I didn’t want to write this article. I don’t necessarily want to publish it. However, I realize this stems from the shame and stigma around catching COVID, and that’s exactly why it needs to be shared. There is so much dark mystery that deserves some light and transparency. I wrote this on November 7th 2020 as I was just ending my experience with the virus. Here it goes…
Phew. I exhale deeply as I decide to share my personal health journey with you all in hopes of shedding some light on my experience. It’s been one hell of a week and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Yes, I got COVID. No, I didn’t die. And yes, I got it while visiting home for a month, while spending time in nature, at a distance from all…. not while traveling. Not while engaging in groups of people or gatherings. The irony.
I have to preface this with a short disclaimer as this is a highly triggering topic that I realize is different for everyone. I am not giving health advice or guidance, I am just sharing my personal story and how I dealt with it in hopes of helping anyone who may get it and feel alone. And of course, my heart goes out to everyone who has lost a family or friend due to this illness. And to everyone who has had a severe encounter with it. And to those on the front lines.
I do not write this to undermine anyone’s experience whatsoever. I simply want to shed light on a pandemic, because the reality is, most people will eventually get it. And fear is the ultimate demon. So here goes.
And yes, I’ve been wearing a damn mask.
I never felt so grateful for my health than I do right now. Sometimes, I believe we need a glimpse of reality to truly feel gratitude for our health, for the basic pleasures of life that we take for granted (IE. being able to taste food…)
Today is the first day I can truly say I feel 100%, and I’m 8 days out from my first symptoms. I woke up, felt an unrelenting energy and danced in the sun. I gave thanks for my taste buds being restored and for the first cup of coffee I was able to enjoy in a week. “Today is an amazing day” I declared. And it has turned out to be true (bye, Don).
Lets start from the beginning
It all started on a Tuesday. I went to express care about an unrelated issue about a painful bump behind my knee that was concluded to potentially be a tick bite. I was treated for a skin infection / lymes disease with antibiotics. Now, my body isn’t used to antibiotics or any over the counter medication and I’m highly sensitive to most things I put in my body.
By day two of the antibiotics, I was itching out of my mind. I could not sleep because my entire body was having a reaction to this medication. The theory here is that the antibiotics can be hard on your stomach as it strips away both bad and good gut bacteria, and I already have issues with digestion. A side effect can be intense itching. It wasn’t something I could deal with so I decided to go back to the clinic and discuss switching antibiotics, or getting off them completely…
Friday morning, after a sleepless night, I decided to get off the antibiotic after talking with the doctor. But I felt like shit, and thought it was from a lack of sleep and another side effect of the antibiotic. I had plans Friday night to meet a friend for dinner. As I drove home around 4pm, I suddenly started to feel off. Just… no bueno. My body felt tense and I began to experience what I can describe as feelings of hot and cold simultaneously.
Immediately, I jumped into bed and wrapped myself in blankets. I told my friend I wouldn’t be able to make dinner. I started to freeze. My body was aching and spazzing out no matter how many layers I covered myself with. I was so cold. And so hot. What was happening?!
I had a flight to Tulum in 4 days. I couldn’t get sick. Horrible timing, body. Get better now please. This girls got plans.
So, I took my temperature. And immediately started crying when I saw an 102 degree number staring back at me. “I don’t want to die!” I yelled at my dad. I’ve been known to be a bit dramatic in my darkest moments. However, it was a true statement. After all the media consumed and darkness, I had no idea what to expect. I was still completely sure I was experience side effects from the medication, or perhaps a 24 hour bug.
I had spent the last 2 weeks in nature in small rural towns, predominately. I didn’t think I had COVID. I thought I had the flu, possibility. But not COVID.
Days 1 and 2 with…?!?!?
As a generally healthy 27-year-old, I feel blessed not to have any major existing conditions. Friday was the worst I can remember feeling, ever. My body was confused, and trying to fight the virus by raising its temperature. However, I was cold. I wrapped myself in a blanket hot dog and layed in front of my fireplace with minimal relief. I had an intense headache. My tummy felt weird. And my whole body was oscillating between hot and cold.
This was the worst of it. At the time, I thought I was reacting to the antibiotic or perhaps had the flu. I could breathe fine, and didn’t experience any coughing or shortness of breath. I had lots of tea with honey, ate raw garlic and ginger, and took a warm bath and an advil.
The next morning I woke up after a near sleepless night with no temperature. I felt pretty good and thought, maybe it was just a 24 hour bug. I decided I was going to go back to the clinic and find out if I was experiencing a side effect from the antibiotics (all of my symptoms were listed as potential side effects), lymes disease, or covid. I went there determined to rule out the latter.
A spooky Halloween
I get to the clinic to figure out wtf is happening with my body. I decide to take a COVID test just to be sure it’s not *god forbid* COVID.
After a drive up test and a 2 hour wait, Halloween got a bit spookier than expected. The bad news was, I had a tested positive for covid. The good news was, I could stop taking the antibiotic and I probably didn’t have lyme.
The empathetic nurse told me there was nothing I could do except treat the symptoms. I came out with a prescription of extra strength advil, rest, and tea. I felt relieved to have an answer, but also extremely disappointed at the lack of guidance and treatment options other than to quarantine for 10 days.
The rules I were told as followed: “Isolate for 10 days, after 72 hours symptom free, you can re-enter into the world and should be non-infectious” “So, I should test negative after 10 days?” I asked. No, not necessarily. Most people still have a positive test for a month after the virus due to the antibodies that then make you immune to the virus for roughly 3-6 months.
I wasn’t told that after a positive test, I wouldn’t be able to take another test at the clinic. That the efficacy of the second test was pretty much useless at determining if you were contagious.
I canceled my Halloween plans and spent the night in my bed rereading various books that had been sitting in my childhood bedroom for years. I read The Game by Neil Strauss in record time. Learned a lot about the pickup artist community in the early 2000’s. It was the only thing that kept my mind off of my uncertain fate.
I was depressed and worried that I’d get my dad sick as well. He was the only other person around me and I couldn’t risk getting him ill. I tried to enjoy the down time as much as possible, but it was hard.
The next few days…
Obviously, I first delayed my travel plans. Tulum would have to wait. I had come back for a few weeks before a move to Mexico, and by the end of the month, I was ready to return. However, the universe had other plans, clearly, and demanded of me that I slowed my roll.
Over the next few days, I had a fever, but only in the afternoon. By Monday it was normal. This was day 3. I lost my appetite on Sunday, alongside my ability to taste and smell. Food tasted like… nothing. It was weird, and sad. I thought a Panera Bread soup bowl would be satisfying, however, it tasted like chalk.
It took the entire week for it to come back, as today (Saturday) is the first day I can truly enjoy food again. My taste was gone for about 6 days.
The Rhode Island Department of Health called me on Sunday to “contact trace” me. Luckily, I hadn’t really been too many places during the incubation period. I also hadn’t been in any crowds. It was near impossible to determine where I got the virus… it could have been anywhere. I had spent the last two weeks in Rhode Island, my super rural state in primarily, nature. I believe it may have been contracted that day at the clinic, as I was surrounded by ill folk.
He asked me to estimate the amount of time spent in each place I had been in the last week. If it was under 20 minutes, he would say “ah, probably not enough time then to affect anyone” It was somewhat discouraging. They aren’t able to effectively contact trace.
I also found out that every new positive test counted as a “new case” that they were publishing. So when I eventually had a second positive test 5 days apart, it counted as a brand new COVID case in the state of Rhode Island. Which indeed wasn’t true. I just still had the virus.
His advice was this: isolate, get fresh air, and take care of your symptoms. After 10 days and 72 hours symptom-free, I can travel. I obeyed the rules and tried to keep busy inside.
Covid & mental health
I read books. Finished The Game in 3 days. I stayed inside. I cried. A lot. My small house got smaller, fast, as I was confined to two rooms away from my father. We both are still wearing masks in the house, but it’s impossible to stay out of common areas like the kitchen. It was raining a lot which naturally affected my mood. All I was doing was sleeping, and didn’t have energy for much else.
I didn’t feel good or energized all week. I felt weak and lethargic, tired and fatigued. Sleep was my only respite. And my friends checking on me daily. Without friends and sleep, I literally would have broke. October had already been a rough month for a variety of emotional reasons, and I was being faced up close with my thoughts and helplessness.
I hadn’t experienced depression like this in years. I was throwing a proper pity party for myself in my mind. Emotionally, physically, and mentally I wasn’t doing well. I also felt myself in judgment for not being more productive. I could be writing, meditating, or working on my business, I thought. That inner critic started and her voice amplified.
Wednesday through Friday I felt like a zombie. Just, low energy. I tried to do some breathwork outside and then noticed my shortness of breath. It was like I had a weight on my lungs. I didn’t notice it until I tried to take deep inhales and hold my breath.
Besides that and fatigue, I was recovering. Lots of soup and moral support from others. And the self-acceptance that spending time in bed doing absolutely nothing was just what I needed right now.
The turning point: acceptance
So what if I had to postpone my travel plans? Maybe I could turn this around and give myself permission to recover, in bed, and do nothing. Coinciding with my covid drama was also a nationwide drama of the presidential election. Everyday was an internal struggle and an collective struggle regarding the state of the country.
Uncertainty was paramount. Acceptance was necessary. I do believe everything happens for a reason, and sometimes we have no idea what that reason is. I came to terms with my depression, my sickness, and let myself feel all of the emotions that were coming up. I took walks, alone in nature, to help clear my mind. I layed in fields and stared at the clouds.
I decided to be grateful that this all happened in my hometown, where I had the space to be alone and comfortable. Where I could take walks and not see a single person.
Feeling healthy and grateful
It’s Saturday. Exactly 8 days after the beginning. After sleeping for 10 hours, I woke up with a plethora of energy and gratitude. I declared it would be a good day from the start, rising with the birds and stray cats in my yard. Best of all, my taste was restored! That morning coffee tasted better than ever. How could it not be a good day?
I plan to travel as soon as I’m 72 hours symptom free and 10 days out of quarantine, as advised. I’ve realized that sometimes slowing down to speed up is just what you need, even when you face resistance. I do believe I will be more effective with my time as I’ve once again come face to face with the transient nature of reality, and the fleeing moments of joy.
I look back to three weeks ago as I was fall road tripping in New Hampshire, driving down ruby red tree-lined back roads enjoying the fresh air and mountains. I have a renewed gratitude for my health and my body’s ability to heal itself.
Moving on + lessons
All we have is the present, and memories. The future is only a concept in our minds, but we only ever have the present. It is so important to enjoy that, and make the most of it. Because at any moment our health can be taken from us, and that’s really at the basis of everything.
So we breathe. We social distance. We reach out to our friends when they’re in need. Thank you so much, truly, to everyone who showed concern and reached out during my recovery.
The world can be a vulnerable, scary, and uncertain place at times. And the more battles I overcome, the more gratitude I feel for the opportunity to live. To live as a powerful, capable being. Every struggle can become a story, and wisdom is born from most stories.
I am presented with yet another reminder the importance of living every day like it’s your last. To stop making excuses for the things I want to do now. Because tomorrow is never guaranteed. I am grateful to be in good health, and in good spirits. I remember to be grateful again for the little things. I want to make an impact and leave this planet better than I found it.
Fear is the ultimate virus. We can only control our mental and emotional wellbeing. We can boost our immune systems. We can be aware of the reality of the pandemic and be cautious, by radically accepting the fact that we’ll all probably have COVID at some point. We can’t let it divide us, and we can’t live every day riddled with fear.
We can still love and open our hearts to others. Take care of yourselves and keep tabs on how much you’re watching the news.
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Christine is a twenty-something coffee-obsessed traveler from a small town in the US. She sold everything 3 years ago to follow her curiosity around the world.
As a passionate freelance graphic designer, digital nomad, and photographer, she has explored it all! Her mission is to help others live their dream lifestyles around what lights them up.