The day was August 1st. The first day of a new month and a Monday at that. I always thought that if I were ever indeed inflicted with COVID-19 that I would write about it. This virus has such a history of variability in symptoms and severity. None of us know what it is going to be like to endure this virus, so I wanted to document my first hand lived experience.
Three out of five of my family members tested positive either on August 1st or one of the last few days of July. On Friday, July 29th I awoke later than normal with a piercing headache. I had been up late the night before at a candle selling event, so I thought it probably had to do with that or the fact that I had my period. It was a day that I didn't really have time to be sick because I needed to drive over 4 hours to the International Peace Gardens to pick up my daughter from International Music Camp. The plan was that my husband and our sons would drive up Friday afternoon, camp and then be there Saturday morning to help move her out of the dorms and attend her concert in the afternoon. Well, it didn't exactly go according to plan. I spent Friday morning getting our camping gear and meals ready to go and in the late morning my husband announced that he didn't think he felt well enough to go with us. He tested himself and he was positive. Other than the headache, I did not have symptoms and frankly didn't think it was worth testing myself because someone needed to pick up my daughter, sick or not. I drove that day with my boys and we met my parents at the Peace Gardens. My headache had somewhat dissipated, but returned as soon as I had laid my head down in the tent that night. Needless to say, I did not sleep.
When we returned home late Saturday night we tested ourselves. Everyone was negative. I felt relieved, but not convinced that we were out of the woods. One of my sons was complaining of a sore throat. On Sunday, that son stayed in his room all day and with my husband isolated in a basement bedroom, I served their meals to them in their rooms and continued with my own activities that day. Monday morning - August 1st, I retested those of us with symptoms (myself and son) and we were both positive. Since that time we isolated ourselves from my daughter and other son who had remained symptom free. The healthy two took it upon themselves to do all of the cooking, delivering meals to those of us that were isolated, and did all of the cleaning up. I am quite grateful for their love and support. What follows is the journal that I kept while in isolation. My biggest take away from this experience is that everyone experiences this virus differently and uniquely. Please don't assume that since COVID-19 has been around for years now and most of us have been vaccinated and boosted that we won't feel ill - even if the newest variant is "mild". I never once felt like I had to be hospitalized, but it also didn't feel good when people told me that my symptoms should be mild. It just felt invalidating. Did that mean I was weak for feeling what I did? That is why I wrote this. Whatever you experience is real and don't feel less about whether you feel crummy or feel nothing at all. You have no control over how you will experience this virus and frankly, any virus for that matter. Don't shy away from what it is you are experiencing and don't alter what you share about your experience for someone else's comfort.
August 1st: I can hear Ava and Escher chatter a bit as they cook and then seem to eat their own meals in silence. The house is quiet and we communicate through texts and muffled thank you's behind closed doors. I am resigned to the fact that it is Monday and for this entire week I will be opting out of my regular routine. Ben can continue to work remotely from the bedroom downstairs , but Rowan and I will not be partaking in our scheduled events this week. It will certainly be a long week, but if this was going to happen and odds seemed quite likely that it would - better now than any other time. Our next summer trip is scheduled for next week. We should all feel spectacular with a new lease on life by then - right?! Indeed I am also thankful that this did not happen during the school year. I know there is risk of it happening again, but well - I hope it doesn't.
I'm in bed after taking a hot bath and sending out texts to the yoga studios I teach at to let them know I will not be teaching this week. It is here. In me. It feels foreign, yet similar to a typical flu. Ava picked up Nyquil, Gatorade, and cough drops for us. I can hear the clanging of dishes being cleaned. I am going to close my eyes like my cat sleeping at my feet since I tested this morning. Animals. Does he know that I am ill and that his soft noises - breathing, purring - are comforting as I surrender to the fact that my ambition to move is infinitesimal?
The brain hurts. I don't know if I've ever felt this in my head before. I feel like my mind has been hijacked. Thoughts don't fully form, but I also don't seem to care. I am not frustrated by this, just noticing and aware of these differences. I had a massage scheduled for this week that I had to cancel. I'll need one more than ever after this. My neck feels like a field of knots and my joints ache - dry and deficient of something.
There are cooking noises again in the middle of the afternoon. Ava is cooking us dinner before she heads to work for the evening and Escher has been given instructions to warm it up for us invalids when we start moaning about food rations.
August 2nd: Day 2 of isolation. My heart beating, thumping rather - has been most disconcerting. Why when I lie down can I feel the reverberations wave through my chest, back, and throat? I imagine my heart taking charge and doling out orders to the immune system to step up its game and put all forces forward as the body is under attack. This virus. Unwelcomed as it is, I am drawn to the wonder and curiosity of the space it has taken up in me. I experience moments of shivering and other moments, sometimes maybe even simultaneously, I experience sweating. The body doesn't know what it wants. By the time I draw a hot bath to address the cold in my bones, I am perspiring, in place, in stillness - these work through me, perhaps the battle ground of my existence of which all I can do is bear witness. There is so much aching. It is difficult to find a position that I can remain comfortable in for very long. I actually attempted yoga nidra today and it created so much agitation I had to end my session early. My body needs something else right now to heal. Drinking hot water with lime is soothing. I continue to eat fairly regularly. I went for a short walk to the street corner and back. I moved so slow. The actions I have come to assume as normal felt contrived and effortful. The fresh air was nice. The natural light and colors were medicine to the darkness that raged for ground inside of me. I did not succumb to the welcoming girth of my bed until about 5:30 pm on this second day. I felt this was an improvement on some small scale. I had sat in a chair or on the floor for the majority of my waking hours. My back sends me the most painful signals of anywhere in my body. To think I had a 90 minute massage scheduled for tomorrow! It feels like stones with sharp corners rubbing together up and down the space surrounding my spine, down to the hips and up to my shoulders. These stones will not soften despite my efforts of cushioning myself more and then less. Oddly, the best position is actually sitting upright on my meditation cushion in easy pose. When has THAT ever been the best for my back? Was this my body in an alternative universe? An upside down world? So much strange.
The stomach makes noises reminiscent of a ping pong ball bouncing and growling as it is smacked by a paddle. Noise and motion. I suppose I could be hungry, but nothing sounds appealing. Maybe fruit. That sounds cold and refreshing because at this very moment I am a heater releasing heat through my pores like the slats of a vent. Ben is out of isolation now, but masked. It is he who makes the noises in the kitchen today. I have not lost my sense of taste or smell - so much for those being indicators we had often quizzed each other on when we had been fearful of exposure. Smells like roasted potatoes.
August 3rd: 3rd day of isolation. Thoughts swirl in some sort of free fall fashion that is not anchored in time. What day is it?? is a question I see drift across my mind several times a day. I am not teaching any classes this week on account of being ill and my kids are not going to activities and Ben is working from home, so I think - what day is it? Part of me feels like I may just miss the opportunity to join the world again if I'm not paying attention to time. I have discovered that the sun - bright and full of heat - frustrates me as I feel messages of what I should be doing, it is DAY after all. When clouds cover the sun and when the sun begins to set, the sky darkening- I feel comforted. Ahh, I think, this is where I am meant to be - not in the doing, but rather in the resting. When I feel that shift happen outside of me in nature, the shoulds release, no longer harassing me. I finally relax. On the first day of isolation I was able to nap in the sun, but I haven't since. My energy feels higher now and I feel driven to match the sun's intensity, so I appreciate the permission from the clouds to sit back and just BE.
I just spent about 10 or maybe 15 minutes - perhaps less or far more - time?? Sigh. Anyway, I spent time rolling out that tension in my back on a foam roller. It helped a great deal. I have kept it nearby and I will be diligent about doing it a few more times today to help release the fascia that surrounds my muscles like a tight web.
I ate breakfast on the deck again and encouraged Rowan to do the same. He acquiesced after some persistence on my part selling him on the benefits of Vitamin D to fight COVID and fresh air being good for mood and health. He continues to cough, but seems to have more energy. I read an article in the Washington Post yesterday that to assure you are no longer contagious with COVID you should test negative on a rapid antigen test twice, 24 hours apart. Makes sense. I don't think it makes sense to do this yet as we all still display symptoms, but maybe by Friday. I hope. Today is Wednesday. I've thought about the adjustments I'll need to make to get back into a routine in which I don't sleep 10 + hours a night and rise well after the sun has risen. I am grateful that right now it is not so difficult for me to make this new arrangement work where I sleep well past sunrise and move slowly without a task list or things I need to accomplish and places I need to be. I can just allow the passage of time without any pressure to do - to use the hours of the day. It is simply enough to be here and breathing my life. To what do I orient? Outside of myself the clock ticks, the sun shifts in the sky. Inside myself I sense a struggle between solving this situation I am in and rising to help my family members to do the same and the knowledge that reminds me that this too shall pass - just ride the wave, don't fight it or wish it to be different.
I tried yoga nidra again today hoping to regain my connection with this beloved practice. I did not have any expectations. I typically lie on a blanket on the floor, but due to the high degree of achiness in my body, I decided to lie in my bed - but at an angle, a suggestion from a friend of mine, to cue myself that I was not lying down to sleep - which is what I do in bed. I am happy to report that I found supreme comfort, as if lying upon a cloud and I rested well. It felt so luxurious and peaceful. It was beautiful and restorative. I feel like I have an energy flowing delicately through my body, deliberate and determined, but not zealous.
August 4th: the fourth day of isolation. This is what I feel above all else today. Progress. I have two different symptoms today. Dizziness and lack of smell. Other symptoms have fallen away completely. No sore throat or headache. I haven't had a cough to speak of and that has not changed. My nose is still a bit stuffy, some compromised breathing, but my mind feels lighter and more open - like the shades being drawn and windows opening after a long winter. I feel like I have more clarity, less cloudiness in my mind. I continue to experience a tingling sensation on my skin and a backache - my entire backside is a field of knots. It is the fourth day of August and while I know I have a lot to do this month, I can be patient. I am making progress and best of all, so is Rowan! Ava and Escher continue to be symptom free, happy, and healthy. Our isolation measures must be working! My cat continues to sit outside of my bath, perching himself on the edge and dipping his paw in from time to time and leaning in to rub noses with me. My guardian.
August 5th: Fifth and final day of isolation? Ben tested negative so he has stopped wearing a mask in the house and should be able to roam free of the house now. He isolated for 7 days and this is my fifth. I feel pretty good. I was able to sleep last night without taking any sort of over the counter pain medication. I've been reading, writing, and making small batches of candles as my energy allows. I have also been taking longer walks and feeling more like myself overall. I will slowly begin to adjust my sleep schedule to see if I can start waking up earlier and not sleeping up to ten hours. I appreciate that this is what my body has needed to fight this virus - but surely I am well rested by now :) Soon I'll be back to teaching early morning classes and I don't want that to be too shocking!
August 7th - I still tested positive today. I no longer have any symptoms, but I will continue to mask. Rowan and Ben are both negative, so I'm not sure why it is hanging around a bit longer in me. We will be leaving town on August 9th, so I'll make sure and test again before that to make sure I'm safe to travel. Many people have mentioned to me that it is likely to continue testing positive after you no longer have symptoms. The current guidelines from the CDC state that you should test negative on an antigen test before considering yourself no longer contagious. A positive result on a PCR test may not indicate you are contagious. I guess the antigen tests are more sensitive to the nature of COVID as a contagion.
This has been my account of COVID-19 as a direct experience. My sense of smell has not completely returned, but I can smell some things faintly. I no longer have all of the tension and body aches. My family members had sore throats and coughs and a sprinkling of body aches. I am hopeful that our immune systems are now even stronger than they were previously.
Continuing to ride the wave with eyes wide open to what else August has in store!