Society Living with Corona is Like an Individual Living with an Autoimmune Disorder.


For anyone unfamiliar with autoimmune disorders or chronic conditions, let me break it down for you. An autoimmune disorder occurs when leucocytes (the white blood cells responsible for initiating an attack to clean up a foreign invader to the body) become confused and begin initiating attacks on the the body itself when there is no actual foreign invader. The body's defense system occurs in the form of inflammation, which is why a fever often accompanies an infection: the body is trying to kill it off with heat. However, in the case of autoimmune disorders, there is no foreign invader and the body begins causing inflammation in places that would be otherwise perfectly healthy.

As somebody who suffers from autoimmune disorders and has helped bring relief to others with them, I won't mince words: it sucks. Certain things like coffee, gluten, alcohol, sugar or even nightshades that can trigger an inflammatory response in an afflicted individual can be very difficult to avoid. And when you're expected to give up simple pleasures that you've been accustomed to enjoying for a significant amount of time in your life, it brings stress, another trigger of inflammation. Imagine looking forward to that coffee and bagel in the morning or that glass of wine at night and knowing the detrimental effect it might have on your body. Then walking past cafes or going to social events and watching others indulge when you can't. Sooner or later, people crack and just say "The hell with it, I'm going to face the consequences." Down goes the beer and up comes the inflammatory bowel syndrome.

People all over the world, but particularly in the US, just decided that the consequences of avoiding social gatherings was unbearable and they would risk going out on Memorial Day weekend, the Fourth of July, or that they would stand in complete denial of Covid-19 and ignore it all together. Low and behold, numbers have shot up and ICU's are running out of space. New York learned this lesson early and locked down as soon as they saw what a problem it would be while the rest of the nation watched in horror. Now, they've cautiously reopened a few things while they tread lightly, and other state legislators have decided to pretend this isn't real.

Now back to the afflicted individual. Imagine what happens to a person once the body goes into remission from an autoimmune flare up. The complicated part of this is often once remission is solid, people can enjoy the things that previously caused them problems without consequence. But trying to break that daily or weekly ritual once you flare up again is often more difficult than when you had to avoid it all together, because you had already become accustomed to your new reality. The other things that can be difficult is that the road to remission is confusing. One must be sure remission has really been established before going back to that coffee and bagel. If they indulge too soon, everything flares up and they have to start over again...sound familiar?

Arizona, unlike New York, had started to flatten the curve as the number was barely in the 2000 range of affected cases. People all across the state had accepted the shelter-in-place lifestyle. The governor mistook the slowing case numbers for remission. And residents followed suite once Gov Ducey ended shelter-in-place, they just decided, "Hey, the bars are open so it must be safe right?" Yes, our elected official are secretly virologists and they're just too humble to tell that to the public so you can trust that they know exactly how to handle this pandemic, just like the current president. Now AZ has one of the highest number of cases in the country.

People with autoimmune diseases make the same "winning" decisions upon buying food because it's not as if food products have labels that say, "Warning: gluten and sugar might cause pain and discomfort for people with the following conditions; arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Hashimotos syndrome, etc." And that cupcake goes right in the shopping cart because the label didn't say you shouldn't eat it, right? And let's be clear, most MD's are not trained nutritionists so many of them don't necessarily give dietary recommendations, they often just order diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, or refer out to specialists.

Whether it's a politician or a doctor, people often hear and believe what they want to hear and believe. A gastroenterologist years ago told me my diet had little affect on my inflammatory digestion and I was naive enough to believe him because I wanted to continue eating and drinking the things I enjoy. Deep down, I knew that wasn't true and I still continue to delude myself into making these same mistakes, especially when I pass a pizzeria. Oftentimes, I end up paying for it too. We all have our weaknesses.

Likewise, if our elected officials tell us that it's safe to resume business as usual, people think "Yes!" and if they tell us it isn't, then some of us decide that our rights are being trampled on or that it's a big conspiracy. I'm certainly not knowledgeable in this field, but I don't think we have the luxury of deciding whether or not we want to listen to the health experts, not if we care about society at large.

But there's one difference between Corona and an autoimmune disorder. I might not be the one who pays for going to a crowded beach during the holiday, but my family might, or my friends, or a complete stranger. The simple fact is that we're not in remission yet, and while Europe is beginning to open up again, we have yet to see how well Italy, Spain, and their neighbors do once the masses begin assembling. Is Europe really ready to reopen? We'll see, but it's clear that we're not.

Masks suck, avoiding human contact sucks, gluten and sugar free products often suck, and it sucks that sometimes we don't all have sensible bodies or governments. On the surface, life isn't fair and we don't all have to live through the same lessons. Had I not been afflicted with ulcerative colitis, I would never have become a healer and I think I would have been much more prone to alcoholism. I was lucky to find purpose in a miserable predicament.

I wonder what God, Mother Nature, or the Universe wants us to find as a collective. If you want to attend a gathering, just ask yourself though, is your body worth it? Is your family worth it? Is your neighbor worth it? Is your country worth it? If the answer is "yes," then please take care of yourself until we have all figured this thing out. It's obvious we don't and it just might be a golden opportunity to find humanity's true role for this earth.

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