I wrote this back on April 15th (of 2021), originally intending to share it with friends via social media, but for some reason the stigma of sharing that we had got Covid was… embarrassing? I still stand by everything that I wrote here, and it’s a better explanation of my state of mind at the time than I could rewrite anyways.
So I wanted to wait to write this until I was 100% better, but screw it, I don’t know when or if that will happen, and life can’t wait.
As some of you may know, myself and most of my immediate family that I live with caught COVID-19 back in late February. On a Monday morning I started feeling a scratchy throat, and it didn’t get better on a Tuesday so I got a test. The next morning I woke up with a low-grade fever (100.3) and everyone stayed home from school. A few hours later, I got my positive test result. I had a previously scheduled call with my doctor that morning and he suggested alternating Tylenol and Ibuprofen for any discomfort and just to truck through it.
The kids and my wife got tested the next day, and only our youngest daughter came back positive. A few days later our older daughter tested positive, and then a few days after that our eldest son did. The school that our kids go to was more than helpful with fully remote classes (our kids had more or less been going 4 days a week since late October) while we isolated and our youngest stayed home as her daycare closed for a week to get everyone tested. By and large I didn’t have any major symptoms, the fever was gone in a day and I never had any respiratory issues. The kids were by and large unaffected as well aside from our eldest son, who had cold-like symptoms for a couple of days.
My first reaction was “WTF?” We had been super careful with masking any time we were indoors anywhere – which was really limited to going to stores (one adult at a time only most times) and most times that we were outdoors since moving to Colorado. We hadn’t seen the inside of anyone else’s house since we left Pittsburgh in October, before cases started skyrocketing everywhere.
My best guess was that either youngest brought it home from daycare (since she tested positive closest to me), I got it from a dentist visit two weeks earlier (and the test that I took the day following that was just too soon for the virus to show up), or I got it from stopping by a brewery for a beer release despite sitting by myself mask on except for sipping on taster glasses for a grand total of 15 minutes in the establishment, even with socially distanced seating. I won’t ever really know where I got it, but I imagine that one of the more contagious variants had something to do with it, though that doesn’t excuse any lapse in caution on my part.
We got out of our quarantine period in enough time for us to visit family back in Pittsburgh weeks later, family who had all been vaccinated already anyways. At this point, no one had any symptoms anymore except for me with some tightness around my rib cage. At some points while in Pittsburgh I felt really tired but I just chalked it up to jet lag since we flew east. Also I would be lying if I said that all sorts of emotions weren’t flying around having not been back to Pittsburgh in five months after moving 1450 miles away in the middle of a pandemic.
We traveled back home to Colorado and the following week I had my first of what I would consider “long covid” symptoms – extreme fatigue and more prevalent rib / abdominal soreness. I had extreme pain one morning to the point where I considered that my appendix had burst and wound up in the ER. Thankfully it was not so, all of my blood work came back fine but the ER doc said that some long covid symptoms last months and to hang in there.
A day or two later I lost my ability to sleep for more than 2-3 hours at a time. This was about 5 weeks out from my positive test.
The following week I started having extreme anxiety during the day and the depression started kicking in. Staying on one task for more than 45 minutes took a Herculean effort. Being a mediocre Dad to four kids became a Herculean effort and I was pretty bad at it to boot.
Many people told me to just rest and relax but sitting still is not my strong suit. I’m far from an athlete but I pride myself on staying active.
I started losing sight of what I loved, what brought me joy, who I was. When I wasn’t working, sitting back in my bedroom away from the rest of the family made me feel even worse. Drowning myself in Netflix and video games to calm myself down wasn’t helping anything.
Thankfully I have a job where I work remotely from my home and don’t need to travel to the office or really put on a composed face to my coworkers.
More importantly, I have such an awesome partner as my wife. The amount of slack that she has picked up in the past 7 weeks has been monumental. She has been there for the times when I have broken down (away from the kids if I can help it, but sometimes I haven’t been able to get away in time) calming me down, setting me straight, hearing all of my mundane health updates, assuring me that this too shall pass. I long for the days when I don’t even mention medical stuff to her for weeks.
No one has clear answers but folks have theorized that long covid sufferers have immune systems that are hyperactive and attacking the body well after the virus is gone. Another theory is that long covid patients have viral reservoirs in parts of their body that their immune system overlooked or couldn’t root out.
The Good News
While super frightening for me, who is generally healthy in a “13 pieces of flair / bare minimum” kind of way, my symptoms pale in comparison to many more people who have scary respiratory and cardiac symptoms and have had them for 6-12 months at this point. Is the fatigue, anxiety and depression really tough at times – hell yes. But I’m still here.
I am only 7 weeks in at this point. My body could be rounding the corner on its own. A good number of long covid sufferers recover by 3 months. While daunting, that is still 5 weeks away for me.
Then there is the vaccine news – Anecdotally, a healthy percentage of people who get a vaccine have it resolve their long covid symptoms shortly thereafter.
I got my first dose of Moderna last Thursday and while symptoms did not go away and even got more intense at times for the first few days, for the past two nights I slept through the night for the first time in 2 weeks and have had little to no anxiety or fatigue in that timespan either.
Do I have this beat? Who knows? What I do know is that for the last 36 hours or so I have had a taste of what normal was – and I love it.
This has forced me to reevaluate my caffeine and alcohol intake along with other poor lifestyle choices. I have been relying heavily on meditation (mostly via the Calm app), going on walks, living more intentionally with my time / planning, not overwhelming myself with giant to-do lists, focusing on sleep and overall only doing non-mandatory things that are going to improve my mood (no I am not going to watch another episode of Black Mirror just because)
My takeaways from this other than me sharing what I have been experiencing for a while? Hmmm well…
- Covid’s effect can not be measured by deaths alone. Long term symptoms are present in 10% of people who get it and for many it restricts them from ever getting back to the life that they had before. If I have to hear one more well-intentioned Libertarian type drone on about how “the old people are safe now” and we need to open everything up immediately I am gonna fucking snap. Figure it out you selfish bastard.
- Get vaccinated as soon as you can. Whatever vaccine you can get, get it. The second dose of whatever may knock you on your ass but trust me it’s better than the alternative.
- Continue to wear masks. Expect to wear them indoors for the remainder of 2021. Lots of people are gonna foolishly decide to not get vaccinated and there will be more contagious variants out there. It’s not that much of a burden, especially when you weigh the return on investment.