Digital oil painting on canvas showing a city on fire, zombie hands trying to climb out of a pit, and a nude red-headed white figure hugging their knees to their chest.

The Breaking Period: Follow-Up


Just over a week ago, I wrote about the uniquely horrified and yet unsurprised understanding held by disabled people who predicted this watching the pandemic “breaking point” (aka breaking period). Early this week, I got news that the breaking period had graced our close friend group—and it was anything but graceful.


The breaking period crashed into one of our friends like a stampeding herd.

I was prepared. But how can you really prepare for the news that a friend’s 21-year old sibling dropped dead in the shower from a brain aneurysm?


The answer is, you can’t. Not really. And yet, this entire week, through all of the tough conversations and tears of agony, I did not break. I did the opposite of break, actually. I turned myself into a boulder. And I shouldered the storm. I stepped into my roles as expert scientist and “responsible” friend. It’s a truly awful experience to be the one to keep everyone else grounded in reality, because I know the stakes in this fight.

There is a memorial in a few days. Everyone wants to “just forget about covid for the day.” Feelings that I won’t just let it go range from annoyed to offended. I know there is a strong sentiment that I’m “acting like a total bitch.” I know I’m right. I know if we threw a superspreader event to celebrate the life of someone who died from “mild” exposure that we would all look back in ten years (if we are still here) and ask what the fuck I was thinking. I know surviving this means not caring that people will be angry. I know surviving means ignoring their anger instead of resenting it, because if they also survive, it’s now extremely obvious that everyone will need support. It’s already fairly impossible to grapple with. They probably won’t change their behavior after this. I’m terrified it will take several more instances of this before the reckoning comes. Which is a really tough spot to be in when one of our parents finally had their reckoning when we broke the news to them today. I don’t know if you’ve every experienced someone go through several “stages” of grief in quick succession, but if you haven’t, it’s heartbreaking in a way very few other things are. (Side note, this immediate reaction is also why I hate the idea of grief “stages”—these are really responses to tragedy, and they are incredibly dynamic)

Dealing with the breaking period of the pandemic as a disabled person and covid-realistic scientist means letting them break down in despair to you while swallowing the anger over how preventable the thing was. It’s sitting with “I told you so” and saying “I love you, I’m here” instead. It’s doing all of these things knowing you will likely never get a single apology or thank you. It’s doing these things knowing you’ll do them a few more times with the same people, watch those people return to ignoring prevention, and open your arms again when tragedy hits again. And it’s dealing with their guilt, because they know, and they know that you know, that you told them this would happen and their response was to tell you to fuck all the way off instead of listening.

To everyone trying (and failing) to move past covid, take a serious pause and reflect on where we are at. Don’t wait for the tragedy. There DOES NOT NEED TO BE A TRAGEDY. You don’t have to submit yourself to a life where it is normal for 21 year olds to drop dead when everything seemed fine. If you learn nothing else from this essay, I hope you understand that the covid realists are not trying to win some game by being right—we tell you the hard things because we know how much it will hurt if the tragedy hits. I hope you understand the love involved when your friends and family warn you about the harms of covid infection, that they aren’t trying to ruin your life or “be controlling.” And I hope you realize that it’s okay to change, that your significant other will probably forgive you (they may not bring it up at all!).

This week was hard. Right now it feels a little like the world is burning and all I can do is watch. Next week will not be that much easier. I will keep fighting. I have no choice. And I will be here, waiting, with my amazing peers in the disabled community, to welcome you with open and non-shaming arms.

Digital oil painting on canvas showing a city on fire, zombie hands trying to climb out of a pit, and a nude red-headed white figure hugging their knees to their chest.
Digital oil painting on canvas showing a city on fire, zombie hands trying to climb out of a pit, and a nude red-headed white figure hugging their knees to their chest.

Want to view my process for the digital “oil on canvas” pictured above? Watch it here:

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