Getting COVID: one human’s experience
I wanted to document my recent journey with getting COVID. The urge to do so was mostly to support my own integration process as I recover. But I also had the impulse to share with others, because as I’ve returned to life as usual, I find myself repeating the same story over and over to curious bystanders. So I thought, maybe I’ll just write it down. But immediately after having that thought, I slammed into a huge wall of resistance.
This piece is not meant to be a political statement. I’m not here to be a crusader or a campaigner for some cause, or an activist or an advocate for some agenda. I do not consider myself to be anti-this or pro-that. On any spectrum of opinions I usually find myself somewhere in the middle. So, the purpose for writing this essay is not to argue for or against anything.
There are so many stories we’ve heard or read based on statistics: the nameless, faceless, aggregated numbers that represent actual humans. Here, I only want to relay one human’s personal, direct, lived experience of having had COVID — to humanize the story beyond the statistics. In theory, no one can argue with my subjective experience of reality. That is mine. Yet, after two years, the narrative around this virus has now grown so tangled and thick with intense emotion and violent opinions, that I feel hesitant to share even that. I am afraid of what people might read into my story and what judgments they might make about me because of that.
Preface aside now, here I go.
Day one of my COVID journey was on November 12. The night before, I went to bed with a headache. When I woke up that morning, I knew that I was really in for it. I was feverish, sweating, delirious and completely out of it, unable to function. I sounded the alarm to a few nearby friends, one of whom quickly appointed herself as the captain of my local COVID care team, and she assembled several others to help support my recovery.
People started reaching out to me and asking me what I needed. I found it both heartwarming and also overwhelming. In this moment, I felt really cared for. Yet it was also extremely humbling to need so much help. And my ego did not like that feeling of being totally incapacitated. Or god forbid, inconveniencing anyone. It happened to be the middle of monsoon season where I live, so there was torrential rain and flooding. Yet, despite these difficult conditions, my friends started coming over and they brought me everything needed to sustain my life — food, water, juice, medicine, sprays, supplements, toilet paper, tinctures and treatments of all kinds.
Starting from the first day that I was sick, I was drinking large quantities of coconut water and fresh orange juice, taking buffered liquid Vitamin C, Zinc tablets, using MMS and DMSO-nanosilver spray on the back of my throat, and supplementing with Thai herbal remedies of plukaow and andrographis in powder form, as well as taking paracetamol to manage the fever.
As different people came with deliveries, it was interesting to see a broad range of behaviors. Some friends seemed hesitant to even make eye contact from the garden as I waved and shouted “thank you” to them from my bedroom window. Others waltzed straight into my house, without even having a face mask on, and casually leaned into the doorframe of my bedroom to update me on life outside. It was interesting to notice that the level of brazenness or cautiousness seemed to have little to no correlation with their own health status.
There was so much cleaning out on so many levels, dropping layers of conditioning, and probably lifetimes of unworthiness, allowing myself to be seen like this and to be served like this. Allowing the virus to take over my body. Allowing the pain sensations and discomfort to overwhelm my system. Allowing dark thoughts to come and then go. I wrestled with the feeling of helplessness, and I suffered the shame of being a burden. But I was stuck languishing in bed. I had no choice but to let the fever to burn through all of this internal argument and just receive.
I had many insights about my own personal process, as a fractal of the broader collective shift we’ve had these past two years. There’s been so much tearing apart, stripping away, damaging beyond recognition so much of what feels familiar and dear. I fought against parting ways with my pride. I struggled with relaxing my sense of self-sufficiency. I grasped tightly to the security blanket of “not needing anyone” and the sense of fake strength that I seem to derive from that.
At some point in the middle of the night, between day one and day two, the intense fever broke. I started expelling the virus from every possible orifice and through every possible medium. I was coughing so violently that it shook my whole body. And with every hacking breath, I felt this pressure on my lungs as if someone was sitting on top of my chest. I was blowing my nose every five minutes, sweating profusely, experiencing diarrhea, getting a rash on my skin, and bleeding heavily — as my menstruation came several days earlier than expected and it was dark, dark brown in color.
Even though I could barely stand and wobble to the toilet a few feet from my bed, throughout all of day two, I felt a strong impulse to go outside and pour my menstrual blood into the earth. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the traces of the virus that have likely been wrapped in layers of plastic before disposal. It occurred to me that our contagion containment procedures might also be an impediment to this biological information getting back to where it’s needed as input to the earth. It’s prevented from reaching the ground, where its genetic code could potentially help the planetary ecosystem reach a natural state of homeostasis with its existence.
In my slightly altered, feverish state, I fretted uselessly and mourned the loss of this valuable biofeedback. I thought about how that data could maybe have been used to create medicines needed to rebalance and recalibrate our global respiratory system. What a missed opportunity! Maybe we could be moving more quickly to co-evolve and shape a new reality that includes this virus, instead of spending so much energy trying to hold on to the old reality, which fears it, denies it, or tries to destroy it. Whether this impulse was rational or not, by the wee morning hours on day three, I managed to go outside and pour my blood into the earth, underneath the tree next to my window.
On day three, the symptoms related to the physical purging of the virus from my system, all seemed to start lessening in intensity. In place of all this intense expulsive activity, my main complaint shifted to the experience of deep bone pain in the lower part of my body — in my pelvis, my sacrum, and my hips in particular. The pain was so strong and so unbearable that I felt a sense of rejection of my body. A big part of me was not wanting to be in my body. I wanted out. And along with this I went into an immersive exploration of fear — both my own personal existential fear of death, and the collective fear of death, destruction, and contamination that now saturates the shared narrative around this virus.
The dominant sensation and recurring vision that I kept having was akin to sinking into quicksand. There was this dark, murky, sticky energy that felt like it was coating my skin and choking it, almost like I was covered with a full-body mud mask that was smothering my cells. And as I entertained certain thoughts or listened to voice messages from friends, I would feel myself weighed down with thicker and thicker layers of this coating. And in my imagination I was struggling to scrape this substance off of my skin, while simultaneously trying to climb up out of this hole of quicksand. But I kept sinking into it deeper and faster, the heavier I got, as more layers of this mud piled up and caked on top of my skin.
The only thing that helped alleviate this sensation was cutting myself off from all digital communications with the outside world. I notified a few close friends that I was going to go offline. I unplugged my router, put away my phone charger and let my battery go dead. I had enough stock of water, food and medicine that I didn’t need to connect with the outside world for support for a little while. It allowed me to stay disconnected from screens for the better part of two days.
That digital detox helped me to shake off the sludgy energy of fear. It was striking how the presence of fear in the collective energy field was completely unavoidable when I had any kind of exposure to other humans — their thoughts, their ideas, their concerns, and their advice. It didn’t matter how emotionally intimate these friends were with me or how aligned they might be in their ways of thinking. It didn’t matter what the content of the messages was. Even when it was messages coming from dear ones with the sole intention to take care of me, I felt this intense external pressure that seemed to be closing in and squeezing me. Along with this sensation of being in a pressure cooker, I experienced so much contraction on the emotional and psychological level. Of course that made the challenging physical aspect of the experience even more difficult to cope with.
By day four, I could get out of bed and sit up vertically for a significant chunk of time. And after spending a couple of days being completely disconnected from devices and communication, I started feeling more stable emotionally and mentally. The physical part subsided into minor complaints that you would experience with any seasonal flu. The mind storm and associated emotional waves calmed way down. I was using a professional massage therapy vibration machine on my lower body externally and humming internally, to help alleviate the bone pain in my hips and sacrum. I was entertaining myself by building a world-record-worthy mountain of snotty tissues on my bedroom floor. And I was generously rubbing my neck and chest with tiger balm (my Chinese grandmother would approve), as well as steaming my face and chest several times a day to help clear mucus and phlegm from my upper passageways.
On day five, I had a burst of energy and I felt motivated to start on a decluttering mission. I was feeling optimistic and on fire, as if I had just emerged at the light end of a dark tunnel. I thought I was done and getting better. Then on the afternoon of day six, I got hit with a tsunami wave of exhaustion again. I was completely flattened for the rest of the week. Physically, there was nothing extraordinary happening, I had a cough and sinus congestion. Besides that, it was just extreme fatigue. I couldn’t get up out of bed and stay in a vertical position for more than an hour at a time. For the next several days, from day six until day 11, I was more or less just sleeping all day and all night, around the clock. When I was awake and eating, I had strong cravings for animal protein. Usually I keep to a mostly vegetarian diet and eat meat only occasionally. But during this time, I indulged in eating meat almost every day.
On day 11, I woke up at a somewhat normal time and stayed awake and upright for a good portion of the daylight hours. My at-home antigen test showed a negative result that day (after previously testing positive on day three and day six). But then on day 12, I was completely wiped out, again sleeping through the whole day. I was so exhausted, I was completely unable to move from my bed. On day 13, I was feeling upbeat again, experiencing my state as being pretty much normal. I had another negative at-home antigen test that day. I left my house for the first time in two weeks to go buy cat food.
On day 14, I took myself out for a lonely solo brunch to observe Thanksgiving, but I was still keeping my social distance from other humans. I did feel a little bit sorry for myself for being alone on that holiday, which is usually a time for gathering with loved ones. But after that day, I slowly started to return to my normal activities. On day 16, I went to a dance event with about twenty people, which was the biggest group I’d seen and the most vigorous physical exercise I’d done since getting sick. I think I probably overdid it a little bit. After dancing for two hours, I was completely depleted. I needed to take a five hour nap to recover.
Now I’m writing this account exactly three weeks after my symptoms started. And I definitely don’t feel like I’m back to full power yet. But at least it feels like the flowing stream of life is continuing. I’ve stopped numbering my days according to symptom onset and progression. I have returned to my typical day-to-day activities. I am seeing friends, socializing in small groups, working, exercising. I feel lighter than ever in my energy and I feel healthy and clear in my physical body. Though I am still prone to getting tired very easily, my sense of taste is still a bit dulled, and my visual perception still feels slightly altered. When I’m moving around in the world, it seems like external stimuli of light and sound feel more vivid and more intense to me somehow. My guess is that what feels a bit strange to me now will quickly be subsumed by a new baseline sense of ordinary reality.
I now feel inspiration rising and a desire for movement bubbling. At the same time, everything in my being is demanding that any steps I am taking now are carefully considered, well-calibrated and mindfully slow. Maybe this will become my new normal.