Tessa Koller

@tess-koller | contributor
I am a motivational public speaker, world traveler, an advocate for those with disabilities, and I am a writer and journalist at Thrive Global and Lifehack.org.
Tessa Koller

Long-Haul COVID-19 and Receiving a Behcet's Disease Diagnosis

After months of illness, physical pain, and inability to do everyday activities without health interruptions, I thought long-haul COVID-19would be my only struggle, and I’d overcome it. I was eager to get back to my life — running my little sewing business and doing the artwork I love. Back in August 2021, only four months post-vaccination, I contracted the Delta variant of COVID-19, and my symptoms were between moderate and severe but leaning closer to severe. I’d spent my two weeks with the virus and then noticed most of the symptoms didn’t resolve — the headaches, nausea, and chest pain when coughing, along with a host of other symptoms. Long-haul COVID-19 sent me to the emergency room numerous times with breathing issues, digestive distress, and other debilitating symptoms nobody could explain. The only information I knew for certain was that this was long-haul COVID-19 wreaking its havoc on every cell in my body. In the last three weeks, my health took another turn. A strange set of symptomatology that all seemed unrelated began having its way with me. From a strange metallic taste in my mouth to unusual chest pains, it felt as though I’d caught COVID-19 yet again. At first, some symptoms presented as fibromyalgia, but the pain felt deeply rooted in my bones, joints, tendons, and tissues. For about five days and nights, I was experiencing so much physical pain and agony that I couldn’t lie down on any part of my body. It hurt too much to sit, stand, and lie down on my stomach and back, and I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom sobbing myself to sleep or even not sleeping at all. Other symptoms, more personal ones I won’t be listing here, really put me through the wringer, and frequent hospital visits were causing me an undeniable amount of stress and anxiety. One symptom specifically led a nurse practitioner to believe that this was a Behcet’s disease autoimmune flare-up I was experiencing. It was like a funnel cloud had formed above my head and dropped right on top of me, upending everything in my life. In case you’re unfamiliar with Behcet’s disease, it’s a rare condition that is similar to vasculitis. The autoimmune disease had already spent months attacking my digestive system, immune system, lymphatic system, and many other bodily systems too. For about three weeks, I’ve been in the middle of an autoimmune flare-up that has been testing me to an extreme degree. To boot, I found out I have not one, but three bacterial infections that have all been utterly distressing. Still, I am relieved knowing this won’t be a forever situation, and it’s treatable and temporary. Perhaps I’m stronger than I give myself credit for, but the despair I felt in learning that I have Behcet’s disease has affected me on so many levels that words can’t express. There is no way for me to properly articulate what I’ve been going through with this disease. I’m still learning about Behcet’s disease, but I found myself undeniably angry that my lengthy battle with long-haul COVID-19 has led to it. The toll this autoimmune disease has taken on my mental and emotional health and well-being is irrefutable. On a better note, though, I’ve heard many positive things about this condition, including that people have been able to successfully tame Behcet’s almost to the point of full remission or to experiencing less frequent flare-ups. I’ve adopted a new way of eating and managing my health and lifestyle and am trying to be patient with my healing process. Being immunocompromised has made me realize how complex the immune system is in its reactions and responses to vaccines and diseases too. When I found out that Behcet’s disease is the mysterious autoimmune condition that was causing me so much trouble for all of these months, I didn’t want to accept or talk about it. However, our health is a part of us — whether we like or accept it or not. Our health isn’t the enemy — it can help us find new ways of living that may benefit us even more. It’s important to find resources that help you work with the sadness and grief a diagnosis like this can cause and be patient with the healing process. I’m utilizing the tools within me to move through this autoimmune flare-up: meditation, nutrition, a holistic approach to treatments, and of course, my art (when my energy allows it). Though I’m not happy about my Behcet’s disease diagnosis, I am hopeful about getting on a new path toward wellness that nourishes and enriches my health and life in the long term.

Tessa Koller

It's Time to Stop Referring to Health Issues as Shameful

Lately, comedians and actresses have been open about different health conditions. One comedian stated in the press that she used to struggle with trichotillomania (hair pulling) and referred to it as shameful. Whenever a health issue affects someone’s appearance, the person and those around them seem to have to mention how shameful it is to have to look a certain way or go through such hardship. As someone with more health issues than one can sometimes manage, I’ve found that how we think and feel about our bodies matters more than what others think about how we look. When I was a kid, I had the same problem with hair pulling, which for me was a behavior driven by immense stress and anxiety. I never wore wigs and never cared how it altered my physical appearance until I reached an age where I wanted to stop, not for others but for myself. Then, I grew out of this problem in my early teen years and began treating my anxiety and depression holistically and with gentleness. My years of counseling taught me that the circumstances that make us uncomfortable can greatly impact our physical and mental health and well-being if we allow them to. It’s the power I’d grant to these health issues. Essentially, I also stopped shaming myself when my anxiety or depression would take over. Instead, these days, I sit with uncomfortable feelings and emotions using meditation to rewire my mind and thought processes. In recent months, I’ve been focused heavily on changing my diet and lifestyle gradually with the goal of feeling better. Throughout this exploration, I learned to accept the things about my body I can’t change or alter and love myself regardless of how our popular culture views health conditions in general. For instance, I was once incredibly self-conscious about having open-heart surgery, but I’ve realized the scar is barely visible. People rarely notice it, and when they do, are compelled to ask me, “What is that?” And, I’ll reply, “You know what it is,” and grin at them. They know what a scar is and what a person has gone through to get it. I don’t like to go around advertising that I have heart disease, but I don’t go around hiding it and shaming my body. I’m somebody who isn’t afraid to show my vulnerabilities, though I don’t think having scars means that I’m vulnerable. It means I possess more strength probably than most. Just in the previous two months of my life, I’ve endured a kind of physical agony and pain in my journey with long-haul COVID-19, and there are some symptoms I still can’t totally shake. These symptoms can and have impacted me socially and I have been able to disguise the embarrassing ones. Back in December, my entire digestive system stalled and froze up, and didn’t think I’d have to go through that again. Unfortunately, in the last three weeks, it happened again. However, I was diligent in ensuring they didn’t get out of hand and discovered we are in control of more than we realize. I gained control of my cravings, my diet, and how I navigate my lifestyle with health and wellness practices at the heart of everything I do. I appreciate the people who openly share their health struggles through their art or profession, and this is what I do daily. Like anybody else, I don’t love having health problems, but I don’t hate on them either. I’ve learned to accept myself and my body fully, even if symptoms are rampaging through my systems and wreaking havoc on my appearance. I’ve learned to change the things that I can, and most importantly, change my mindset about them. I believe our health issues exist for a deeper reason; one that is beyond greater than ourselves and struggles. We endure hardship and come out stronger, wiser, and better equipped to handle the stressors life notoriously throws at each and every human being on this floating, rotating rock. Health issues shouldn’t be classified or labeled as shameful. They shouldn’t be labeled as anything. They are what they are, and we can only change what is in our control to change.

Tessa Koller

Health Effects of Long-Haul COVID-19

It was just three months ago when I was convinced I was living in a “new normal.” Back in August 2021, I caught the COVID-19 Delta variant and for more than seven months now, I’ve been fighting long-haul COVID-19 . People seem to think that only your first COVID-19 symptoms can send you to the emergency room. This isn’t the case. Long-haul COVID-19 just about eradicated me, and I’m still having significant hang-ups in my recovery. For months, I was struggling with dizziness and nausea, several headaches a day, fatigue I wouldn’t wish on anybody, chest pains that went from dull to unbearable in the blink of an eye, and as of December, a shutdown of my digestive system. One day, the function of my digestive tract froze up, and I couldn’t use the restroom. It was December 4 when it started, though before this, I was having instances of utter discomfort, constipation, and inability to urinate. By then, my health took such a drastic turn that I thought I had a kidney stone. I knew this couldn’t be the case when I found myself in a diaper. My symptoms were troubling. Before I go into more detail, I first must mention that I know about the challenges of dealing with health conditions. I have heart disease, lung disease, fibromyalgia, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), depression, and anxiety. They are all associated with a genetic syndrome I live with, 22Q11.2 Deletion Syndrome, which is commonly known as DiGeorge Syndrome. I’m at high risk for COVId-19, and these risks maximized in intensity and frequency since I’ve started combatting long COVID-19. On December 4, I found myself nearly in septic shock, and my kidneys and liver also shut down. The only explanation I received from doctors was this was a long-haul COVID-19 case in the works. But I could’ve never prepared for what I was about to endure. It was alarming being told that my digestive system had frozen up, and I could go through this again. I was so constipated that I was losing feeling in the lower half of my body — starting just below my waist. Somehow, I made it through without ending up in septic shock. I knew, though, that the ramifications of my illness would impact me to a stunning degree. Long-haul COVID-19 has impacted me already. It’s the middle of March 2022, and I am still experiencing digestive system stalls. I also still have difficulty breathing, and I discovered that I may have an autoimmune disease as a result of my COVID-19 breakthrough infection. I’ve had to accept that I may struggle with symptoms related to long-haul COVID-19 for some time. I’m somebody who is a realistic thinker, and I personally don’t believe that positive or negative thinking has any importance on any outcome. I do meditative breathing when I’m experiencing intense physical pain and lose functionality in my body systems. Meditation, yoga, stretching, breathing, and being active when I am able has helped me — but not completely. Right now, I’m focusing on internal healing — treating these symptoms and flare-ups from the inside out. For three months straight, I’ve increased my Vitamin B12, D-3, Omega-3 and Omega-6, and zinc levels, and I’ve noticed changes in my overall energy. On those days when I must honor my body and simply surrender to daytime sleepiness and fatigue when my body wants to sleep but my brain doesn’t, I give my body what it needs. I’ve always listened to my body and acted accordingly during these times, and this has been my approach to wellness.

Tessa Koller

How It Feels Being on a Monitoring System for Heart Disease

It didn’t fully hit me until my parents and I were sitting at my kitchen table talking on the phone to a woman who worked for a First Alert system. She was young and had heart disease like me. She kept saying that I sounded so young and “normal,” which she hears a lot as well. At some point in 2019 or 2020, my heart health took a plunge into arrhythmia issues. A cardiologist diagnosed me with Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT). If you’re not familiar with this type of arrhythmia, I’ll tell you how it feels living with these new changes to my heart’s function. For me, the symptoms of SVT range from either two high of a heart rate or two low, causing a domino effect of severe fatigue, chest pains, nausea and, on frequent occasions, digestive discomfort. Recently, when I was sitting for a couple of hours working on an art project, someone noticed my heart rate skyrocketing to 147, and I was hoping that was the time. But it was, in fact, my heart rate. Within seconds of this slightly longer episode, fatigue made my energy levels plummet. I was in a situation where I couldn’t lay down and take a long nap. Though I love an afternoon siesta, the fatigue has now become like an internal war with my brain and body. My brain wants to do things, to be creative and work. My body, though, denies the urge. It’s frustrating beyond belief to want to work but physically not have the ability to. When I’m down, after I’ve slept for at least an hour or two in the afternoon, then I’m awake and doing work. Still, exhausted and sitting down. I’ve been trying to walk each day. Some days, it takes everything in me to walk around the block of my neighborhood. Even if I’m walking slowly, I’ll break a sweat and my heart rate will either be through the roof or too low. To add insult to injury, within the last year, I started on heart medication, a betablocker to be specific. These episodes were too brief to pursue a pacemaker, so a First Alert System with the betablocker should make me feel more at ease. But none of these circumstances feels settling or easy to deal with at the age of thirty-seven. It’s nerve-wracking to find myself in situations of being forced to tell clients or strangers what’s been going on. Adding to my list of disquieting thoughts, my health is somehow always interfering with my life. I’m someone who loves being busy, and even though fatigue has been challenging my day-to-day routines, still, I keep plugging away. Heart disease has taken a lot from me, but I’m trying not to think in such a manner. Instead, I have transformed these hard feelings into work that I love doing. Those times when I’m down, I’m actively creating something whether it’s an art piece or an art tutorial. As someone who used to deal with insomnia, I am mindful to get sufficient sleep by minimizing distractions. My brain never rests and that’s the toughest hurdle. Its as if I am literally in a fight with various aspects of myself and when I notice this uneasiness creeping in, I find strategies to not slip down a rabbit hole of negativity. I used to keep my health issues a secret, but if there is anything this Coronavirus pandemic has taught me, it’s that if we’re sick or having problems, it’s courtesy to be honest about where you are and how you’re feeling for the sake of yourself and others. This First Alert system, while it makes me uneasy at times just to have, I also feel lucky that there are these devices that can save my life if in the event of an episode. I want to live a long life and there is technology, now, that can facilitate these desires. It’s also comforting knowing I have a tool to use in a crisis.

Tessa Koller

Getting Breakthrough COVID as a Vaccinated, Immunocompromised Person

On Monday, August 30, I was supposed to have two surgeries to repair two hernias in my abdomen. Within the weeks leading to the surgeries, I closed my alterations business, double-masked everywhere I went which was only on a needed basis and was extra cautious in general. Still, after having gone two years not catching COVID-19, it finally caught me. I am vaccinated, but I am high-risk, immunocompromised, have heart, lung, and vascular disease, and all are associated with the rare genetic syndrome, 22Q11.2 deletion syndrome. As careful as I was, the virus somehow found its way into my system and began its attack. For two weeks, I stayed in my bedroom, avoided my parents, and maintained far more than six feet distance. It was strange quarantining after all this time, and I was angry at myself for catching the novel virus. I’d kept asking myself what I’d done wrong to be so careless, but I wasn’t. When you have as many health conditions as I do, you are mindful every second and minute of the day, even if others are in denial that there are now dangerous variants still rampaging through the world. Vaccines don’t prevent all individuals from catching the virus, their job is to develop enough antibodies to actively fight against it to prevent hospitalization and death. The CDC is referring to these cases as breakthroughs, meaning even some vaccinated people are catching COVID-19 and getting very sick. This was me for two weeks, also fearing the repercussions of how my heart and lungs would cope with this breakthrough infection. I had a wide variety of symptoms including a stuffy head and nose, a cough that caused radiating pain that sprung from my chest to throat to my head. I also suffered two weeks of between a dull and severe headache that I couldn’t shake. I was most concerned about the cough as it was causing worsening pain. I had the full body aches from head to toe, like my fibromyalgia flareups, which I thought was the cause at first. It wasn’t until I dealt with coughing fits that had me hunched over on the floor that I knew I’d caught COVID-19, possibly one of the variants. The Delta variant is spreading and multiplying cases in my hometown outside of Chicago. Since my symptoms were severe, I knew it wasn’t regular COVID-19. For about eight days there, I was very ill and nervous about my low-capacity right lung, as half of it is missing. I have supraventricular tachycardia, SVT, and those episodes were kicking up. My heart rate would be at a standard 80 and then skyrocket abruptly to as high as 147 or more. There were moments when I would lie in bed enduring these symptoms and pray that I wouldn’t have a heart attack or that the virus wasn’t finding its way into the weak areas of my heart. Throughout the duration of this infection, I took homeopathic remedies that eased my symptoms. The job of these remedies is to thin secretions, and this allowed me to blow my nose every day and cough the infection out. Had I not taken these remedies, I’d probably would’ve gotten much sicker and been unable to flush the virus out of my system as effectively as I did. I took bio-plasma, cell salts, that directly treat issues within the cells by thinning secretions and boosting the body’s natural healing processes. I drank up to two liters of water a day and avoided gluten and dairy. The combination of these health and wellness practices eased my symptoms and the severity of this illness enough. After the two weeks, I had a new energy and could breathe clearly. I am through the infection, and though my heart condition still causes severe fatigue, I’ve found ways to work through it without costing a night of sleep by taking brief naps in the afternoons. Also, I’ve had to put my life on pause yet again because of this COVID-19 breakthrough infection, and I’m not sure when my surgeries will be rescheduled, but this is the circumstance I’m now in. If you’re as high-risk as me and catch COVID-19, it’s my hope that if you were vaccinated, the shots will protect you and do their job. Stay safe out there, the pandemic isn’t over and there are dangerous variants of COVID-19 to watch out for.

Tessa Koller

Getting Breakthrough COVID as a Vaccinated, Immunocompromised Person

On Monday, August 30, I was supposed to have two surgeries to repair two hernias in my abdomen. Within the weeks leading to the surgeries, I closed my alterations business, double-masked everywhere I went which was only on a needed basis and was extra cautious in general. Still, after having gone two years not catching COVID-19, it finally caught me. I am vaccinated, but I am high-risk, immunocompromised, have heart, lung, and vascular disease, and all are associated with the rare genetic syndrome, 22Q11.2 deletion syndrome. As careful as I was, the virus somehow found its way into my system and began its attack. For two weeks, I stayed in my bedroom, avoided my parents, and maintained far more than six feet distance. It was strange quarantining after all this time, and I was angry at myself for catching the novel virus. I’d kept asking myself what I’d done wrong to be so careless, but I wasn’t. When you have as many health conditions as I do, you are mindful every second and minute of the day, even if others are in denial that there are now dangerous variants still rampaging through the world. Vaccines don’t prevent all individuals from catching the virus, their job is to develop enough antibodies to actively fight against it to prevent hospitalization and death. The CDC is referring to these cases as breakthroughs, meaning even some vaccinated people are catching COVID-19 and getting very sick. This was me for two weeks, also fearing the repercussions of how my heart and lungs would cope with this breakthrough infection. I had a wide variety of symptoms including a stuffy head and nose, a cough that caused radiating pain that sprung from my chest to throat to my head. I also suffered two weeks of between a dull and severe headache that I couldn’t shake. I was most concerned about the cough as it was causing worsening pain. I had the full body aches from head to toe, like my fibromyalgia flareups, which I thought was the cause at first. It wasn’t until I dealt with coughing fits that had me hunched over on the floor that I knew I’d caught COVID-19, possibly one of the variants. The Delta variant is spreading and multiplying cases in my hometown outside of Chicago. Since my symptoms were severe, I knew it wasn’t regular COVID-19. For about eight days there, I was very ill and nervous about my low-capacity right lung, as half of it is missing. I have supraventricular tachycardia, SVT, and those episodes were kicking up. My heart rate would be at a standard 80 and then skyrocket abruptly to as high as 147 or more. There were moments when I would lie in bed enduring these symptoms and pray that I wouldn’t have a heart attack or that the virus wasn’t finding its way into the weak areas of my heart. Throughout the duration of this infection, I took homeopathic remedies that eased my symptoms. The job of these remedies is to thin secretions, and this allowed me to blow my nose every day and cough the infection out. Had I not taken these remedies, I’d probably would’ve gotten much sicker and been unable to flush the virus out of my system as effectively as I did. I took bio-plasma, cell salts, that directly treat issues within the cells by thinning secretions and boosting the body’s natural healing processes. I drank up to two liters of water a day and avoided gluten and dairy. The combination of these health and wellness practices eased my symptoms and the severity of this illness enough. After the two weeks, I had a new energy and could breathe clearly. I am through the infection, and though my heart condition still causes severe fatigue, I’ve found ways to work through it without costing a night of sleep by taking brief naps in the afternoons. Also, I’ve had to put my life on pause yet again because of this COVID-19 breakthrough infection, and I’m not sure when my surgeries will be rescheduled, but this is the circumstance I’m now in. If you’re as high-risk as me and catch COVID-19, it’s my hope that if you were vaccinated, the shots will protect you and do their job. Stay safe out there, the pandemic isn’t over and there are dangerous variants of COVID-19 to watch out for.

Tessa Koller

Getting Breakthrough COVID as a Vaccinated, Immunocompromised Person

On Monday, August 30, I was supposed to have two surgeries to repair two hernias in my abdomen. Within the weeks leading to the surgeries, I closed my alterations business, double-masked everywhere I went which was only on a needed basis and was extra cautious in general. Still, after having gone two years not catching COVID-19, it finally caught me. I am vaccinated, but I am high-risk, immunocompromised, have heart, lung, and vascular disease, and all are associated with the rare genetic syndrome, 22Q11.2 deletion syndrome. As careful as I was, the virus somehow found its way into my system and began its attack. For two weeks, I stayed in my bedroom, avoided my parents, and maintained far more than six feet distance. It was strange quarantining after all this time, and I was angry at myself for catching the novel virus. I’d kept asking myself what I’d done wrong to be so careless, but I wasn’t. When you have as many health conditions as I do, you are mindful every second and minute of the day, even if others are in denial that there are now dangerous variants still rampaging through the world. Vaccines don’t prevent all individuals from catching the virus, their job is to develop enough antibodies to actively fight against it to prevent hospitalization and death. The CDC is referring to these cases as breakthroughs, meaning even some vaccinated people are catching COVID-19 and getting very sick. This was me for two weeks, also fearing the repercussions of how my heart and lungs would cope with this breakthrough infection. I had a wide variety of symptoms including a stuffy head and nose, a cough that caused radiating pain that sprung from my chest to throat to my head. I also suffered two weeks of between a dull and severe headache that I couldn’t shake. I was most concerned about the cough as it was causing worsening pain. I had the full body aches from head to toe, like my fibromyalgia flareups, which I thought was the cause at first. It wasn’t until I dealt with coughing fits that had me hunched over on the floor that I knew I’d caught COVID-19, possibly one of the variants. The Delta variant is spreading and multiplying cases in my hometown outside of Chicago. Since my symptoms were severe, I knew it wasn’t regular COVID-19. For about eight days there, I was very ill and nervous about my low-capacity right lung, as half of it is missing. I have supraventricular tachycardia, SVT, and those episodes were kicking up. My heart rate would be at a standard 80 and then skyrocket abruptly to as high as 147 or more. There were moments when I would lie in bed enduring these symptoms and pray that I wouldn’t have a heart attack or that the virus wasn’t finding its way into the weak areas of my heart. Throughout the duration of this infection, I took homeopathic remedies that eased my symptoms. The job of these remedies is to thin secretions, and this allowed me to blow my nose every day and cough the infection out. Had I not taken these remedies, I’d probably would’ve gotten much sicker and been unable to flush the virus out of my system as effectively as I did. I took bio-plasma, cell salts, that directly treat issues within the cells by thinning secretions and boosting the body’s natural healing processes. I drank up to two liters of water a day and avoided gluten and dairy. The combination of these health and wellness practices eased my symptoms and the severity of this illness enough. After the two weeks, I had a new energy and could breathe clearly. I am through the infection, and though my heart condition still causes severe fatigue, I’ve found ways to work through it without costing a night of sleep by taking brief naps in the afternoons. Also, I’ve had to put my life on pause yet again because of this COVID-19 breakthrough infection, and I’m not sure when my surgeries will be rescheduled, but this is the circumstance I’m now in. If you’re as high-risk as me and catch COVID-19, it’s my hope that if you were vaccinated, the shots will protect you and do their job. Stay safe out there, the pandemic isn’t over and there are dangerous variants of COVID-19 to watch out for.

Tessa Koller

My Experience as a High-Risk Person During COVID-19

Since the onset of this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, I (and of course, many others) have felt the heaviness of disappointments, letdowns and inconveniences. Being a high-risk individual in these times has affected me in colossal ways. I am immunocompromised with heart and lung disease to boot. There are people like me who are literally terrified of going out in the public. Trying to accomplish projects and get jobs done has been like pulling my own teeth. As a seamstress and artist, I am always on the go and working with clients. Doing anything with anybody makes me worry that I’m gambling with my life. I’ve broken down a few times because of missed opportunities due to my inability to be in public. With the holidays coming up, I’ve been doing everything I possibly can to not get bogged down by these circumstances. I don’t want to nor believe in living in fear, however, I understand it’s necessary. That’s what makes this so hard. I want to go grocery shopping, I have to go to the fabric store for client need (not for me) and I have to run errands. One way I’ve gotten hugely messed over in this pandemic is in my efforts to do simple grocery shopping. Some places offer curbside pickup, while other grocery stores don’t. The ones that do, where I live, say you must spend at least $50 or more on orders for curbside pickup which is outrageous. So, if I need a few baking items or I run out of eggs, I’m stuck. I have to shop for more items just so I can pick it up at the curb. Here is the worst part about this curbside pickup business: someone else is shopping for my food, and they could have had exposure to COVID-19 or have the virus and not know. Someone else is picking up items I don’t want them touching. When someone else brings me my groceries, that adds more work for me in the kitchen. I’ve found myself both laughing an d borderline crying while disinfecting a bag of flour. The fact that I have to disinfect a bag of flour or any other item is maximizing the seriousness of this pandemic for me. For anybody who is in denial about how bad the COVID-19 pandemic is, know that there are people like me who can’t live in denial. Maybe you could catch the virus and survive it, but I have lung disease and heart disease , meaning that COVID-19 would have a lot of fun attacking my system like it’s a football player crushing my lungs and vital organs. If I contracted the virus — and I’ve had ridiculously close-calls — I’m not sure how well my body would fight it. Perhaps I can speak for everybody when I say I’ve had to scrap every plan I had set in this Armageddon-like year. From art competitions to possible book deals, to achieving my highest potential in fields I had worked tireless years in, I’ve had to scrap it all. These last couple of weeks, I’ve been receiving messages from concerned friends who are stressing that I cancel Thanksgiving, Christmas and even the New Year holiday. I’ve been doing all kinds of art to keep myself positive, upbeat and unaffected by all this change our country is experiencing. I realized that I’ve taken away freedoms from myself so I don’t contract the coronavirus. I’ve been back and forth in my mind, thinking, “I want to have a good holiday season, but I don’t want COVID-19. I want to run my alterations business, but I don’t want to catch the virus.” I’ve learned to love being alone and being creative despite these tough times. I’m just doing what I can to get through without losing my patience, energy and positive energies. Gone are the days when I could run a simple errand to Walgreens and not worry about touching a product that may be infected by the virus. The small things I took for granted such as running errands, going grocery shopping, hanging out with friends at a fun venue, I swore to myself that I’d never take anything small for granted again. Then, I wonder if this pandemic will lift and if life will ever go back to “normal.” For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community: I’m Afraid I’ll Be Told to ‘Sacrifice’ My Health for COVID-19 Patients 10 Tips for Handling Seasonal Affective Disorder, COVID-19 and Post-Election Aftermath This Winter What to Know About Potential COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects The Unfortunate Response to My COVID-19 Mask, Even As a Nursing Facility Worker

Community Voices

Let’s Not Minimize the Threats of Other Viruses Going Around

There are a few viruses going around that are equally as serious and life-threatening as Coronavirus  and are presenting like the novel virus. Norovirus is making its rounds and a few others. I may have had Norovoirus, but it presented like Coronavirus  can, and has. New studies have been showing that severe diarrhea and vomiting can be the earliest signs of Coronavirus . I’ve had my close-calls and exposures to it.

When my Coronavirus  test results came back negative, my lab results indicated a viral infection which could maybe still have been Coronavirus or a virus exactly like it.

My numbers and white/red blood cell counts were either too low or through the roof. For at least two weeks, I was convinced this other mysterious virus I had was going to claim my life.

Each night became a repeat of not even being able to lie in bed and on the floor in the bathroom with a not so glamorous view of the toilet. I had so much nausea, stomach pains, severe tightness in my chest, a constant cough and congested nose and lungs. While lying in a heap like a pile of stinky laundry (sorry, how I felt), I became aware that Coronavirus  is a different kind of virus.

If I had caught it, as someone with other underlying health conditions, a vaccine might not help me. Individuals with compromised immune systems and autoimmune diseases are at higher risk for having adverse effects to a vaccination for a virus such as Coronavirus . We NEED to be addressing that. We NEED to stop minimizing other viruses going around other than Coronavirus . Whatever virus I had caused low blood pressure, temperatures as low as 95.9, and I began noticing my kidneys struggling. I was drinking loads of water, as much as I could have and wasn’t urinating enough. My risk was septic shock—a process in which vital organs fail or shut down.

That is what I was facing, along with severely crippling aches and pain all over my body from head to my big toes. And, I am on this quarantine boat alone. Consequently, I’ve had to and am still monitoring my symptoms closely. They’ve resolved for a few days here but yesterday and today some ugly symptoms have returned. It’s been up and down and am eating light but balanced—easy to digest foods. People need to understand, everybody, that a lot of contagious diseases are spreading.

Many will die from Coronavirus  but other viruses also going around. We’ve got to be more supportive and educate ourselves and stop minimizing other illnesses that are kicking individuals like me to the ground.

There was at least a week and a half when I didn’t think I was going to make it, or my immune system wasn’t going to fight this at it had all just about been flushed down the pipes. I’m utterly exhausted, physically and emotionally drained. I understand a long road is ahead and I’ve been in quarantine almost a month.

Let’s just be supportive and recognize that Coronavirus , the Coronavirus , isn’t our only global threat. The testing and diagnosing of this disease are very complex and involved. Let’s not prolong this already long road of quarantining. I miss life. I miss my work. I miss family, friends, and friends who are like family. I’ve been as in generally good spirits as I can be, but it’s getting harder. Stay safe, everyone. Take your healthy supplements, probiotic and do enriching activities for the body and mind.

We’ve got this Coronavirus pandemic!

Community Voices

What to Mindful of and Do While in Quarantine

Being forced into quarantine is tough on everybody, especially artists or anybody who made their living performing on stages or co-hosting gallery exhibitions. With everything getting cancelled, I’ve come to accept it believing that events can still go on later down the road. Not all of them, though. Cancellations can be difficult to deal with, and as an artist, I feel the burden of being stuck inside because I don’t want to catch the Corona Virus, Corona Virus.

I got tested last week for the novel virus, Corona Virus and it thankfully came back negative. I DON’T want this virus, but I do have a virus that presented itself like Corona Virus. Now is not the time to get sick, and other serious viruses are circulating at a higher rate than Corona Virus. Now that my health is finally improving after two weeks of being horribly sick, I’ve been thinking about how everyone is complaining about boredom.

The thing is, I don’t ever get bored, but I don’t like being stuck inside and unable to as much as invite some friends over. A post I saw a few days ago poked fun at how artists, musicians and entertainers are the least important. Really, everybody who has contributed something in their life is important. Art, music, and various sources of entertainment have been keeping me busy in quarantine.

While I do appreciate those working for transportation services and making our needs for groceries and other things accessible for those who can’t leave their homes, art and music have been a major healer for me. During this treacherous pandemic, people are relying on creativity as a coping mechanism. People finally understand it from my point of view. We’re all stuck in our homes with only the things we have on hand.

My negative test result for Corona Virus woke me up to the fact that the only way I will get through this is by producing artwork, supporting other artists and musicians, and contributing meaningful things. I’m upset about this virus, how it’s shut down the entire world and put everyone’s life on hold.

If you have a great public platform, use that to help those who are struggling, those who don’t even realize are helping us or you.

I’m doing this quarantine alone and would love to have at least one person with me. I fought through this illness predominantly by myself and understand that was the wisest thing to do. I don’t mind being alone to produce my creative work. I don’t like being stuck inside only communicating with those I love by phone or social media. I hope this Corona Virus, real-life nightmare blows over. I don’t ever want to be an alarmist or a Debby Downer, but I am a realist.

As long as this Corona Virus pandemic continues, I’ll continue with that frame of mind.

While you’re bored, find ways to support artists so our careers don’t fall down the pipes and are even more difficult to get going again once this quarantining and virus has ceased. Use this time wisely and thoughtfully. Use it to help someone else, even if it’s a simple retweet or sharing someone’s music or artwork. I want to be able to keep doing the work I love, work that helps others. Spread kindness and recognize those who are taking heavy hits in this Corona Virus pandemic.