Exposing myself to (possible) Covid
July 14, 2022 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I must attend an indoor wedding this week with my family in NYC. I haven’t left my house for more than getting the kids to school, Target pickup or visiting relatives since COVID started. Scared of the idea of being maskless eating for the rehearsal dinner and reception. Scared thinking about my family having COVID despite us all being appropriately vaxed. I have a therapist, I’m on meds, but no idea how to handle getting myself out there. out there I must be to support my spouse and children who want to attend. Am I doomed to panic attack and fear? How did you overcome this?
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there any way your family can go without you? If you have really been isolating to this degree since COVID started, going to an indoor wedding seems like a really extreme way to jump back into socializing.
posted by cakelite at 8:38 AM on July 14, 2022 [12 favorites]

Would the couple be interested in having everyone rapid test before the event?

Could you wear an N95 at all times except when eating, and ask to sit near to the door so you can maybe sneaky prop it open for ventilation?
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:38 AM on July 14, 2022 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: There is no way my family can go without me. This is a critical, core event and my assistance is required.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:42 AM on July 14, 2022

Please don’t go. Your husband can handle the children; they don’t need your “support.”
A wedding + reception are awfully chaotic events to jump back into public life; your husband can represent your family. I’m betting the wedding couple will understand.
O.P., your clarifying post appeared after my response. Wear a double- filter mask, I guess, and keep your stay at the reception as short as you can get away with.
Who ever said weddings are “joyous” occasions…<>
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:45 AM on July 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

If you feel as though going to the event will force a panic attack on you, then your presence wouldn't be any sort of help to your family.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 8:47 AM on July 14, 2022 [13 favorites]

Please note the OP has not specified genders.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:47 AM on July 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

Agreed that this sounds like an incredibly intense way to get back into public life. But if you really feel you need to go, are you sure you need to eat? Would you feel better if you kept a well-fitting N94 mask on at the table and went outside for an unmasked snack/drink a few times during the event?
posted by mskyle at 8:47 AM on July 14, 2022 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: I’m a dude.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:48 AM on July 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

Take reasonable precautions to mitigate risk like you would anything else you do. Like when you cross the street, you look both ways. When you drive, you wear a seatbelt. At the wedding, wear a mask. Also know that, while getting covid isn't fun for anyone, most vaxxed people are coming out of it unscathed. Take some klonopin, go to the wedding, and look around at the people celebrating life and living and try to share in their joy.

If it's still too much to handle, can you just go to the ceremony where you won't need to remove the mask for eating/drinking? If your partner and kids want to go, let them go. You won't be terribly helpful or fun to be with if you're upset the whole time.

I do feel at this point it's not socially acceptable to require people to test before social events. I recently went to a wedding where they said something along the lines of 'Please do not attend the events if you have any symptoms. We kindly recommend taking a rapid test prior to arriving, though it is not required'
posted by greta simone at 8:49 AM on July 14, 2022 [10 favorites]

Scared of the idea of being maskless eating for the rehearsal dinner and reception

Can you eat beforehand and remain masked for the dinner and reception except for brief moments to drink?

I recently had to attend multiple job interviews (as an interviewer) that included lunch with the applicants. Shortly afterward I was going to be in a situation where I absolutely could not be covid positive. So I ate beforehand and remained masked with an N95 except for occasionally sipping water. No one batted an eye.

Bring some mints, gum, or hard candy to give yourselves something to focus on while masked.
posted by jedicus at 8:49 AM on July 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry this is so scary and stressful! I think in your shoes, if it's feasible, I would try to stay masked during the dinner/reception and eat before or after, or while darting outside to scarf a granola bar or something. I would probably actually try to skip the rehearsal dinner altogether but if that's not possible for you, then harm reduction may be all you can do.

If you think a panic attack is in the cards, it might be worth trying to do a little really low-key practice before then. Maybe a masked trip into a store or an outdoor restaurant would be worth a try?

(All of that said: I would not go to an indoor wedding right now, especially one without required rapid testing beforehand, and I encourage you and anyone else to stay away from activities like this if that's what feels safest for you. But you know your family dynamics best and whether this is something you truly have to do.)
posted by Stacey at 8:51 AM on July 14, 2022 [4 favorites]

Others have addressed not attending, but if you must attend, I would think through the following questions.

Do you need to eat at the event? Would it be possible for you to step outside to eat?

Do you have to attend all of the events or could you just attend the rehearsal and ceremony, but not the rehearsal dinner or meal portion of the reception?

Could you discuss with your family what their expectations for support from you are at the event, so that you can in turn discuss your expectations for support from them?
posted by shesbookish at 8:51 AM on July 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

We had similar dilemma recently. Made decision to decline the rehearsal dinner (small enclosed room, several dozen people).
Attended wedding, choosing seats at a distance, wearing masks throughout.

Showed up for start of reception and then departed.
Two days later got word that bride had COVID.
posted by xaryts at 8:51 AM on July 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

Hey, that's hard. I've been out and about at work but there is some stress involved. For me, once I made my choice then most of the first events were...fine. I spent decades of my life at things like that, and the momentum took over. My anxiety peaked before and after.

For coping - when I went back to work I took protein bars and slipped outside and ate and drank outside. Don't get dehydrated* but if you give yourself the option just in case, then you could keep your mask on during dinners. Obviously people will notice but that's on them really.

Have some breathing techniques ready like box breathing. If you can get out for a walk in a park in between that's pretty awesome.

* Definitely drink or you will be dehydrated and get a bad headache and then think the headache is Covid. Ask me how I know!
posted by warriorqueen at 8:52 AM on July 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Reference to rehearsal dinner suggests to me that these are very close relatives or family friends and thus difficult to avoid. Nonetheless, this as a debut event does sound challenging, even if there were no pandemic fears involved.

(a) Can your therapist arrange for you to have one or two of the smallest dosage of one of the weaker benzos?

(b) Can you attend the wedding but skip the rehearsal dinner, with lavish apologies? It's an honor to be invited to the dinner, but, after all, the wedding is the main show. You can briefly show up at the reception and then maybe slip away?

(c) I don't know if you're the kind of person who finds it helpful to consider and dispel worst-case scenarios. If you are...assuming your family is of reasonable health, getting COVID (especially if you take paxlovid right away) is not a fun time nor something to be risked casually, but it is very unlikely to kill or even hospitalize you.
posted by praemunire at 8:54 AM on July 14, 2022 [8 favorites]

If you are going to do something you are anxious about, then it's not usually possible to completely avoid feeling anxious while doing it. Regardless of what kind of mitigations and precautions you take.

So, once you have decided what reasonable precautions you are going to take, then commit yourself to doing it despite the fear. Focus on your reason for going, find something to enjoy, use whatever tricks work for you to ground yourself - whether that's something physical with your body, or something you say to yourself or something else.
posted by plonkee at 8:55 AM on July 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For what it's worth, I also was convinced that going to my first COVID era wedding would be terrifying, awful, panicky, and 100% result in COVID. This was a year ago, at the start of the Delta variant, and friend: it was none of those things. I am here to tell you, this may all be much worse in your imagining than it will be in fact.

I had not been quite so cloistered as you up until that point (I started going back to gyms and inside grocery stores--masked--after getting my vaccines), but I had been fairly cautious. I initially determined that I wouldn't remove my mask at all, not at the reception nor for photos.

Honestly, though, I got there and it was...fine. I left my mask on for the ceremony. I took it off for photos. I ate, and drank. There is something about infectious joy that overcomes the panic. Seeing relatives I hadn't seen in years, people dancing to Madonna...in the Before Times this would have been a so-so wedding at best but as it was, it was pure delight. Zero people got sick, Delta and a handful of anti-vaxxers be damned.

I got COVID six months later, probably from picking up a prescription at the CVS. If I had missed the opportunity to gather wonderfully with loved ones, and then still gotten sick doing something mundane and stupid, I cannot imagine how angry I'd be.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:57 AM on July 14, 2022 [30 favorites]

Seconding plonkee that you will undoubtedly still feel anxious about this event, whether justified (IMHO yes) or not. So prepare for that as best you can with your therapist.

If you really absolutely have to go to this event, try to limit your time indoors, avoid hugging and singing, and wear a mask. Oh, and let the rest of your family go to the rehearsal dinner without you. I promise, the world will continue to turn.
posted by nkknkk at 9:00 AM on July 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

How did you overcome this?

Personally? By saying "fuck that noise" and not going.

Any fucker tells me I must expose myself to what I consider to be an unacceptable risk to my health needs to be doing so at gunpoint if they aim to be at all convincing.

My beloved would never demand such a thing of me.
posted by flabdablet at 9:22 AM on July 14, 2022 [15 favorites]

Wear an K/N95 mask, don't take it off indoors for any reason, don't eat in public indoors, and you will probably be fine. Either skip the dinner or go but don't consume the food at it, or see if you can sneak it out a door and eat outside. I go to theater shows indoors with a mask on and nothing has happened.

Really, the one thing that stands out to me here is that you have a family that lives with you. Can you also get them to follow the same masked/no eating protocols? Because even if you follow masks/no eating, if they don't (and I'm going to assume you have kids young enough to not be willing to go hungry), then you're pretty well still at risk for getting it unless you're going to go live in a hotel for a few weeks afterwards just in case.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:29 AM on July 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

If I had to go to a wedding now, I would continue to follow my rule of not going indoors without a mask. This means I would attend the wedding with a good 3M N95 9205+ Mask (which turns out to fit my face well enough to actually function as an N95 mask), and I would not eat indoors.

Chances are, again, increasingly likely that at least one person at the wedding will be spreading covid unawares. Keep your mask on and don't eat at the reception. Grab something safe to eat immediately before you go to the ceremony, and leave the reception when you need to.
posted by metonym at 9:47 AM on July 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

Please don't go. No wedding is worth the risk of contracting long-COVID and being too unwell to do paid work for a year or more.

If you do go, wear an N95 mask and don't take it off unless you are eating or drinking OUTSIDE.
posted by carriage pulled by cassowaries at 11:25 AM on July 14, 2022 [4 favorites]

Be prepared to get covid. I am not wanting you to panic, at all. But so. many. people. I know, including me, just got it after minimal indoor time with an infected person who felt fine the day before. If you allow the possibility into your head, you will be more prepared to face it and more likely to keep your mask on as much as possible, and minimize exposure, etc.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:47 AM on July 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

I am a high anxiety, high covid precautions person and I got covid just sitting around my house because a housemate brought it in! I agree talking to your therapist is an excellent step. But these are the kinds of things I did to prepare for the high risk activities I've had to do for work or family:

Do some small outings into the world (in your mask) so that you can get used to seeing More Humans. Do a couple short exposures before you travel.

Test before you travel.

Pack a whole bunch of masks and put extras in pockets/wallets/carry on bags/etc. Having extras made me feel safer.

Lay in some supplies now for in case you do get sick--stock up on cold medicine, cough drops, tissues, shelf-stable comfort items, etc. Get some saline nasal spray, too--that helped me a LOT with nasal burning and discomfort.

Schedule a grocery delivery of perishables for the day you are scheduled to get back, in case you come home feeling fine but come down with symptoms before you can shop.

Make all the beds with clean sheets and pillows before you leave. Get replacement toothbrushes for after you are better, if you get sick.

Make sure you have a supply of tests for the whole family (I went through 6 just by myself when I had covid, between testing after exposure and testing days 10 and beyond to make sure I had a negative test)
posted by assenav at 12:29 PM on July 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

I should add--prepare to get much more exhausted than anticipated. I am very worn out by social interaction now in a way I never was before, even as an introvert. I think it is the hypervigilance of the pandemic combined with atrophied social skills. Expecting this might help you pace yourself and avoid a panicked, exhausted meltdown toward the end of the night, especially if you're also going to be dealing with tired, overstimulated kids.
posted by assenav at 12:33 PM on July 14, 2022 [4 favorites]

I had to attend a wedding two weeks ago. It was a completely outdoor wedding, but it did involve air travel.

Leading up to the event, I spoke to my therapist and psychiatrist. We increased my benzo prescription (xanax) to take the edge off my anxiety, and doubled one of my meds for the week of the trip. Coping strategies were discussed, emergency code words developed.

I masked, was very careful in public areas, and the wedding location had much, much stricter mask laws than my home state. I made sure my partner knew that I was very, very worried about this, that I intended to take medication to handle my anxiety, and communicated immediately when I took a pill so they were aware of when I was hitting a limit. I did a lot of 4-square breathing, lots of games of ten things, and honestly? I had an amazing time. The wedding was beautiful, the trip had snags but I remember the good parts and it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

And then I tested positive for COVID two days after I got home, and spent a week too sick to even really get out of bed. If you're able, I would point out the new variant is a much bigger issue than previously believed, point out the booster doesn't really help with the new variant, and that while you completely understand that this is important, is this a risk that needs to be taken, knowing that it could cost you a week or more of work, school, or years of long COVID?
posted by Torosaurus at 1:05 PM on July 14, 2022

It takes an amazingly short time to eat a meal. Like, literally a few minutes max. I’ve eaten indoors only a couple of times, and stayed masked except when actually putting food or drink in my mouth. I didn’t care that I was the only masked person in a small town, Trump-country diner. Knowing that I’d stay masked as much as possible made me feel better about going. My sister, whom I sat next to in a small booth, tested positive the next day. I never did. It’s okay to be masked while other people eat.
posted by vitabellosi at 4:54 PM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

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