We’re Exhausted From Bearing The Burden Of Others’ COVID-19 Irresponsibility

by Katie Cloyd
Originally Published: 
Mother and small son with face mask indoors at home
Scary Mommy and Halfpoint Images/Getty

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, I’m finding myself more and more exhausted. In the beginning, it was the fear and boredom that were hardest for me. Then, I moved into a period of time where the social isolation felt like a physical weight on my chest. My fear has subsided, replaced by a healthy respect for this virus. Boredom and isolation are still taking their toll, but my newest overwhelming emotion is just sheer exhaustion.

I continue to follow all the strictest guidelines because I am committed to giving society our best shot at getting this beast under control.

My family is staying home as much as we can. We are limiting our socialization to a select few people who are being as careful as we are. We are only going into public places for groceries and work. Every one of us wears a mask, washes our hands frequently, and carries hand sanitizer. When I need COVID-19 pandemic info, I vet my sources. I get my science from scientists. I check major health organizations for current recommendations. I’m doing the very best I can to be responsible for the long haul, as hard as it is.

I am exhausted by my efforts, not because they are really hard, but because living a totally abnormal life for months on end is just sad and boring and lonely.

But that’s not all of it.

I’m so tired of being so careful and watching so many other people do whatever the hell they want like this thing is over!

I’m not talking about the “live and let live” kind of people who are making different choices than I am. They make me nervous, too, and I wish they’d be more careful, but they’re not actively contributing to my exhaustion.

It’s the vocal, outright pandemic deniers.

God help me. I cannot with these people.

The conspiracy theories are plentiful (and bonkers), but whatever the reason behind their denial, there are people who just flat out refuse to do anything to acknowledge that this COVID-19 pandemic exists.

They will not be bothered to wear a mask. Worse than that, they are on a weird crusade to make sure nobody else wears one either. Baseless theories about what masks would mean for their oxygen levels, (nothing) their carbon dioxide levels (also pretty much nothing) and their civil liberties (again, nothing) abound.


They quote some random Facebook repost from some guy who claims to be OSHA certified as a reason to buck the scientific consensus and information from actual experts. (OSHA actually stands with the CDC mask recommedations.) Pandemic deniers unabashedly walk around in our stores and communities, weirdly proud of their outright refusal to cover their faces.

They make fun of people like me, sharing memes about how paranoid we are, calling us sheep, and believing they have some kind of inside info on this pandemic that people who trust actual science don’t have.

They intentionally misinterpret statistics to downplay the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, then they share that manipulated information with well-meaning people who think it’s true, and voilà.

Another pandemic denier is born.

It’s all so similar to the anti-vaccine movement. Have we learned nothing from that total nightmare? Why are some people so dead set against disease prevention? It’s baffling.

The truly infuriating part is that the “paranoid sheeple” like me are providing some level of protection for the very people who call us idiots.

We are staying home, which means smaller crowds in stores and public places.

We are wearing our masks, which means, if we are exposed, we are less likely to spread the virus. Some of our salivary droplets will be caught in our mask and not make it onto a nearby person or surface. People like me are still sanitizing our hands, and keeping our distance. We know the recommendations have changed a few times, and we are the ones who have trusted the experts and changed our behaviors to match.

“Sheeple” like us are keeping our kids home as much as possible, and when we take them out, we require them to wear their masks, too.

We know our masks don’t protect US—but we wear them to protect YOU in case our best efforts aren’t enough to stop us from contracting the virus.

And when we get back home from our sweaty, mask-covered essentials-only shopping trip and log into social media to try to stay connected with our families and friends to the best of our ability, we see people who allegedly love us posting things that insult our intelligence.

Like somehow following the guidelines set forth by every single major health organization on planet earth is bananas, but believing that COVID-19 is all a giant hoax is genius?!

That’s some gold-medal-level mental gymnastics.

Last week, I allowed my four-year-old to go into a store for the first time since March. Following all the guidelines was less slightly convenient than our old routine. But honestly, it really only added maybe two minutes of work to the whole thing. I’m pretty sure I didn’t lose any of my civil liberties in the process.

As we drove home, I told my son how proud I was that he wore his mask the whole time. He grinned and said, “I didn’t touch it!”

He has autism. Covering his face is hard for him, and he doesn’t like it. He also has asthma, so getting COVID-19 might be worse for him. It’s hard to know for sure.

As I glanced up at his innocent little face in my rearview mirror, I was overcome with emotion. How can anyone I know claim to love him, yet refuse to do some basic things to make society safer for kids like him? Kids who can’t communicate when they don’t feel well. Kids who have breathing problems. Little kids who deserve the grown-ups in their lives to set a good example.

I could use his special needs as his excuse to leave his face exposed. I don’t because skirting the rules isn’t some kind of accomplishment. It’s negligent.

It’s not a lot of work to be careful. This exhaustion is emotional. I am tired of caring about people who don’t care about me. I’m tired of hearing how stupid I am for doing what we are all supposed to be doing.

I recently saw an Instagram post about this very thing, and there is nothing I can say that sums it up better.

“We’re holding a societal umbrella in a downpour; they’re laughing and pretending it’s not raining because they’re not wet. It’s exhausting.”

Mock us if you want. Laugh at people like me. Call us paranoid. We lay our heads down at night with a clear conscience knowing that if we are overreacting, we are not doing any harm. If you are underreacting, you could be issuing death sentences to the people you meet.

Keep telling us it’s not raining. We’ll keep holding this umbrella, even though our arms are getting so, so tired.

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