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I've Spent Five Weeks Fighting COVID-19. This Is What It Feels Like.

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I have been “COVID-ing” for nearly five weeks, but it feels like it’s been an eternity. I knew it wouldn’t be a good thing for me to catch COVID-19 — I am chronically ill with respiratory disease. Last year, I had a “test run” of what COVID-19 might look like when I got gravely sick with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and ended up in the hospital. It took me a good month to recover from my respiratory symptoms, and I experienced soul-destroying post-viral fatigue for nearly four months.

It’s fair to say that I wasn’t looking forward to having COVID-19, and I did everything in my power to avoid it. I worked from home, avoided crowds, and wore my mask. Still, COVID-19 did eventually ambush me at home, and the only silver lining was that I caught the Omicron variant when I was fully vaccinated, and I avoided other variants. I am thankful that meant I was able to manage my symptoms at home and avoid a repeat of last year’s hospitalization.

Still, this “mild” form of COVID-19 is doing its worst inside of my body. In my first week of symptoms, I developed intense chest and sinus infections and had to increase my medication and take antibiotics. Week two saw the infections simmering down and serious gastrointestinal symptoms ramping up, including a diminished sense of smell and a nasty metallic taste in my mouth. Week three saw me reach the full impact of fatigue, and simple tasks became mammoths. The amount of energy required to even think clearly was exhausting. During week four, I still sounded like I had been gargling on nails and had a lot of pain around my ribs and upper chest. The doctor recommended taking my medication and another round of antibiotics. Unfortunately, though, she had no magic pill for my fatigue.

COVID-19 fatigue is an absolute beast, and it is so much more than just being tired. It may feel like an incredible heaviness in body and mind. It can come in the guise of slow, slurred speech, thought processes clunking away at a reduced speed, and emotional sensitivity amped up to the max. Focus may be a struggle as the mind flits and drifts with a will of its own. Motivation and enthusiasm can be sucked into the void of this endless, dark tiredness. Limbs may feel heavy and clumsy, and dexterity can be a thing of the past. To me, this fatigue feels as though on every level — emotional, physical, and spiritual — the essence of who I am is being diluted. While I can still appreciate who I was, I’m struggling to recognize the person fatigue is shaping me into. I think I can distill the impact of this beast called “fatigue,” but it makes me feel so darn sad.

In week five of my COVID-19, I have managed the mammoth task of getting ready for work in the morning and driving into the office — rather than working from home in my dressing gown. While my lungs definitely feel better this week, they still ache, and fatigue continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. This “mild” illness has stolen way too much time from me and has ripped away my feelings of resilience. I have been chronically ill my whole life, and I know I can cope with this. I am struggling though, and if anyone else tells me again that my COVID-19 symptoms are “really mild” or that I’m only struggling because of my underlying health conditions, I might just have to sit on the floor and have a cry.

I am completely over “COVID-ing” and naps and feeling my head hurt after I perform simple tasks. COVID-19, can we just part as friends now, you nasty, wee, viral overstayer?

Getty image by filadendron.

Originally published: June 4, 2022
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