To help us spread messages of support from our family to yours, we recently connected with Trevor Stratton, CANFAR National Ambassador, and asked him to share his experience living through the pandemic.
How is your mental health right now? What are you doing to manage/cope?
Well, it’s a journey. My mental health isn’t static. It changes depending on the kinds of pressures that I’m under. I guess I’m doing better now than I was at the beginning. At the beginning, I was having a lot of trouble concentrating. Work seemed so unimportant even though it’s HIV—and HIV is an epidemic too. But suddenly it just seemed like people are dying all over the place and it was very distracting. Lockdown after lockdown, announcement after announcement, all the world leaders were doing daily briefings, I was totally, extremely distracted and I was having a real hard time concentrating on things, even reading. Watching the numbers go up and up and up, I realized I had to use some self-discipline, the same kind I use for my exercise, you know? It’s starting to flow better now.
As an Indigenous person, how has your relationship with the land had to adapt?
I miss the outdoors, especially hiking, but I guess you could say I moved the land indoors.
I have a little garden. But my place is colourful and quite fanciful and decorated with things that I’ve gathered from different cultures all over the world, especially Indigenous cultures, so there’s lots of artsy crafts and souvenirs from my travels. And I have a green thumb too. I have about 40 to 50 houseplants (so much that in the winter, the air doesn’t get dry because they’re natural humidifiers). It takes me 45 minutes to water them all and that releases slowly, and it makes the air nice and it’s good to breathe. I’m comfortable in this space here, but it would be nice to get out.
What is keeping you up at night during the pandemic?
I think that COVID-19 is exposing some of the disparities in health. Everybody isn’t experiencing it in the same way, in the sense that many of us are more susceptible to it. People with compromised immune systems, people in prison—they can’t distance socially or physically. Indigenous people living in the communities—there’s a housing shortage; sometimes, there’s 8 to 12 people in a tiny little house. Under these conditions, it’s no wonder that the groups that are vulnerable are the ones that are more susceptible to these diseases. And often, their determinants of health are already at a lower point, so they may be living with comorbidities. For example, if I’m living with comorbidities like high blood pressure, hypertension, I have a higher chance of not doing so well with COVID-19. So, there are disparities. When our public health system is put under such pressure, the small cracks become bigger, and they become more visible. And that’s the reflection, I think—that’s what we’re going to have to go back and look at, and say, ‘what about the next one? What about the next epidemic that comes?’
What’s the first thing you’re going to do once quarantine is over?
I want to dance and have a celebration of life with others.