Editor’s Note: Find the collection of COVID-19 coverage on BlackLove.com here.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Jodie Patterson’s story. (If you haven’t already, check out her first book, “The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation.”)
She’s a multi-hyphenate mom of five who’s held many titles, including but not limited to writer, activist, and even acrobat. In “The Bold World” she writes her coming of age story in the voice of someone who dares to define their family — and themselves — outside of racialized and gendered expectations. Much of that shift results from working hard to make the world a better place for her transgender son Penelope and becoming a well-known LGBTQI ally in the process.
Now, Jodie is on the board of the Human Rights Campaign, has been appointed by the United Nations as a Champion of Change, and often provides public speaking on topics ranging from identity and beauty to entrepreneurship.
As one can imagine, surviving the constant stream of demands from work and parenting meant developing a life of structure with little room for deviation. She never could have imagined that contracting COVID-19 would disrupt her sense of routine – forcing her to slow down and re-evaluate the purpose of productivity during a pandemic.
[In early March] as the first headlines about COVID-19 in the United States began rolling in she was still speaking and attending conferences. The small steps — wiping down surfaces, keeping her distance, and avoiding physical contact – to stay well were there. Like the rest of us, she was unaware of the risks in the small interactions.
After two months of nonstop travel, she was drained. But for some reason rest didn’t help. (Now she looks back and wonders if the exhaustion was from overworking or sickness.)
“I just couldn’t get out of bed, I had an enormous amount of pain in my head and a really splitting migraine like a knife was jabbing into my head and the same pain in my spine,” she recalled.
As her symptoms multiplied to include chills and a strange pulsing sensation in her upper body, and a loss of sense of smell she decided to go to the hospital. She expected to take the COVID-19 test for the heck of it, receive medication for her migraines, and go home.
“I was trying to be responsible in that moment not thinking that I would actually be sick, I just thought it was the responsible response to have in a moment where COVID-19 was a possibility.”
But the test was positive and the “imposed isolation” at the hospital meant she didn’t have a choice but to be away from her kids – particularly her youngest three boys. Her hospital stay meant being away from her children for two additional weeks on top of her work-related separation which meant it had been a full month since she’d seen them.
It was hard. But she did what she could to have joyful moments despite her circumstances.
When she wasn’t on FaceTime with her children, she was writing almost ten hours a day – journaling and working on her next book – and doing exercises to avoid “going berserk” being by herself. Cleaning her hospital room helped her keep from panicking, as well.