I never imagined I would be writing a blog about the mental struggle I have had while recovering from COVID-19, but here I am.
My husband tested positive for COVID a month ago. I suspected he had contracted it a couple of days before his diagnosis when I noticed that he had a persistent-sounding dry cough. My thoughts were, “Oh no! Not that!”
I felt like I was going to be playing nurse, and that my patient was going to be the sole sick one. I didn’t feel physically sick at all. I prepared as much as I could, including going into self-quarantine, because the truth is we live in a small home and I may have been exposed, and the last thing I want to do is make someone else sick.
That evening, to be eligible for curbside testing, we set up a video chat with a medical assistant and a provider. At the end of the call, the doctor asked to speak to me personally. She warned me, “I am not saying you are old, but you are “older.” So, you must listen to me carefully and don’t hesitate to get him to the emergency room if he shows any of these symptoms.” She put me on 14-day quarantine alongside my husband and said I was very susceptible to getting the virus from him.
The next day he tested positive and the following day, I had a fever and about five typical COVID symptoms. I then conveyed to my husband what to watch for in me, and I told him to send me to the ER if I showed any of these symptoms: bluish lips or face, inability to stand or to get up, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, marked difficulty breathing, and the onset of confusion. Pretty nasty symptoms. I convinced myself that we would both be okay. It was work, but I did it.
The first significant mental challenge stemmed from the reality that we were on our own. We were told to quarantine into self-care. I knew what to do, and I felt brave and sure we would beat it, but I also felt alone in the fight…and rightfully we were isolated. We were too sick and couldn’t go anywhere, but we were not sick enough to seek medical attention.
At that point, who would have known that we would still feel sick at week three? He retested negative, but the symptoms continued, and many days we felt we had taken a 3 or 4 steps back in time.
The research, the checking on each other, the home “nurses station,” the laying in bed many hours just to get through the day (combined with the inability to sleep at night)…the monster that came out at night…oh my! NO sleep. We felt as if we had been plucked from this earth and placed back down with different bodies, or at least something major and invisible was attacking us. Who were we? Where did the real “us” go? What was up with the strange dreams that interrupted our sleep every single night?
When we were finally well enough to once again walk amongst the living and had been given the green light to put on our masks and get out, we felt as though we had a big red “C” painted on our foreheads. Rightfully, people were afraid to come in contact with us. I don’t blame them!
People also said strange things because they didn’t know what to say. If you’re one of these people and trust me I am too (What to say…what to say?), you don’t want to say something like, “You’ll get better.” Will we? We still deal with fatigue and other lingering symptoms. There were times when we wondered if we would get better but refused to allow COVID to claim us. Some people have said, “You don’t look all that sick.” Oh my word, crawl into my body, and feel what I am feeling, still. No, I don’t want anyone to be sick! I understand. It really is a confusing situation…new to all of us.
When you hear our words, “COVID makes me feel too tired to talk much,” and the curious-minded wants to ask 1,000 questions (bless your hearts), remember that we are struggling to feel normal at any given moment. We can talk about the zillion strange symptoms (I wish I had journaled each of them…), and how we know we are going to be fighting recovery long-haul. But, we feel like the blood has been drained from our bodies and brains (physically and mentally) by the time we finish trying to tell all of the specifics (and much of what happened to us is unclear today because we were in a fog as we were in pain and discomfort). Fatigue is the “F” word that comes with COVID, and perhaps someday we’ll have the strength to tell more of our story.
Are we ever going to feel completely normal again? Are we going to receive absolute restoration? I have hope, but I don’t know. I have faith and thank you Lord for keeping us out of the hospital.
Is this still a struggle? Yes. It is not gone. It lingers. I have always believed that challenges only make us stronger, and I choose to believe that today. I’ve never liked this statement, but it rings true today, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Thank you for listening and I hope you are well. Stay safe and stay well!