Response to COVID-19 Podcast Episode – Guest Blog by Lexie Minett 

When I was looking for voices to help me collate my thoughts for my section on what COVID-19 means for chronically ill and disabled people, I got directly in touch with my friend Lexie. Lexie is in my #fullysickbusinesschick group so I had some idea about what she was going through during isolation and lockdown. Understandably, Lexie needed a moment to pull together her thoughts and this incredible message came through while we were wrapping up recording the actual episode, so, we agreed to publish her thoughts as this guest blog. Every word is hers, and is published here with permission. – Jay

“I am someone who lives life alongside PTSD and a neuro-psychiatric illness called Functional Neurological Disorder, caused by sustained emotional abuse, sexual abuse and domestic violence in a past relationship.

I am in constant negotiations with my physical and mental health in order to function at my best.

My life is now, five years after the violence ended, carefully constructed of things that meet my criteria for safety in the world as I know it. I practice mindfulness daily to keep my anxiety snoozing quietly within, am slowly learning to pace and I need to organise my daily routines in response to my mental and physical health at any given season.

Covid-19 has changed everyone’s life. Collectively, humans around the world are adjusting to living life around a pandemic. In a way, I expected my life to change more than it has. But, as someone with chronic illness, I live an isolated life already. It’s quite surreal in a way because the only real difference to my routine is a bit of extra hand sanitiser at my regular medical appointments and people staying the heck away from me and everyone else. The idea of a physical-contactless way of living is heaven to my PSTD wary soul.

At the very heart of my PTSD is my fear of people. Actually, it’s more the unpredictability of people. My abuser was unpredictable, he would snap at unexpected moments. Growing up with dysfunctional relationships at home as a very shy kid, taught me from an early age to read people in order to live as peacefully as I could. My physical safety was never at threat as a child, but as I entered that chaotically abusive relationship I learned to live in a constant state of wariness, tiptoeing around his triggers, the ones that I knew of, but then I would unexpectedly trip over a land mine and the resulting explosion would be terrifying and violent. This was the beginning of one of my most intrusive symptoms, the hyper vigilant state of mind my brain falls into automatically when things are unfamiliar.

When I go out into public (shopping centres, sports games, concerts) I have to use a variety of tools from my mental health toolkit to stay balanced, present and focused on the people I’m with and what I have gone out to enjoy. In the early days, because it feels like this pandemic has lasted forever already, during the peak of the toilet paper hoarding, Apocalypse prepping selfishness, I needed to get some things.

You see, I, along with many other members of our community, live payday to payday. I buy what I need, so when I run out of soap or shampoo, or the dairy free food products I need due to severe intolerance, I don’t have a spare in the cupboard.

I went to the shops early after seeing the stories on the news and friends posting on social media about the stockpiling, but I thought I was equipped mentally to calmly get what I needed. Holy shit, was I wrong! I entered the shopping centre and the intensity of the fear, the anxiety radiating off people, the frustration, anger, and impatience emanating from the packed line had an intense physical effect on me. I’m fine with (most) crowds now. A footy game, packed bar, everyone has a similar energy. They’re all going to enjoy a game.

This unpredictable energy, at a supermarket of all places, triggered my PTSD in a way I haven’t experienced since I was struggling through my first triggers, undiagnosed, without the care of a mental health professional and unmedicated.

My PTSD is on a tight leash now.

This sort of panic attack, the gradual feeling of panic in my body, like I’ve been slowly submerged in iced water until my body is shocked and my breathing gets stuck in my chest triggers a host of neurological symptoms, including temporary blindness, splitting migraines and myoclonic seizures.This happened two days in a row before I made plans with my family to help me to do my shopping.

My mental health has plummeted as a direct response to Covid-19. It was a confronting realisation of how low I had reached when I found myself assuring my trusted health professionals that I am not a danger to myself in order to get more medication because my last supply, taken as needed, didn’t last very long at all.

I’ve actually never considered myself to be disabled by my illness until these last few weeks.

So, as someone who can only speak from my personal experience, I ask that you go gently, with kindness and patience at the forefront of your interactions with people as we venture forward into this strange new temporary life.

Invisible illnesses are debilitating in the best of life’s circumstances, but they are just that. Invisible. You don’t know what someone lives inside their own minds. You don’t know that the person serving you in an essential business that can’t work from home might actually be relieved . Because work is safe, because going home and staying home means more time for their violent spouse to abuse them.

And please, don’t be so quick to judge, consider that the seemingly healthy, 30 year old woman entering the supermarket during the earlier hour reserved for the elderly or disabled, may actually be disabled by a host of debilitating invisible illnesses and this small concession allows her to live her life just that little bit easier.”

The Cackle Of Sisterhood 

It’s been at least a couple of years since Jay and Jen’s friendship was forged by a mutual fiery love of feminism and the power of wordsmithery. It took a global pandemic and things generally going to hell in a handbasket for them to throw all the right ingredients into a pot and birth the Shrews Untamed podcast.

When they’re not yelling, “I know, RIGHT?” at each other on FB Messenger, Jay is an award-winning copywriter and copy coach and Jen is an author with her first book in the works. They are also mothers, sisters, daughters, and both fans of the C word. 

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Disclaimer on historical and literary references, and views expressed on Shrews Untamed 

Unless we say otherwise, the history sources Jay and Jen mention on Shrews Untamed are from the dominant Western scholarly tradition. (That means Western history and literature was written by white men, for white men, and about white men – and a few very ‘good’ and very ‘bad’ women.) Through Feminist scholarship, the achievements, stories, and voices of women are slowly being ressurected from the past; some are lost forever. 

We acknowledge that for First Nation women and Women of Colour, the history books have been closed for much longer, and the pursuit of Herstory has not been equitable, or free of Western/colonial bias.

Unless we say otherwise, most of the literary references are made to Western literature. Western literature, poetry, and artistic tradition are all filled with the names, images, and stories of women – and of course, Western patriarchal bias which has dictated our history bleeds into literature and the arts. Whether writing based on Near-Eastern historical figures like Cleopatra, the Virgin Mary, and including Western fictional characters like our dear Kate from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew – each were envisioned and written by white men, and shown as white women, or fetishised exotics, for a largely white male audience.

The literary, cultural and artistic traditions, as well as current views of First Nation women and Women of Colour, or any non-binary person, should be told by people who have with lived that experience and/or tradition. And they are.

As we say in the outro, all opinions on content expressed on Shrews Untamed are our own. Jay and Jen are both white, CIS-het women; we can only speak with authenticity of our own white, CIS-het experience of Western culture and our world, and we do so without apology.

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Jay Crisp Crow acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters, and community. This business pays its respects to them and their cultures; and to elders past, present, and emerging.