Please Don’t Use Your PTSD As An Excuse Not to Wear a Mask

Hey. It’s been a while. Since the last time I posted, a global pandemic broke out. Never thought I’d be writing THAT! This pandemic has created a chain reaction of dumpsterfires across the country and globe–but let’s face it, mostly across the country, because we in the United States just really seem to not effin’ get it!

From addiction medicine being totally interrupted and janky, leading to heightened fatal overdoses, to parents and kids being kept from contacting each other, to teens being arrested for not doing homework, to blatant horrific exacerbation of racism on the part of like every kind of authority figure and even regular citizens, to widespread hunger and increased devastation among homeless communities, to sneaky destructive laws being passed under our noses, and so much more….it seems like 2020 is the actual end times.

And maybe it is! For those of us whose lives have been decimated by society, that’s not completely unwelcome. But, still. Can we not make it worse by being selfish dumbasses?

Face coverings like cloth masks are being recommended by the CDC for all people traveling in public. Some jurisdictions are even enacting laws and ordinances requiring the wearing of masks in public–or else. That “or else” includes costly citations, which unfortunately turns a smart public health measure into a form of poverty policing and a war on freedom. Nobody should be fined or punished for not wearing a mask. Those kinds of laws are bound to disproportionately target low-income and unstably housed people, who may have more difficulty obtaining masks, and maintaining them–particularly if they are in public all the time due to homelessness. Some of them may not know why it’s important. These laws are also harmful to communities of color, particularly Black folks, who have already expressed credible fear about being targeted as criminals while wearing masks.

But that doesn’t mean it’s okay ethically to skip out on mask wearing. And don’t even try to mask your anti-masking as a pro-poor folks protest (come one, we all see through that one); if you are really concerned, you can do outreach and hand out masks to people who need them. Write to your local papers and representatives about why these laws are discriminatory–then be a good member of society, and wear the damn mask in the interest of public health, not because someone did or didn’t make you do it.

Most of us now know that masks are not 100% perfect at protecting against contracting the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19–but they are certainly far better than nothing. And, they are better at preventing someone who may be infected but not know it from spreading the virus, than from protecting the wearer from catching it (though they do help with both). Which means–mask wearing isn’t about you. It’s about everybody else. If you’re not wearing masks while around others, or you’re not wearing them properly on purpose, then you might be a sociopath.

One thing that I’ve been seeing around social media lately are people invoking anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as reasons to stop wearing masks. Stop it. Stop it right the fuck now.

I have PTSD. If you read my blog, you know that I have PTSD from severe abuse as a teenager and young adult; abuse which included restriction of my air flow to the point of seizure AKA near-death. Often that came in the form of strangulation; a few times, it came in the form of suffocation. A pillow over my face on my 18th birthday. Hands over my mouth and nose to stop me from screaming. If anyone understands how and why it can be triggering to wear a covering over my nose and mouth, it’s me.

But I’m not rushing to the doctor asking for an excuse note–even though I have felt hints of that breathlessness Trumpers have been exaggerating on social media. Why? Because I know it’s anxiety-induced. I know it’s in my mind. Which is not to discount anxiety symptoms, which are real and harrowing. But they are also treatable and controllable. I can work through them. Even if it means practicing at home, making my outings short, taking deep inhalations (yes you can do that while wearing a mask), or stepping away from people to pull it down and breathe fresh-feeling air for a few moments. I go through the trouble of managing my symptoms and wearing a mask even though I have PTSD because I know how awful PTSD is, and what causes it.

Remember, folks, PTSD is caused by extreme, often life-threatening events. That includes being suddenly forced onto a ventilator. It’s really not fair for me to cause someone else to get PTSD, go through months or a lifetime of recovery from COVID-19 related damages, or die just because I didn’t want to wear a mask.

I get it. PTSD sucks like hell. Genuine panic attacks feel like you’re dying–I was reminded of that last month when I had one (not related to wearing a mask). If masks are truly giving you panic attacks, it’s time to talk to your doctor about coping skills and possible medication. Recovery is possible. Managing your symptoms is possible. It’s work, but it’s worth it. Because, let’s face it, if masks cause such an extreme reaction that you feel you are justified in sacrificing everyone you come into contact with, and everyone they come into contact with, and so on…well, then, your PTSD is acute, severe, and untreated. And you need and deserve to resolve that.

Also, getting to wear a mask is a new level of social protection. You can hide your face. People stand back from you, and if they don’t, you have a great excuse to yell at them to back up. If you wear sunglasses and a hat, you’re full incognito and you have the perfect excuse. It’s protection against social awkwardness, facial recognition software, and COVID-19 all in one. Who could ask for more?

I got my crystal sloth and Pride masks from Ryan Henry Ward, beloved Seattle muralist, to give me a taste of home. But I also want to rep these Black face mask artists on etsy, whose beautiful products I am eyeing for my next buy:
Nola Masks Co has good reviews, fair prices, and super cute patterns (I call dibs on the rainbows).
Yeshorra Designz has Black Lives Matters face masks for kids and adults, as well as a lot of stylish activist wear.
Meraki Handcrafts Shop has hand-crafted, super comfortable looking, super cute and creative masks with great reviews. Her collection includes BLM designs, cotton prints, custom designs, and even bridal masks. She also sells bow ties!
Kay Kastle has simple, well-priced, comfortable-looking masks with good reviews. She also sells children’s character print masks.

There you have it for now! Stay safe–and wear your mask!

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