When our country went into Lockdown, I did not anticipate even a fraction of the things that we have had to endure (and by we, I mean humanity as a whole). Some of us are privileged enough to have been able to spend this time in relative comfort – most people have had to suffer through pretty horrific conditions.
Since the start of all of this, my mind has been a tornado of thoughts, most of which I keep to myself. At first, it was happening “out there”. Then to people who knew people I knew. Then to people I knew. And now, I may possibly be right in the thick of it. Today is the fifth day of self-isolation for me, and it is, by far, the weirdest thing I have ever experienced in my adult life.
One of my colleagues tested positive. A few days before she even knew she needed to get tested, I greeted her in the kitchen of our school, and gave her a very brief sideways hug (this woman is like a second mother to me). Later that morning she discovered that her husband had tested positive, informed us and immediately left to get herself tested. And the very morning that she got her results she called us (me in particular).
Right now, I am a prisoner in my bedroom, waiting for my sentence (test results).
At the moment, I have no symptoms. I’ve been taking oral immune boosters since I went back to work more than a month ago. I keep fit and train regularly. I eat well. I have no underlying medical conditions that would amplify with Corona. So, should I test positive, there is a more than good chance that I would get through it pretty well. Even though I have been working with people at school, we have been pretty good about observing the new social distancing and hygiene protocols.
Even though I feel fine, and would only have had to isolate for 14 days due to the contact I had with a Covid-19 positive person (it was only our clothing that touched) I went and got myself tested. And not even for my own peace of mind – for the peace of mind of all the overly paranoid people around me.
As I said, for the past three months, my mind has been swirling with so many things. There is this constant onslaught of information, and once I was back at work, a wave of reactions and feelings from others. It’s been hard to make sense of all of them and there have been moments of anxiety and silent panic.
I have always prided myself on being an optimistic person, to look on the bright side of any situation and to believe that a positive outcome is always possible. But the selfishness, negativity, pessimism and insensitivity of people have been the hardest to deal with and have been getting me down in a big way.
Isolation is hard. I’m in a house with both of my parents, and I can’t even hug or kiss them. I only venture past my bedroom door once a day to get food. I haven’t seen my babies for more than a week. And when you are alone with nothing to do and no one to talk to, the irrational part of your mind starts to assert itself. The nurse at the testing centre said they would send a text if my test results were negative, but would call if I tested positive – so now every time my cellphone rings, my heart stops.
For someone like me, who is around people all the time, who keeps busy to keep the negative thoughts at bay, who shows affection physically (anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a serial hugger), the past 5 days have been quite the challenge.
There has been so much dialogue around awareness and prevention and treatment of Corona, but in my opinion, not enough around the mental and emotional effects it has on people.
After I found out about my exposure, I left work immediately to get tested. When I drove home, I had the most conflicting conversation going on between my ears. On one hand, I was resigned to accept the possibility of me testing positive. I was determined to do all that I would need to, to overcome it. On the other hand, I was freaking out – I did not know how my parents would react to what I was about to tell them. What if I become so sick that I cannot be there for them anymore? What if I had infected them? (They are both high risk, being over 70 years old) What if I had infected others I have been in some form of contact with? Those people have families and loved ones – what if they contract this virus because of me?
A common phrase I’ve heard from people over the past few days has been, “You’re strong, you’ll be fine”.
Even the strongest of us freak out.
And what made it worse for me were some of the reactions and comments of others. I do understand that it comes from a place of real fear, for their own health, for the safety of their loved ones. And I would never tell them that those fears are baseless or irrational, nor would I presume to tell them how to handle it.
But in this day and age where it is normal and encouraged to express yourself, freedom of speech and freedom of expression has killed compassion and consideration for others.
It is a big lesson I’ve had to learn in my own life – most times it’s not WHAT you say that hurts, but HOW and WHEN you say it. Your energy affects not only you, but the next person too.
The concerns that have been raised are completely valid. But the way people have expressed them has added to my anxiety (not even the leper wants to be treated as a leper). As true as it is, I felt horrible at being called a health risk.
What has gotten me through this time so far is the supportive family I have, every person who has taken the time to check in, every encouraging message and phone call I’ve received, every prayer that has been made for me and my family…and very largely those few persons who have given me a protected space in which to be vulnerable (they know who they are).
Usually I am not this forthcoming with my innermost thoughts, but I’ve taken courage from others who have shared their experiences…and I hope that my experience will give others courage and break the stigma that seems to be forming around Corona.
If the past few days have shown me anything, it’s that emotional support is just as essential as (if not more essential than) physical care.