Navigating a global pandemic with disabilities brings its own unique barriers and opportunities. From India, Nishita shares how they navigated the height of COVID-19 and its impact on their family, health and wellbeing.
With regards to my disabilities and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) during the pandemic, I found myself in quite the fix – as I found myself under a pile of problems unlike any other. Not only did my family and I get COVID during the pandemic, we depended on ourselves to take care of each other as most people would (understandably) not approach our door due to the virus.
As luck would have it, my uterus decided it was the perfect time for me to get my period. The calendar that I use to track my cycle indicated that it arrived a week early. With the four of us already terribly sick with fever and vomiting: I was in a lot of pain, was extremely fatigued and lethargic, and experienced a lot of back pain (that still hasn’t left though it has been a year).
My family and I caught the virus around the same time that the Delta variant was ravaging my country, India, in the spring of 2021. As luck would have it once again, we had delta as well. The hospitals were past their capacity. It was only with a lot of luck and prayers that my parents managed to get hospitalised . My brother and I weren’t so lucky. My tampons ran out and so did our medicine. As the most able-bodied person at home, I had to go out of the house to get tampons. I felt like I was dragging a 100-pound meat carcass up the road to where the pharmacy was, an issue that would not have been as severe had it not been for my early period.
'My tampons ran out and so did our medicine.'
I managed to get through it, pain and all. However, even after recovery – for about a month or two after – my menstrual cycle kept acting odd. Since I had never been admitted to a hospital, no one checked on my menstrual health. So I didn’t even know why it was acting off. This happened only after I got COVID. I could find no answers online other than conspiracy theories made by tin hats saying that the vaccines would make you sterile. There was absolutely no information about odd menstrual cycles after getting COVID.
This made me feel left out in many ways, both as a woman and a COVID survivor. There was so little information or care given to those who had survived the curse of the virus. Everyone was too busy mourning the dead to care about the living who survived and avoided the same fate. We were not asking for all of the attention to be on us, but even a little bit of help would have been nice.
To be on the safe side, I started taking food supplements on a regular basis which really helped and brought my periods back to normal, eventually. But it was a solution that I had figured out by myself. My disabilities, especially my ADHD (Attention-Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) , were perhaps the worst aspect affected by COVID because of the brain fog. The brain fog worsened what ADHD has already caused: distraction and inability to filter and control dopamine levels in the brain. The brain fog clouded some memories but somehow it also sharpened my most traumatic memories. This situation worsened my trauma disorders. I worked hard to avoid going into panic attacks but kept getting triggered for around four months after getting COVID.
Things related to having COVID are still triggering. There is a genuine fear of going to hospitals whatever the reason, or stepping outside because it’s so unsafe. However, it is something I’ve been working on – along with looking after my reproductive health. I am now in a better place to understand/manage my long COVID conditions, though it remains unsettling how little information there is regarding the condition and its effects on reproductive health. Thankfully, I’d already gone to therapy before this happened so I was able to work on myself and manage my triggers. It took a lot of time and a lot of work, but I did manage to do it for the most part.
About the Author: Nishita A S is a student from Jyoti Nivas College Autonomous in the final year of her BSc degree. She is a student with ADHD, PTSD and CPTSD. She has an interest in the arts and will try anything creative if possible, along with a keen interest in learning new skills.