I had a thought not long ago about the way different people have reacted to the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the things I noticed, or that I have come to believe, is that certain people have been able to handle the changes and the uncertainty much better than others. when considering the reasons why, there are three for me.
Chronically Ill Patients:
First, I am a professional patient. One year ago when there was no suspicion of COVID-19 being an issue, I was wearing a face mask to protect against pollen because it could cause an allergy attack that would become a sinus infection, and subsequently reach my lungs where it would become a respiratory infection sometimes requiring up to 8 different rounds of antibiotics and prednisone to beat it.
I have a bottle of sanitizer next to my bed, one in the living room next to the couch, and another on the counter in the kitchen. I always keep sanitizer in my purse. The two bottles in the living room and kitchen are approximately a half gallon each. I already had Lysol wipes and Lysol spray, blue nitrile gloves, at least one N 95 mask, and approximately one full box of disposable surgical masks such as the ones they used to give out in hospitals prior to rationing them.
I also had established accounts with Uber eats, Publix Instacart, and even Amazon grocery delivery. I have been meaning for months to transfer my prescriptions to mail order, but have not done so yet and I had relied heavily on my father and daughter to pick meds up for me when I was not feeling well.
As a professional patient, I was already used to washing my hands a lot, and anybody who has spent significant time around me has witnessed me jumping back on moving across the room if anybody coughs, sneezes, or even has a horse voice. Since I am immunocompromised, I am terrified of even a simple cold. A simple cold for somebody else that ends in a couple of days can take me out for six weeks at a time. If I’m unlucky, it results in a hospital stay.
My mother is a teacher. One of many in my family. Had I not become an attorney, I’m pretty certain I would have become a teacher or a photographer. One thing about teachers that has certainly been ingrained in me is to be ready for anything. There is just never a shortage of surprises and things you could never imagine when you put a bunch of kids together in a classroom. If you’ve ever seen the meme that says, “I know what you did last night, and so does the rest of the class,” rest assured it is true.
The thing I believe has prepared me the most, however, is the mindset of a military brat. I thought maybe this was just my own personal opinion, but several other people have mentioned it in some of my military brat groups online, and we have learned that we are certainly not alone in our thinking. Furthermore, being from a family of law-enforcement, and knowing how many retired/veteran members of our military have gone on to become law enforcement officers, I noticed that most of what is true for military families is also true for law enforcement families. Of course, having a father who was a military police officer meant I got a double dose of this particular upbringing.
Among the many things we have learned and picked up as children raised by and in the military (and sometimes law enforcement) world, the following have become clear evidence of how different we are than other people as a result of our upbringing.
1. Chaos/uncertainty. With the exception of first responders, such as police, firefighters and paramedics, Nobody is conditioned to expect chaos and uncertainty better than military families. We are used to it. Not only are we used to it, but this is precisely what our families trained for. When others are running away from danger, we are used to having a family member running toward it. naturally, we pick up some of those habits and many of us are quick to run toward dangerous situations to try to help others. It’s how we were raised. Children learn more by example that they do anything else.
2. Responsibility. Children raised in the military are some of the most responsible adults you will find. Responsibility is one of the most critical things taught to us. We know that the jobs are parents have or had were critical parts of the greater whole. We saw our parents fill a responsibility that often took great sacrifice. The sacrifice was not only made by the family member, but also by the spouse raising the family in the absence of the military member when here she is stationed away from home or sent away on temporary duty. Even the children must pick up more chores and help around the house more than in other families. The value of responsibility is ingrained in us from the moment we are old enough to understand it.
3. Fear. Because we live with the constant knowledge that Military family members may possibly not make it home, just as law enforcement families know their loves one may not make it home after each shift, we are used to living with that constant fear. So much so that it just becomes an accepted part of who we are. As a result, fear does not knock us down the way it does many in similar circumstances. We are simply used to taking fear on and pushing past it. We had no other choice. Now it is habit.
4. Preparedness. Military families are trained for disaster on a large scale. They are trained for survival. Most military families have enough food stored, including non-perishable foods, and much larger quantities than most people. Many of us have memberships to wholesale stores such as Sam’s Club, BJ’s or Costco. We buy in bulk. Sometimes this was because the pay was once a month and that would be when we went to the commissary and loadEd up for the month. Sometimes it was because we simply like to be prepared. In any case, we usually don’t have to do much shopping when there is a warning about a hurricane or something like… A global pandemic. Many of us even have MRE’s (meals ready to eat) on hand at home or in our cars to give homeless people.
5. Survival/defense. Most military and police families have seen some things. Those serving have seen much more, and the families benefit from that knowledge. Many families are taught self-defense, and most family members of military or police have been trained to use a firearm responsibly from an early age, and wouldn’t go without one as adults. Part of the survival/defense instinct is perseverance. We don’t give up easily. Nothing is impossible. Impossible just means somebody hasn’t done it yet. Naturally, we are prepared when we are told to shelter in place, and we know no matter how bad it gets, we will stick it out, and we will likely be the people helping others. It’s what we do.
6. Villages. not many places is it more true than in the military that it takes a village to raise a child. With many families missing a member on a regular basis, military families are completely used to depending on each other and helping each other. Even 20 years after my father retired and I became an adult, I have had veterans pull over to check on me because they saw a military symbol on my car, or a disabled veteran tag because my car was in my father’s name. As an adult, I still have this mindset and am often coordinating with other parents to do things for families or children who need a little bit of extra help.
7. Problem-solving. Because a family member is often missing on a regular basis, we learn how to do things many others in our shoes would not do. Children learn to use tools and fix things themselves at an early age. we learn how to figure things out for ourselves because sometimes we don’t have another choice. By the time we are adults, it’s just second nature for us to be creative and find ways to get things accomplished with or without any help.
8. Positivity. One thing we have no choice in learning is how to be positive despite very negative circumstances. If we walked around acting in accordance with some of the things we experience, we would probably scare people. Many of us use humor as a coping mechanism, and it’s not surprising to see someone laughing and kidding around, even during unimaginable trauma and loss. It’s sad to say, but we are often used to it. It’s not that we don’t feel grief, fear, or sadness. We just know we can’t wallow in it forever. We know how to move on.
9. Adaptability. If there’s one thing every military brat has learned, it’s how to adapt to change. Even when there’s not a crisis or an emergency, military families are always being moved from one location to another. Children attend many different schools and say goodbye to many sets of friends, I’ll need to be placed in a new city, in a new home, with new people. sometimes the new places and people are so different that we have to learn a new culture, and sometimes even a new language. This is something that benefits us throughout life in ways we probably never realize until something like this happens.
10. Loss. while we do remain positive in the face of fear, we must definitely do feel an experience loss. We grieve just like everyone else. However, we understand on a level many don’t that loss is sometimes necessary. Sacrifices are sometimes necessary. We know that sometimes it’s not fair that one family has to make the greatest sacrifice ever so that other families will be safe. There is no greater loss than this one, or one more noble. As a result, we learn to see loss not only as a sad event, but as a necessary part of doing battle, whether it’s on the field in a war, or in our homes during a pandemic.
In short, we have been preparing our entire lives for exactly this kind of situation. While we accurately read a situation and are the first ones to purchase necessary items before they disappear from the shelves when there is an imminent emergency headed our way, we don’t panic buy. We don’t panic at all.
Are we nervous? Yes. Some more than others. Some of us have underlying medical conditions that make us more vulnerable. Are we aware of the many possibilities that are scaring people? Absolutely. We know the dangers are very real, and we know what is likely even when we are being told differently by our government in an effort to avoid “panic chaos.”
What we don’t do, however, is complain about how inconvenient some of the more stringent measures being taken are to our daily lives. In fact, we are often trying to explain to others the reasons for the measures, and how to cope. We are usually the ones reassuring everyone else. Unfortunately, it also means we share information meant to be simply that: informative; however we forget that people not raised like us may take that information and process it in a way that terrifies them.
If you are not a military brat, a professional patient, or in another field that prepares you for chaos and uncertainty, don’t be afraid because we are sharing very real information with you. Pay attention to how we are dealing with it. Pay attention when we provide tips on how to get by. Pay attention when we offer help to others, and don’t be afraid to ask us for help. Pay attention to the fact that despite everything, we are still laughing and living every day to the fullest, whether we are allowed out, or confined to our homes.
Because at the end of the day, even if we were raised to expect uncertainty and chaos, we have also been raised to make the best of any situation, and we know how to navigate chaos with a smile. We know how to say difficult goodbyes. We know how to be separated from loved ones. We know how to give ourselves the best chances of staying alive when staying alive is not the given most of society has been raised to take for granted.