Mariana Solarte Caicedo

@marianasolartec | contributor
Colombian psychologist, Masters in integration of people with disabilities. Arthritis, asthma, fibromyalgia, anxiety,major depressive disorder and suicide prevention activist. Trying to spread self love and awareness one article at a time.

Thriving Instead of Just Surviving With Depression

I think it happens to everyone when we are battling a chronic illness, physical or mental, that we often feel we are not in sync with the people our age. In my case I can honestly say that the years between 22 and 25 were focused on other stuff (wasted, from many others point of view). Basically in that period of my life I was busy trying to survive every day without any suicide attempt, learning to speak again after my conversion disorder episode, getting used to arthritis and managing life with fewer medications or therapy appointments. I was struggling to get my psychology degree and losing people by the minute who thought I was faking or that others had it worse. It took me a lot of time (in today’s concept of wanting everything done the fastest way possible) to feel like myself again, while I tried to seek validation by being constantly busy studying or working and not showing my vulnerability. In the last two years I started doing things that people my age normally do, with a huge effort, and I realized I was so busy surviving that I haven’t lived in so long. I had to eat in order to get my medication, my week was programed in terms of my therapy and doctor’s appointment, I had to double check every place to see if I could walk there or if my arthritis forced me to drive. My anxiety levels became higher each time and I was in survival mode almost every single day. But I had a few moments with my friends, with my family or on trips in which I started living again. I felt so unsafe in facing life’s unpredictability, and I noticed I lack a lot of skills that involve enjoying being present in the moment. And now I’m a lot of kilometers far from home for three months, just to enjoy life. To regain confidence and trust in myself, in strangers, in life, in unknown places. I’ve struggled a lot because I felt, once I quit my survival mode, that the experience wasn’t worth it. I’m not twirling around to see which chaotic situation I can solve, or working, or studying towards helping others. For the first time in over five years I’m helping myself to live. To enjoy. I’ve found myself tasting food again, enjoying meal times, sleeping in without feeling guilty, getting to know people with my guard kind-of-down, and day dreaming about a future (a great one), which I feel worth of having. Not because of what I do, or what I have, or my degrees, but just for the mere reason of being able to get here after an incredibly hard path. I’m in vacation mode. Of what? Of getting my suicidal-arthritic-panic attack self here, to my 27th birthday. And it feels nice. Of course it’s weird sometimes and survival mode comes up to try to defend me from my intrusive thoughts as if they were reality. I have to talk myself every day and say, “You are worth living, not just surviving.” And I’m learning to, at my age and my pace, but I’m starting to enjoy life. So far, it’s highly recommended!

Thriving Instead of Just Surviving With Depression

I think it happens to everyone when we are battling a chronic illness, physical or mental, that we often feel we are not in sync with the people our age. In my case I can honestly say that the years between 22 and 25 were focused on other stuff (wasted, from many others point of view). Basically in that period of my life I was busy trying to survive every day without any suicide attempt, learning to speak again after my conversion disorder episode, getting used to arthritis and managing life with fewer medications or therapy appointments. I was struggling to get my psychology degree and losing people by the minute who thought I was faking or that others had it worse. It took me a lot of time (in today’s concept of wanting everything done the fastest way possible) to feel like myself again, while I tried to seek validation by being constantly busy studying or working and not showing my vulnerability. In the last two years I started doing things that people my age normally do, with a huge effort, and I realized I was so busy surviving that I haven’t lived in so long. I had to eat in order to get my medication, my week was programed in terms of my therapy and doctor’s appointment, I had to double check every place to see if I could walk there or if my arthritis forced me to drive. My anxiety levels became higher each time and I was in survival mode almost every single day. But I had a few moments with my friends, with my family or on trips in which I started living again. I felt so unsafe in facing life’s unpredictability, and I noticed I lack a lot of skills that involve enjoying being present in the moment. And now I’m a lot of kilometers far from home for three months, just to enjoy life. To regain confidence and trust in myself, in strangers, in life, in unknown places. I’ve struggled a lot because I felt, once I quit my survival mode, that the experience wasn’t worth it. I’m not twirling around to see which chaotic situation I can solve, or working, or studying towards helping others. For the first time in over five years I’m helping myself to live. To enjoy. I’ve found myself tasting food again, enjoying meal times, sleeping in without feeling guilty, getting to know people with my guard kind-of-down, and day dreaming about a future (a great one), which I feel worth of having. Not because of what I do, or what I have, or my degrees, but just for the mere reason of being able to get here after an incredibly hard path. I’m in vacation mode. Of what? Of getting my suicidal-arthritic-panic attack self here, to my 27th birthday. And it feels nice. Of course it’s weird sometimes and survival mode comes up to try to defend me from my intrusive thoughts as if they were reality. I have to talk myself every day and say, “You are worth living, not just surviving.” And I’m learning to, at my age and my pace, but I’m starting to enjoy life. So far, it’s highly recommended!

Thriving Instead of Just Surviving With Depression

I think it happens to everyone when we are battling a chronic illness, physical or mental, that we often feel we are not in sync with the people our age. In my case I can honestly say that the years between 22 and 25 were focused on other stuff (wasted, from many others point of view). Basically in that period of my life I was busy trying to survive every day without any suicide attempt, learning to speak again after my conversion disorder episode, getting used to arthritis and managing life with fewer medications or therapy appointments. I was struggling to get my psychology degree and losing people by the minute who thought I was faking or that others had it worse. It took me a lot of time (in today’s concept of wanting everything done the fastest way possible) to feel like myself again, while I tried to seek validation by being constantly busy studying or working and not showing my vulnerability. In the last two years I started doing things that people my age normally do, with a huge effort, and I realized I was so busy surviving that I haven’t lived in so long. I had to eat in order to get my medication, my week was programed in terms of my therapy and doctor’s appointment, I had to double check every place to see if I could walk there or if my arthritis forced me to drive. My anxiety levels became higher each time and I was in survival mode almost every single day. But I had a few moments with my friends, with my family or on trips in which I started living again. I felt so unsafe in facing life’s unpredictability, and I noticed I lack a lot of skills that involve enjoying being present in the moment. And now I’m a lot of kilometers far from home for three months, just to enjoy life. To regain confidence and trust in myself, in strangers, in life, in unknown places. I’ve struggled a lot because I felt, once I quit my survival mode, that the experience wasn’t worth it. I’m not twirling around to see which chaotic situation I can solve, or working, or studying towards helping others. For the first time in over five years I’m helping myself to live. To enjoy. I’ve found myself tasting food again, enjoying meal times, sleeping in without feeling guilty, getting to know people with my guard kind-of-down, and day dreaming about a future (a great one), which I feel worth of having. Not because of what I do, or what I have, or my degrees, but just for the mere reason of being able to get here after an incredibly hard path. I’m in vacation mode. Of what? Of getting my suicidal-arthritic-panic attack self here, to my 27th birthday. And it feels nice. Of course it’s weird sometimes and survival mode comes up to try to defend me from my intrusive thoughts as if they were reality. I have to talk myself every day and say, “You are worth living, not just surviving.” And I’m learning to, at my age and my pace, but I’m starting to enjoy life. So far, it’s highly recommended!

Thriving Instead of Just Surviving With Depression

I think it happens to everyone when we are battling a chronic illness, physical or mental, that we often feel we are not in sync with the people our age. In my case I can honestly say that the years between 22 and 25 were focused on other stuff (wasted, from many others point of view). Basically in that period of my life I was busy trying to survive every day without any suicide attempt, learning to speak again after my conversion disorder episode, getting used to arthritis and managing life with fewer medications or therapy appointments. I was struggling to get my psychology degree and losing people by the minute who thought I was faking or that others had it worse. It took me a lot of time (in today’s concept of wanting everything done the fastest way possible) to feel like myself again, while I tried to seek validation by being constantly busy studying or working and not showing my vulnerability. In the last two years I started doing things that people my age normally do, with a huge effort, and I realized I was so busy surviving that I haven’t lived in so long. I had to eat in order to get my medication, my week was programed in terms of my therapy and doctor’s appointment, I had to double check every place to see if I could walk there or if my arthritis forced me to drive. My anxiety levels became higher each time and I was in survival mode almost every single day. But I had a few moments with my friends, with my family or on trips in which I started living again. I felt so unsafe in facing life’s unpredictability, and I noticed I lack a lot of skills that involve enjoying being present in the moment. And now I’m a lot of kilometers far from home for three months, just to enjoy life. To regain confidence and trust in myself, in strangers, in life, in unknown places. I’ve struggled a lot because I felt, once I quit my survival mode, that the experience wasn’t worth it. I’m not twirling around to see which chaotic situation I can solve, or working, or studying towards helping others. For the first time in over five years I’m helping myself to live. To enjoy. I’ve found myself tasting food again, enjoying meal times, sleeping in without feeling guilty, getting to know people with my guard kind-of-down, and day dreaming about a future (a great one), which I feel worth of having. Not because of what I do, or what I have, or my degrees, but just for the mere reason of being able to get here after an incredibly hard path. I’m in vacation mode. Of what? Of getting my suicidal-arthritic-panic attack self here, to my 27th birthday. And it feels nice. Of course it’s weird sometimes and survival mode comes up to try to defend me from my intrusive thoughts as if they were reality. I have to talk myself every day and say, “You are worth living, not just surviving.” And I’m learning to, at my age and my pace, but I’m starting to enjoy life. So far, it’s highly recommended!

To My Younger Self, Before Any Mental Illness or Disability: Thank You

Can you trace back your steps to the moment where everything changed? I’m not talking about the big milestones that were meaningful, I’m talking about the second in which you changed forever. In my case, I can’t. Of course, I can see how family and relationship issues, mental health diagnoses, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), disability and everything shaped the person I am today, at my 26 years. But, I’ve been watching some old family videos, in which I could see myself from 2 to 6 years old, and I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. Most of it was because of the simplest of things I no longer take for granted, like having energy, being able to walk without pain or mobility restriction, not having to take medications or not having the slightest clue what therapy meant. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because I’m not. Pretty much all of those things have saved my life and have brought me back to myself after very hard moments. I’m grateful for them, but I certainly miss a time in which I didn’t need them, in which I never contemplated the aforementioned scenario, in which I felt the luckiest and happiest girl alive. For many years, I felt guilty. I felt like I had let that little girl down. She was so full of joy and energy and hope, and I felt like I couldn’t keep up with her expectations about how life had to turn out. So, I distanced myself from listening to stories or watching videos of my young self. I didn’t need the constant reminder of the time in which I wasn’t depressed, anxious, with suicidal thoughts and a growing disability as a consequence of early RA. And I thought I could suppress the old me, but it chased me. The medication started working great, I started applying the tools I’ve learned in therapy in my real life, I accepted myself and came out of the mental health closet, found my people, started practicing gratitude and even found a kick in wearing a cane. I can’t trace back my steps and I can’t pin down the moment when it happened, but the old me came back. Wiser, tougher, stronger and more resilient. A me who swears a lot and sometimes can be pessimistic. But that girl who dreams way too much, who hopes, who feels lucky and joy with the simplest things in life came back. And I’m glad she did, I’m glad that the struggles of the past have given her a new home, a bit different, but comfy and amazing. So, I watched the videos last night. I stopped running away from the young me. I saw her, she shined with her own light and lived by her own rules. She didn’t give a single bit of care about what people thought of her. And I see that in me, I’m trying to live by my own rules and tell my story without caring about other people’s opinions. I’m trying to break a mold and be happy with what makes me happy, not with what society expects from me. I still cherish my family like my biggest treasure and find in them my greatest joy. I don’t know if 3-year-old Mariana is proud of 26-year-old Mariana. I bet she is … but more than that, I’d like to tell her she’s my greatest inspiration and source of wisdom. I realized I have to go back to the start, to the roots, to the basics to be myself and find myself again. So, thank you kid. I know life didn’t turn out even a single bit of how we hoped, but it’s pretty damn good. I’ve got you. I’ve got us.

Celebrating My Survival Journey on World Suicide Prevention Day

For me, this is the most important piece to write every year, and I usually spend weeks thinking about what to speak about. World Suicide Prevention Day — September 10 — means the world to me. I tend to feel it as a birthday, and this year I’m amazed to see how my relationship with the day has changed since 2016 — when I first acknowledged it and started celebrating it. In the beginning, on that first year, I’m sure I did it as a desperate attempt to hold on to my very own life. I was very fragile, and somehow, reading the stories of people — knowing they took a day in their lives to write about hope and recovery — made me feel a little bit better in a very blurry and uncertain reality. Four months later, in December, I was attempting suicide for the last time, which made me feel like all kinds of a hypocrite and a fraud. That second year was hard. I think because of feeling death so near, I took the day as a nostalgic date in which I couldn’t stop feeling guilty and that I didn’t deserve my luck (because I do feel lucky to be alive). 2018 and 2019 were years in which I felt more and more proud of my story, where I was able to talk about suicide and its impact on my life without embarrassment and with my head held up high. It’s not easy and I think there are people for whom it’s harder, but I reassured on those years that we needed to talk about suicide because I felt it near, because I know how easy it is, because every possible scenario brings up a number of consequences for one and our loved ones, whether you survive or not. Since last year, I started being grateful. Of course, nostalgia is still there while remembering the ones we lost, but the overall feeling is gratitude for being here, for my friends and family members being alive, for those whom I know battled a lot but are still here to tell their stories. And I talk about this because I truly believe that there are a lot of folks out there in a similar position to mine, who aren’t part of the specific target, who aren’t in danger now, who somehow moved on (even if there’s a part of us who cracked in that moment) and whose feelings revolve on September 10th. We deserve, as we advocate for prevention, education and action, to celebrate our own journeys. We deserve to feel lucky to be alive, to talk about it without the shame and guilt, to feel victorious of defeating, at least that time, this horrible monster. It has been a particularly rough year, with overwhelming anxiety , death surrounding us, job-loss, uncertainty and a lack of hope. And here we are, on another September 10th. We made it. I don’t know what I’ll be writing in a year from now. I don’t know that the next 12 months will bring. I always say that you can’t truly be on the other side of suicide attempts; I believe relapses happen in a minute and we are the lucky ones enjoying the good times for as long or as short as they last. But this year, I’m happy, I’m grateful, I’m peaceful and I know I’m in a good place of my journey. I choose to honor that, to celebrate it because only God knows how hard it has been. And I choose to keep talking about it, for as long as I live, because I’m hopeful about how others can reach a good place too. If you are a survivor, give yourself the chance of giving thanks, of loving life a little bit more and of feeling proud of yourself this World Suicide Prevention Day (and every day). As always, in memoriam of those who we lost too soon and with a big hug to their loved ones.

Celebrating Disability Pride Month During Turbulent 2020

July is Disability Pride Month, which many people may not know because it’s vastly underrecognized. And this year especially, it may feel difficult or inappropriate to celebrate disability pride after Pride Month, in the midst of a movement against police brutality and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this month, particularly with the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, it’s extremely important to consider that the disability community has also lost rights and needs to move into self-love. Many people still can’t access buildings, disability discrimination runs rampant, and a multitude of people regard their disabilities with shame. Many of us can’t go out in public without some pretty extreme reactions from complete strangers, and for those of us who can, it’s easy for guilt to crop up, even though “passing” as able-bodied can also have profound psychological consequences. In the past month especially, I’ve struggled to be proud of my disability identity because it’s forced me to make some really difficult decisions. I’ve had moments where I’ve hated how easily I feel fatigued, how much pressure I feel to uphold able-bodied expectations, and how difficult it is to disclose that I have cerebral palsy in a predominantly able-bodied world. Even writing or speaking my own diagnosis sometimes makes me cringe. But while that reaction is valid in the context of my life, I shouldn’t have been put in a position to feel that way about disability in the first place. And it’s all too common for people with disabilities to experience the same deep-seated internalized ableism I routinely feel, which is why we, as a disability community, need to turn our shame into pride. The lack of understanding and rights and the resulting shame the disability community faces all goes to show just how important Disability Pride Month is for people with health conditions. As people with disabilities, we deserve access, inclusion and empathy. We deserve to be proud not only of our capabilities but also of our struggles. So until the ableism in our world subsides and we can fully foster self-love for our bodies and minds, Disability Pride Month will matter just as much as any other movement for change.

What the Aftermath of a Mild COVID-19 Case Really Looks Like

I know I’m no one to judge you, to tell you want to do and I surely don’t pretend to do so. But I chose to speak about what the experience of having the coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) has been for me, in case anyone wants to know how a medium case develops. All we see in the news are stories about people who, in a somehow miraculous way, have no symptoms at all, or those who in a truly miraculous way (to a believer like me) recover after spending a month in the hospital, in a coma , with a ventilator. I’m here to talk about the spectrum of people who are between those two extremes but also to talk about the aftermath. I’m also here as an immunosuppressed patient with a chronic illness, who has asthma and arthritis , and how those processes have been affected too. I can’t tell you how I got infected; I had been home in self-isolation for 36 days when my symptoms started. On April 8, I had diarrhea and a migraine attack, which I blamed on anything else but the virus, and the next day I had what I felt like was a very strong and fast asthma attack. I used my inhaler and went to the ER, where they told me that as I had been at home for almost a month, there was no way I had COVID-19, and with no further blood test or X-ray, they sent me home. That first week was the worst. I felt pain that I had never felt before, like it was being run over and it was about to explode. I was tender to touch, I couldn’t sleep for more than two or three hours, I cried my eyes out because of the pain, I couldn’t eat or drink anything without having diarrhea and nausea, my head felt like a ticking bomb, I had horrible nightmares, I felt exhausted and I couldn’t recover no matter what I tried. The second week, the same, plus a urinary tract infection (UTI). I remember telling my mom that whatever I had in my body was a different kind of illness, a more aggressive one, an unknown one. I kept having the same symptoms, with another on two nights: I had the most draining night sweats that left me like I had just came out of the pool, and then, at the next day, my temperature would drop to the minimum before hypothermia (35°C). When it happened for the second time, I told my psychiatrist (who is my closest doctor) and he sent me some tests and X-rays, all of which came out non-conclusive, so he told me to attend the hospital he works in. I did, and there they treated me like a “COVID-19 suspect case” for the first time. The next morning, at 4 a.m., I was allowed to go home to wait for the coronavirus test results, which came back positive some days later. The UTI went away with medication, but the rest of the symptoms stayed the same, and have stayed the same, even when my second test result was negative in the first week of May. And that’s what I want to talk about. I’ve been negative for 25 days today at the time of writing this. Still, I have diarrhea, strong headaches, night sweats, pain, fatigue (sometimes needing to take two or three naps a day), and difficulty breathing in and out. I’m more dependent of my inhaler than what I’ve been since I was 5 years old, needing to use one three times a day and the other two times a day. I’ve lost a lot of weight. My arthritis medication was suspended by my doctor since April, and my mildly aggressive chronic illness is having the time of its life crooking my fingers and keeping me up at night thanks to the pain and inflammation in every joint. My skin is so dry from the constant diarrhea and sweating that it’s cracking up open, and I’ve had a lip injury for 20 days now. When I go to sleep, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to work and study as much as I need the next day because there are days in which I can barely get out of bed and I can’t focus. Last Monday, I had three naps, two and a half hours each. I’m doing my master’s degree and my thesis. I need to be able to do something, but there are days in which it’s simply not possible. On Saturday, I went out for the first time since March to a place that wasn’t the hospital. I walked a block and came home gasping for air, with my lungs feeling like I’d ran a marathon and my body aching — in the worst physical shape I’ve been in my life. And I’m here. I was able to have a COVID-19 case that was treated at home. I had no traditional symptoms. I’m lucky, but my body is exhausted and broken and somehow forgot how to go back to normality. People all around the world share the same stories — they have had symptoms for up to three months before they started to feel themselves again. To them, I hug you! To the rest, I just want you to consider if you are willing to have symptoms for two months straight just because you think this is a political conspiracy, or because the barbecue couldn’t wait, or because you don’t want to wear a face mask. For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community: How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? 8 Atypical Symptoms of COVID-19 Coronavirus and Chronic Illness: What You Need to Know The Problem With Saying ‘Only’ the Elderly and Immunocompromised Will Be Affected by COVID-19 If I Get COVID-19 It Might Be Ableism – Not the Virus – That Kills Me

What the Aftermath of a Mild COVID-19 Case Really Looks Like

I know I’m no one to judge you, to tell you want to do and I surely don’t pretend to do so. But I chose to speak about what the experience of having the coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) has been for me, in case anyone wants to know how a medium case develops. All we see in the news are stories about people who, in a somehow miraculous way, have no symptoms at all, or those who in a truly miraculous way (to a believer like me) recover after spending a month in the hospital, in a coma , with a ventilator. I’m here to talk about the spectrum of people who are between those two extremes but also to talk about the aftermath. I’m also here as an immunosuppressed patient with a chronic illness, who has asthma and arthritis , and how those processes have been affected too. I can’t tell you how I got infected; I had been home in self-isolation for 36 days when my symptoms started. On April 8, I had diarrhea and a migraine attack, which I blamed on anything else but the virus, and the next day I had what I felt like was a very strong and fast asthma attack. I used my inhaler and went to the ER, where they told me that as I had been at home for almost a month, there was no way I had COVID-19, and with no further blood test or X-ray, they sent me home. That first week was the worst. I felt pain that I had never felt before, like it was being run over and it was about to explode. I was tender to touch, I couldn’t sleep for more than two or three hours, I cried my eyes out because of the pain, I couldn’t eat or drink anything without having diarrhea and nausea, my head felt like a ticking bomb, I had horrible nightmares, I felt exhausted and I couldn’t recover no matter what I tried. The second week, the same, plus a urinary tract infection (UTI). I remember telling my mom that whatever I had in my body was a different kind of illness, a more aggressive one, an unknown one. I kept having the same symptoms, with another on two nights: I had the most draining night sweats that left me like I had just came out of the pool, and then, at the next day, my temperature would drop to the minimum before hypothermia (35°C). When it happened for the second time, I told my psychiatrist (who is my closest doctor) and he sent me some tests and X-rays, all of which came out non-conclusive, so he told me to attend the hospital he works in. I did, and there they treated me like a “COVID-19 suspect case” for the first time. The next morning, at 4 a.m., I was allowed to go home to wait for the coronavirus test results, which came back positive some days later. The UTI went away with medication, but the rest of the symptoms stayed the same, and have stayed the same, even when my second test result was negative in the first week of May. And that’s what I want to talk about. I’ve been negative for 25 days today at the time of writing this. Still, I have diarrhea, strong headaches, night sweats, pain, fatigue (sometimes needing to take two or three naps a day), and difficulty breathing in and out. I’m more dependent of my inhaler than what I’ve been since I was 5 years old, needing to use one three times a day and the other two times a day. I’ve lost a lot of weight. My arthritis medication was suspended by my doctor since April, and my mildly aggressive chronic illness is having the time of its life crooking my fingers and keeping me up at night thanks to the pain and inflammation in every joint. My skin is so dry from the constant diarrhea and sweating that it’s cracking up open, and I’ve had a lip injury for 20 days now. When I go to sleep, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to work and study as much as I need the next day because there are days in which I can barely get out of bed and I can’t focus. Last Monday, I had three naps, two and a half hours each. I’m doing my master’s degree and my thesis. I need to be able to do something, but there are days in which it’s simply not possible. On Saturday, I went out for the first time since March to a place that wasn’t the hospital. I walked a block and came home gasping for air, with my lungs feeling like I’d ran a marathon and my body aching — in the worst physical shape I’ve been in my life. And I’m here. I was able to have a COVID-19 case that was treated at home. I had no traditional symptoms. I’m lucky, but my body is exhausted and broken and somehow forgot how to go back to normality. People all around the world share the same stories — they have had symptoms for up to three months before they started to feel themselves again. To them, I hug you! To the rest, I just want you to consider if you are willing to have symptoms for two months straight just because you think this is a political conspiracy, or because the barbecue couldn’t wait, or because you don’t want to wear a face mask. For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community: How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? 8 Atypical Symptoms of COVID-19 Coronavirus and Chronic Illness: What You Need to Know The Problem With Saying ‘Only’ the Elderly and Immunocompromised Will Be Affected by COVID-19 If I Get COVID-19 It Might Be Ableism – Not the Virus – That Kills Me

What the Aftermath of a Mild COVID-19 Case Really Looks Like

I know I’m no one to judge you, to tell you want to do and I surely don’t pretend to do so. But I chose to speak about what the experience of having the coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) has been for me, in case anyone wants to know how a medium case develops. All we see in the news are stories about people who, in a somehow miraculous way, have no symptoms at all, or those who in a truly miraculous way (to a believer like me) recover after spending a month in the hospital, in a coma , with a ventilator. I’m here to talk about the spectrum of people who are between those two extremes but also to talk about the aftermath. I’m also here as an immunosuppressed patient with a chronic illness, who has asthma and arthritis , and how those processes have been affected too. I can’t tell you how I got infected; I had been home in self-isolation for 36 days when my symptoms started. On April 8, I had diarrhea and a migraine attack, which I blamed on anything else but the virus, and the next day I had what I felt like was a very strong and fast asthma attack. I used my inhaler and went to the ER, where they told me that as I had been at home for almost a month, there was no way I had COVID-19, and with no further blood test or X-ray, they sent me home. That first week was the worst. I felt pain that I had never felt before, like it was being run over and it was about to explode. I was tender to touch, I couldn’t sleep for more than two or three hours, I cried my eyes out because of the pain, I couldn’t eat or drink anything without having diarrhea and nausea, my head felt like a ticking bomb, I had horrible nightmares, I felt exhausted and I couldn’t recover no matter what I tried. The second week, the same, plus a urinary tract infection (UTI). I remember telling my mom that whatever I had in my body was a different kind of illness, a more aggressive one, an unknown one. I kept having the same symptoms, with another on two nights: I had the most draining night sweats that left me like I had just came out of the pool, and then, at the next day, my temperature would drop to the minimum before hypothermia (35°C). When it happened for the second time, I told my psychiatrist (who is my closest doctor) and he sent me some tests and X-rays, all of which came out non-conclusive, so he told me to attend the hospital he works in. I did, and there they treated me like a “COVID-19 suspect case” for the first time. The next morning, at 4 a.m., I was allowed to go home to wait for the coronavirus test results, which came back positive some days later. The UTI went away with medication, but the rest of the symptoms stayed the same, and have stayed the same, even when my second test result was negative in the first week of May. And that’s what I want to talk about. I’ve been negative for 25 days today at the time of writing this. Still, I have diarrhea, strong headaches, night sweats, pain, fatigue (sometimes needing to take two or three naps a day), and difficulty breathing in and out. I’m more dependent of my inhaler than what I’ve been since I was 5 years old, needing to use one three times a day and the other two times a day. I’ve lost a lot of weight. My arthritis medication was suspended by my doctor since April, and my mildly aggressive chronic illness is having the time of its life crooking my fingers and keeping me up at night thanks to the pain and inflammation in every joint. My skin is so dry from the constant diarrhea and sweating that it’s cracking up open, and I’ve had a lip injury for 20 days now. When I go to sleep, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to work and study as much as I need the next day because there are days in which I can barely get out of bed and I can’t focus. Last Monday, I had three naps, two and a half hours each. I’m doing my master’s degree and my thesis. I need to be able to do something, but there are days in which it’s simply not possible. On Saturday, I went out for the first time since March to a place that wasn’t the hospital. I walked a block and came home gasping for air, with my lungs feeling like I’d ran a marathon and my body aching — in the worst physical shape I’ve been in my life. And I’m here. I was able to have a COVID-19 case that was treated at home. I had no traditional symptoms. I’m lucky, but my body is exhausted and broken and somehow forgot how to go back to normality. People all around the world share the same stories — they have had symptoms for up to three months before they started to feel themselves again. To them, I hug you! To the rest, I just want you to consider if you are willing to have symptoms for two months straight just because you think this is a political conspiracy, or because the barbecue couldn’t wait, or because you don’t want to wear a face mask. For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community: How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? 8 Atypical Symptoms of COVID-19 Coronavirus and Chronic Illness: What You Need to Know The Problem With Saying ‘Only’ the Elderly and Immunocompromised Will Be Affected by COVID-19 If I Get COVID-19 It Might Be Ableism – Not the Virus – That Kills Me