I might be the only person you know who has had COVID-19. I want to share my experience in hopes that it helps widen our understanding of what this virus is capable of. Nothing I share supersedes the recommendations from the professional medical community. If you think you’ve COVID, best to consult your local resources and the CDC.gov (tho the federal level of leadership is appalling) on the next steps.

COVID doesn’t fuck around. I learned this while sick for 6–7 weeks.

Late February

While scarfing down a hot pastrami sandwich at a deli, my friend casually said “You hear about that coronavirus spreading? Oh my God, I’m so scared I’ll get it.”

Another friend piped in swiftly “No you won’t! You’re not going to get it.”

I looked at them puzzled. “…virus?

Both of them, in shocked-tandem: “Rachel!….what…?.”

I was out of the loop, partly by design, mostly out of coping — but for good reason. I had just spent the past 6 months planning to open up a More to Love Yoga and Wellness Center. I was exhausted from that [ultimately failed] venture and was pretty much tuned out from the world news. On top of that, my husband and I were in the middle of opening Perception Optical, our brick-and-mortar shop in Arlington, MA. Stress and planning for an uncertain future are common, but this was a new experience not even on my radar. My attention and energy were limited and I could only process so much.

As coronavirus morphed into a global pandemic, morphed into a quarantine, morphed into an American-brand crisis — I watched with concern, sadness, a guilty-glee of “omg is this happening?” but mostly grief. A grief I couldn’t pin down.

And then I started to get sick.

Mid-March

My first symptom was a slight sensation of my lungs burning. The only reason I even noticed it was because I am already prone to bronchitis, especially after colds. It’s a distinct feeling of mild-sting even when not breathing deeply. My colds became bronchitis 98% of the time, so I used my rescue inhaler to help slow and prevent it from developing. Then my nose got stuffy, my ears felt clogged. No fever, no cough, no chills. At first, I shrugged thinking a cold “yeah, a cold.” Even though I already had a mild one just before Christmas.

Then my husband started to not feel well. Uh-oh. He began coughing, a dry cough not normal for him with colds. Then the fever, sweats, malaise, and light muscle pain.

We both tipped-toed around the obvious elephant in the room.

“Yeah..yeah..a cold…just a cold!”

But I had a gut feeling it was more than that.

My own symptoms began to intensify. My breathing began to shorten, it was harder to pull air in. Then my muscles began to ache like never before. I felt like I was hit with a truck. Even my earlobes hurt! And then sore throat, chills, sweats, digestive issues, loss of taste/smell, and a rising fever of 102.

“Fuuuck.”

The cherry on top? I was in a one-month gap for health benefits. Here I was, the sickest I’ve been and without health care. This was my worst nightmare. This is sadly many, too many, American’s reality.

April 5

I called my doctor’s office and they referred me to Mass General Hospital’s Respiratory Clinic to get evaluated. I had to come in ASAP, alone, and wear some type of face covering. When I got to the hospital the scene was like a movie: all the staff and health workers were suited up with masks — many cases 2 of them. Tape lined the floor to help guide patients around. Seats were spread 6ft apart with partitions when possible. I was the only person in the waiting room. I felt like a zoo animal being gawked at.

While waiting, another patient came in — an older woman in her early 70s. She was too ill to return home and was shuttled off to be admitted into the main hospital. I won't forget the look of fear in her eyes as a team of medical assistants rolled her into an elevator.

A quick examination and chest X-ray cleared up any worries about me having pneumonia. But I needed to get COVID-19 tested. Within 12 hours, the swab came back positive. 14 days of lockdown to come. I was well enough to “ride it out” at home.

I called my parents to tell them the test results: they felt helpless and I felt guilty because I didn’t want to worry them even more. I burst into tears with my dad on the phone “Please, please be safe. This is horrible. I don’t want you or mom to get it. I don’t want you to die.”

The following days would be the sickest I’d be. Like a wave, a cycle repeated every 3–4 hours: I felt my body temperature soar, which caused my whole body to feel like it was going into shock. My insides burned, my mind couldn’t focus, my physical body felt like it was swelling and radiating. Then it would subside for a few hours, finding temporary relief, only to have it all roar back again.

I was terrified and deeply sad.

I thought about the“worst-case” and how I’d like to be remembered after it was all done. If I went to a hospital I may never see anyone again. And no funeral, either. I worried about how to tell everyone in More to Love, how to keep the mission going forward in my absence. I thought about my life in a way I never did before. I talked to Adam, who was still facing his own illness, with a level of candor and honesty not yet expressed.

Facing my own mortality, I had to truthfully ask myself: If I didn’t make it, would I be happy with how my life turned out ‘til now?

“Yes.”

I believed in my reply. I got peace from that. And could let go and rest easier.

I then slept, and slept, and slept for days. I meditated when I could and deeply listened to my body. I connected with my body in a way I didn’t even know was possible. I ate as fresh and wholesome as I could. I listened to weird new age music because the sounds soothed me. I cried a lot, mostly because of body pain. When not asleep, I just sat and stared. That’s all I was able to do.

But what I didn’t do was blame anyone, including myself. I didn’t blame my body for getting sick. I didn’t blame my lungs or my larger body for “being a risk”. I’ve spent 10 years actively working on body-love. Now that the moment came for a major test, I ACED it. I didn’t even have to think twice about loving my body — I knew everything I had to know. And that’s what kept me going during those really shitty days that rolled into uncertain weeks. Not once did I feel a shred of shame for being sick in my body. No one ever should.

My symptoms began to lift 5 weeks after they first started. It took another 2 weeks for my lungs to heal back, and another 2 weeks for my energy to return to normal. I was sick for 7 weeks, 4 of those being near-constant.

Present Day

While technically “over” COVID-19, honestly, I still have some longer-term side effects that feel related, but I’m not hearing/seeing too many things on it:

  • My nose / upper airway still feels “stuffy” even though it’s technically not
  • My stomach is very unhappy…acid reflux and nausea that comes and goes far more regularly than ever before
  • My sense of taste and smell are not back…maybe like 80% of what they were
  • I still tire easily and can only plan for like 1–2 BIG things a day (and that includes laundry)
  • My mind is hyper-focused on cleaning and order…which is NOT normal for me. I have caught myself slipping into the realm of anxiety around having something clean — especially the kitchen. This is not normal for me and I feel I need to talk to a therapist (thankfully have health insurance again.)

Sometimes I feel lost…I had something pretty traumatic happen and I was really, really sick. Sicker than I realized until now that I’m better and can reflect.

Now that my body is healing, my mind and emotional clarity, I can heal on another level: grieving and feeling relief from letting go of the world I knew before this.

My life + personal take on entrepreneurial leadership in wellness and society. www.moretoloveyoga.com

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