de-duped based on symptoms that were repeated frequently and left out the occasional, “I managed to go on a walk today for 10 minutes!” celebratory posts.
An Open Message to Those Who Care About A Longhauler
If you’re still with me, I know you’ve now heard these cries for help and care and concern from Longhaulers. But are you listening? Are you giving some thoughtful appreciation to what is being said, delving a bit deeper than just the mere words that form the sentences? Are you sprinkling in some consideration for the daily fresh hell Longhaul COVID has brought to so many people’s lives? Are you taking the time to pause and honestly ask yourself, “What if that were me? How would I feel?” And, more importantly, are you following up those questions with, “Who would I need my friends/family to be if I were a Longhauler?”
Then for the love of whatever the hell you hold to be holy, GO BE THAT PERSON! This isn’t difficult! It takes no abilities you don’t have. There’s no sort of extrasensory perception going on here. If you can hear or read the printed word or understand sign language or body language, you can do this!
So why are Longhaulers struggling so hard just to get people who are supposed to care about them to pay some damn attention to what’s really going on and even sometimes to have them read the shit they’re writing?
I would hope that all of us would put the existence of an unknown pathogen that is seriously fucking up people’s lives as a “big thing” that might deserve some daily priority attention and extra consideration. And if you can’t put yourself on that list with some significant regularity, do you think you might need to spend a few hours re-examining what you’re spending your time on? Because I do.
Listen! Stop merely hearing and L I S T E N!
Find your Longhauler right now. Let them know you are listening. Get in the trenches. Stay there.
We need you.
More From ‘LONGHAULER: A COVID Diary’
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩A Year of Hell 😷Where’s Ben? 💔Profiting From Pollution 🏭 Happy Covidaversary to me. On this day one year ago, I had a Q-tip shoved up my nose toContinue reading “Happy Covidaversary To Me — Nov. 15, 2021”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Lindsey is perhaps the most positive person I’e ever met. I worked with her for about six or seven years last decade, andContinue reading “Inside the Fight to Be Positive About All This”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. There are times in a person’s life in which he finds himself wondering how he got where he is. I remember feeling thatContinue reading “Ozone and Ultraviolet Rays? What the Hell?”
Hi, my name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I finally have had enough. I have sat in my workspace and listened to a coworker talk incessantly about why she wouldn’t beContinue reading “To Those Who Refuse to Be Vaccinated, Jump Off a Bridge”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. To tell someone suffering from a chronic illness such as Longhaul COVID that “This too shall pass” is to invite a punch toContinue reading “Why You Shouldn’t Say ‘This Too Shall Pass’”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Saturday was a really, really good day that capped off a really, really good week. Ever since I changed my diet after visitingContinue reading “A Look Inside the Uncertainty of a Longhauler’s Fight”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. When the coronavirus epidemic shut down the country in March 2020, Kent Taylor refused to accept his base salary as chief executive officerContinue reading “Longhaulers Are Killing Themselves; Here’s Why — And What You Can Do To Help”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. It was a quarter ’til why-do-they-start-school-so-early on a Monday morning, and I was about to kick Mike Tyson’s ass. Of course, if historyContinue reading “From Mike Tyson to Choo-Choos, a Lesson in Brain Training”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I have never and likely will never meet Jeremy Devine. Nor will most of you. Yet that doesn’t stop me from thinking itContinue reading “Redefining the Talk About What’s In Our Heads”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. There are several truths in my family, among them: When my wife says we’re leaving someplace in 10 minutes, go ahead and getContinue reading “COVID Teaches Me I’m … Good at Math?”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. It’s an odd thing to one minute be talking about your childhood and the next be telling the same person how many bowelContinue reading “Why You Might Want to Give Functional Medicine a Shot”
Dieudonne became a part of our household amidst chaos, grief and weariness. Objectively speaking, it wasn’t a good time for us to welcome a 4-year-old with medical issues who didn’t speak a wordContinue reading “Into This Crazy Life, We Bring an African Child”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I’m quite convinced that most adults have at least one of “those stories.” You know what I’m talking about… the stories that getsContinue reading “(My) Top 10 Ways to Cope With Longhaul COVID”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I can do stuff. Some of it, I can do easily all the time. Some of it, I can do easily some ofContinue reading “Five Things Longhaulers Hate to Hear: Number 5!”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Over in another part of this site, you can meet my California relative, Q.F. Conseco. His branch of the family tree is byContinue reading “The Bizzaro World of Magic Mouthwash”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. It is a fact that I would be a 46-year-old high school junior if not for Amanda Bortz. To put it mildly, meContinue reading “The Prednisone Experiment and the Scientific Method”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Come with me on a journey through time… Way back in the early days of the plague, back when the number of peopleContinue reading “A One-Word Definition for COVID: Isolation”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. And I’m about to lose my shit. Here’s the truth: I am about to break. And the scary thing is, I can feelContinue reading “And Now, An Epic Longhauler Rant”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. So let’s put this all out there. All of us. Collectively. As Longhaulers. Let’s just list it all. Everything. All the symptoms. Oh,Continue reading “The War Against Insomnia — And Longhaul COVID”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Six tiny white pills are piled here on the desk next to me this morning, and I’m going to take them. These pillsContinue reading “Six Little Pills Offer One Last Shot”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. It was jarring to be back in a doctor’s office waiting room today, to hand over my insurance card and driver’s license toContinue reading “Hunting Gnome-Took-A-Dump-In-Your-Mouth-itis”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. This morning on my 41-minute drive to work, I was a different person. Two people, actually. Bad versions of those two people, toContinue reading “The Difference Between Good? and Good.”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I was late to the game for the TV show “House,” but I caught up quickly. I love the concept of the flawedContinue reading “Dr. House Isn’t Walking Through That Door”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Driving down a rain-soaked highway, the morning sun cutting through angry black clouds at a severe angle. Cars flying past me on theContinue reading “Sometimes You Just Have to Sing”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. “Your insurance doesn’t cover it, so it’ll be $90 if you want it,” said the kind young woman who would be present asContinue reading “If You’ve Got a ‘Best,’ You’re a Lucky Longhauler”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I have never wanted so badly to have a cavity. Or an impacted wisdom tooth (whatever that is). Or need a root canal.Continue reading “Please Don’t Shrug Your Shoulders; Just Drill My Tooth”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. It takes a lot to get me outwardly, visibly angry. This is not to say that I don’t have a temper or thatContinue reading “Five Things Longhaulers Hate To Hear: Number 4!”
Hi. My name is John, and I am a COVID Longhauler. By the time the doctor came into the closet-like exam room in a non-descript medical building that is part of an enormousContinue reading “Top 3 Tips for Running a Longhauler Clinic”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Her name is Sarah and she lives across an ocean and the only reason I know her at all is because, despite aContinue reading “Five Things Longhaulers Hate To Hear: Number 3!”
Hi. My name is John, and I have Longhaul COVID. It’s 4:15 p.m., and I shouldn’t be writing this. I should be resting. My body is screaming at me to rest. But rightContinue reading “What ‘Longhaul-COVID-Tired’ is really like”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I am blessed to have a really good feel for people. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but I just knowContinue reading “The Really Nice Woman Who Tried to Kill Me”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I grew up in the suburbs of New York City, a white middle class kid in a mostly white school district. And IContinue reading “Beastie Boy Lyrics? Yup. Did I pee? Hmm”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I hate you, CNN. I hate you for many reasons, of course. You pioneered the 24-hour news cycle, which is what kicked offContinue reading “Why exactly am I getting this vaccine?”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. So this afternoon I go to see an actual doctor at an actual doctor’s office. He will look into my actual eyes, theContinue reading “What should my expectations be of doctors?”
Hi. My name is John. And I’m a COVID Longhauler. If you missed the first part of this series, well, that’s fine with me, but you might want to read it for aContinue reading “Five Things Longhaulers Hate to Hear: Number 2”
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. My earliest symptom of COVID was this horrible, disgusting, metallic taste in my mouth. Before the exhaustion, before the brain fog, before theContinue reading “The Invasion of the Mouth Sores”
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’veContinue reading “Five Things Longhaulers Hate to Hear: Number 1!”