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What It's Like to Get Through 6 Months With Long-Haul COVID

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Next week marks my sixth month of what I can only describe as debilitating fatigue attacks, ongoing vomiting, nausea, debilitating dizziness, a chronic headache, lightheadedness that feels like I’m in a lift all the time, weakness, and an insincere feeling that I’m in an “unwell” bubble…

Back in week one, it seemed like I just had COVID. “Just COVID.” But my PCR got spoiled at the lab, and I was too late to return a positive thereafter. Twenty-four weeks and many doctors appointments later, we call this Long COVID. Since weeks three and four — the resurrection of illness and the period in which I could hardly walk — doing anything at all now requires an impeccably-engineered strategy. And the fatigue that follows, has been relentless. At the time, I was so exhausted I remember thinking it would take the rest of my life to wake up. After lots of leave and a fortnight of working horizontally from the couch, I asked my boss “what if I can never work again?” I feared losing my job, not because I was incapable of the work, but because my body was suddenly incapable of anything. I was trapped in a heavy ache that ruminated in my muscles, my bones, and my nervous system.

So I did what I do best and told everyone I was fine. But my body was drowning, and most days my mind submerged with it. I still continue to experience major blocks that I can’t quite describe. Five months on and I still can only dream of working a proper week the way I used to, of being able to drive myself beyond an 8km radius from home, of going anywhere at all without organizing in advance where I can throw up if necessary. Some days I’m lucky and functioning feels conceivable, some days less so. I like to think the lucky days are becoming more frequent, but it’s the roll of a dice and I just hope for the best.

Still, these are just words, and words can’t really capture what the last few months have been… it’s a bit of a had to be there (which is kind of redundant for someone like me who rarely lets anyone be here to see, but anyway). Most days still feel incomparably heavy, but today is a good one. Today is a clear-headed, well-rested, sharp, focused, digest-all-three-meals good day. And I’m writing this now, because not every day is like this. And on those days, I long to remember that these days exist. To remember that four months ago, I doubted my body’s ability to recover. And yet weeks later, I made it back behind the wheel of the car. That three months ago, visiting the office for three hours would leave me days away from restoration. And still, progress. Now I go twice a week routinely.

So this month, as my brain indulges in frustration that I am not “better” and the simultaneous fear that I may never be, I am capturing these days. Recently (on the bad ones), I’ve found myself longing for someone to understand how ill I feel. For someone to understand that I am not just tired, but that I am dragging my body through wet concrete. And it crossed my mind, that I might not be the only person I know, getting dragged through this quick dry cement in a good outfit. Post-viral syndromes are not new, but I get the sense that like anything chronic, they are deeply misunderstood.

Just like our pain, our grief, our invisible tribulations that we cannot shake… it takes hard work, hard choices, and hard days.

We are all carrying the weight of over two years in a pandemic now. Sick or well. Overworking or taking a break. Stuck or thriving. We are all still here with all of our belongings, beneath this heaviness. It’s hard, but we can do hard things.

Because we’ve had heavy weeks before, right. We’ve had years we thought would crush us. We’ve had pieces of who we thought we were torn from us by love and life and loss.

So now, we use everything we know from the heavy weeks and the crushing years and the incomparable losses that came before. Some days we are enduring, some days fragile.

Today, I really am fine. I’m also exhausted. I’m trying. I’m human. I’m in good company, deep despair and a body that needs help. We are all a lot of things right now. But above all else, we must remember to honor the power of simply being here. Here — still; beneath this weight. Exercising all of the strength we always knew we had. There is nothing braver or bolder right now, then continuing to get up every day.

Like all things that threaten to take the parts of life we love the most, I have had dark days with this. But I’ve seen enough life to believe wholeheartedly in recovery — of all forms, always. I waver, but the proof is within me.

I’m running at about 65% these days. But I started at 10%. Wherever you are on the sliding scale with whatever it is you’re up against, I can tell you that you will make it. Because we’ve made it every other time we thought we wouldn’t. Hold onto these good days, hold onto the people who stand beside you, and hold onto this journey that is the reclamation of your only life — over, and over, and over again.

We’ll make it.

I’ll see you there.

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

Originally published: September 10, 2022
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