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The One Emotion I Didn't Think I'd Experience When a Doctor Thought I Had COVID-19

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When I thought about the idea of getting COVID-19 during this pandemic, I imagined how scary it would be to actually get sick.

But there was one emotion I didn’t imagine: guilt. I know, I should’ve seen that coming. I’ve had a chronic illness for two years and deal with guilt from that often. Feeling guilty that I can’t do things I used to do, feeling guilty that I need help from others, feeling guilty that I’m letting people down. This guilt built up over time and would fade away depending on how I felt about myself and how others treated me.

But the guilt with COVID-19 was completely different. Immediately after I got off the phone with my doctor, who thought I had COVID-19, I texted my mom that I wouldn’t be downstairs for dinner. I started crying and I couldn’t stop. I was so overwhelmed by an immediate, powerful wave of guilt.

When my mom stopped by my room, she said through the door, “Are you crying?” When I responded “yes,” she told me, “You will be OK.” But I knew that. I wasn’t crying out of fear. I knew that I would likely get better, and if I got a lot sicker first, I would deal with that. I’m lucky to live in an area with exceptional medical care and to have access to health insurance, so I knew that I would be helped.

Instead, I was crying out of guilt. Out of fear for others. What if I had gotten somebody else sick? What if I brought this home and got my family sick? What if I got my high-risk dad sick? Or what if I brought this to work? What if other people there got sick? I work for a small business, so if a lot of people were out sick, we wouldn’t be able to stay open.

I couldn’t stop imagining everything I had touched in the past few days. I wore a mask, and I social distanced and washed my hands often, but I still went to work. I touched food that we would sell to customers (with gloves on, but still). What if nobody I had worked with was able to go back to work because of the quarantine? And how long would it take to bleach everything I had touched there?

I felt so lonely. How would anyone ever trust me again? How could I have done this to people I care so much about?

Luckily, everyone was extremely nice about it. My boss was only concerned for how I was feeling, and not worried because we had been following safety precautions. My family didn’t blame me either.

When I told one of my friends how I felt, she said, “We are in a pandemic. It’s not your fault.”

While I still felt responsible, I knew she was right.

This was a global problem, and even if I gave it to one other person, that didn’t put me at fault. I realized I had gotten it from somebody else too, and that’s what infectious diseases do, they spread.

I hope that if you get diagnosed with COVID-19, you remember that you did not do anything wrong. Hundreds of thousands of people have had this virus, and you are not the first one to worry about spreading it. Take this time not to worry about other people, but to slow down and rest.

In full disclosure, I ended up testing negative for COVID-19 a week later. I don’t know if I ever had it, or if I had something else. Still, this is what I experienced when I was told I did have it. I am endlessly grateful to everyone who supported me, and I hope that everyone else is able to connect virtually with people to support them during this time too.

Have you experienced guilt with COVID-19? Let us know in the comments below.

Struggling with anxiety due to COVID-19? Check out the following articles from our community:


Originally published: May 28, 2020
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