Dealing with the Pandemic as a Germaphobe

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Photo: Sarah St. John

Visualize being in a room filled with something small, like marbles, everywhere you look. They are hanging from the ceiling and all over the floor, once one touches you it attaches and won’t let go. No matter how hard you try, the marbles are stuck to you and this overwhelming feeling of helplessness washes over you. That’s how many germaphobes, like Maddy Navarrete, feel: trapped by germs and in fear of the consequences of being around them. Maddy has always felt she was a germaphobe, but it was not until August of 2019 that she became aware of the severity of it.
“I feel like I’m so vulnerable to it, I don’t have a way to get away from all the germs,” Navarrette said.
Her germaphobia grew monumentally worse after she had the flu and realized she never wanted to suffer like that again. She said she felt anxious and miserable, resulting in her taking extra precautions to leave those memories in the past.
Now that the world is on lockdown, Navarette feels less stressed and more free. She lives on a lot of land, giving her the space she always desired. She explained that it is way nicer isolated because when forced to go to school there was always the possibility of becoming sick again. Navarrete noticed that people at school don’t understand the importance of taking sick days off and she is not hesitant to do whatever it takes to stay healthy.
”Once, someone sneezed directly on me and I burned that sweatshirt when I got home,” Navarette said. “She was sitting across from me in history and was at school when she had the flu, which I didn’t understand.”
Navarrete’s best friend of two years, Marissa Middleton, says Navarrete has influenced the way she goes about life. Middleton is now more cautious and second guesses the cleanliness of everyday things. Though Middleton may become annoyed with some of Navarrete’s extensive safety measures, she said it doesn’t bother her as much, and that she understands the effort to stay as healthy as possible.
“I mean, she definitely takes precautions, but she’s not crazy,” Middleton said. ”She’s just kinda funny about that stuff.”
Both agree that being quarantined during this pandemic will benefit the world in the future. They both are unsettled by the uncleanliness of schools, and believe this break is a good way to give schools a greatly needed deep cleanse, possibly preventing future unexpected illness.
For Navarette, being outside during quarantine has led to some unexpected responses from others.
“It was the first time I’ve been out of my house really, so I was wearing a mask and everything. I’m walking in the store and there’s this other lady there, but I forgot about the six foot rule,” she said. “I’m like five feet away and she gives me this death glare. I got out of there fast because she was mad.”
In the past, Navarette has gotten some negative comments about her extra precautions to stay away from germs, but she doesn’t let that affect her determination to remain healthy. She believes that everyone is better off being more mindful of cleanliness, and that the results of others spreading germs will make this quarantine even more dangerous.
According to a poll done by PBS NewsHour, 66% of American adults believe the coronavirus is a serious threat, whereas 27% say it is blown out of proportion, the remaining 7% are unsure. Despite public beliefs, Navarette will not let anyone ruin her chances of staying safe.
“I isolate myself,” she said. “I’m improving my chances of not being sick and becoming more healthy.”