Living with Long Covid
Song of the post: The Four Seasons – Summer – Allegro non Molto. By Antonio Vivaldi
I took my physical health for granted
I caught the coronavirus in January 2022, during the omicron spike in the US. I saw it at work after I bought pizza for everyone on the first Friday of the week I was promoted to department lead. (Which later changed). My place of work is a tiny building, and the break room doesn’t have excellent airflow, so I likely caught it there when everyone was eating… Masks down. I can’t remember if I went outside to eat. Everyone was vaccinated, and some were boosted; I wasn’t boosted due to the high demand during the winter Omicron surge. While we have safety measures at work, and ownership was generous to offer us a couple of hundred dollar bonus for the initial vaccine, there never was a booster policy. I, along with others who were concerned, asked, but it never became a requirement.
Mid-January, I caught coronavirus and was out for two weeks.
I wasn’t boosted for lack of trying. I could have gotten one if I had shown up to specific locations with extra shots after they closed. The fact is that I didn’t. Testing at that time was complex; you had to go to a drive-thru location and hope they had open appointments. This was before the at-home tests became widespread in the US.
I haven’t been the same person since
Today is one of many days that I have had to call out sick because of Long Covid symptoms. I took a short hike with my mom on Sunday afternoon at our favorite local park: Seward Park. It’s a park on Lake Washington in Seattle, close enough to walk to, an excellent workout that will leave you sweaty, and a good couple of miles with varied terrain. I used to be able to walk there, walk the loop around the outside of the park, and back. Since January, I can walk 10 minutes on flat terrain and be okay.
Up until July, I could go to work and back on most days and crash when I get home. Combine this with the depression, anxiety, inflammation flareups, and PTSD as a result of how about a third of the world refusing to vaccine or distance… Or another third not putting on their mask correctly, and brain fog. And I haven’t followed up on treatment. Which didn’t yet exist because this condition is so new.
On Sunday, I went on a short, roughly 30-minute hike with my mom at Seward Park.
A refresher on Long Covid Symptoms
- Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (also known as “post-exertional malaise”)
Respiratory and heart symptoms
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
- Pins-and-needles feelings
- Change in smell or taste
- Depression or anxiety
- Stomach pain
- Joint or muscle pain
- Changes in menstrual cycles
In the past 8 months, I have had all of these symptoms except for rash, change in smell/taste, and menstrual cycles (for obvious reasons). The most common are: fatigue after effort, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, and diarrhea. I have slowly gotten my energy back, and have more good days than bad, yet the condition hangs on.
On Sunday, I decided to go on a walk in Seward Park with my Mom. One of the things that my therapist suggested was to spend time in nature. When I was in therapy the last time, going to the park and walking for exercise did help. I have gotten out of doing both of these things due to my health. It has been a long time since I pushed myself to exercise. I have been doing short ten-minute walks a couple times a week at work. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah.. The walk at the park.
From Wikipedia: Seward Park is a municipal park in Seattle, Washington, United States. Located in the city neighborhood of the same name, it covers 300 acres (120 ha; 0.47 sq mi). The park occupies all of Bailey Peninsula, a forested peninsula that juts into Lake Washington. It contains one of the last surviving tracts of old-growth forest within the city of Seattle. The park is named after U.S. Secretary of State William Seward. The 300 acres (120 ha) of Seward Park have roughly 120 acres (49 ha) of surviving old growth forest, providing a glimpse of what some of the lake shore looked like before the city of Seattle was founded. With trees older than 250 years and many less than 200, the Seward Park forest is relatively young (the forests of Seattle before the city was fully mature were usually 1,000–2,000 years old). Source
Normally this walk, this is as the cliche goes… Is a walk in the park.
“walk in the park”:
Something that is easy to do or accomplish.https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/walk+in+the+park
Normally, or life before I caught covid, I could easily walk any route around Seward Park and back. I would be sweaty and be tired from a long cardio workout, but nothing that I couldn’t recover from. If I would go the long route, walking there and back, on the longest route, this would be about a 60-90 minute brisk walk. Which has always been doable, even in recent times where I have been out of shape.
Ever since I caught covid in January, and later Long Covid, I haven’t been physically able to exercise outside of work and every day chores. Since July, I have been able to do 10 minute walks on breaks a couple times a week. So, I thought it would be okay to try some longer exercise.
That was a mistake.
I was mindful to pace myself and to not overdo it because I hadn’t pushed my body this hard in months.
Yet, after 15 minutes of slowly walking through the evergreen forest and windy trails common to the inner forest path we chose, I was dizzy, wheezing, my heart was pounding, and I had to stop to catch my breath. I felt like I was hiking a mountain or sprinting at full speed, not shuffling along like a snail on a gentle park trail. I have walked this trail and others in the park several times a year during the summer, every year of my life without any problem.
This time, I felt physically like I did shuffling around the hospital wing after I had a couple heart attacks as a severe side effect of Amphetamine based ADHD medication at age 22. (Thankfully I recovered, there was no damage to my heart, and all tests after said I was healthy). It was a struggle and I felt weak after. I really hope these current symptoms are not current heart problems because of Long Covid. I don’t get treated. I am more afraid of the insane cost of treating chronic health problems in our messed-up healthcare system.
Thankfully, my mother drove us to the park. I would not have been able to walk back.
Monday was Labor Day, so this was a short work week. Even so, I was only able to work two half days. All I could do Tuesday morning was to drag myself to shower and dress before I was too exhausted to continue. Even though I have slept more, and taken it easy, I’m still not recovered as I write this today, the following Saturday. Work has been great with my health issues, with me missing so much time this year and I’m very grateful to them for that. I’ll always have a little fear of being fired, even if there isn’t evidence that I will be, but I am glad to have their support. Thankfully, I have sick leave accrued, so I’ll be okay this time.
I contacted my doctors office, and did an E-visit checkup. There still isn’t a cure or a specific treatment for Long Covid, but they can treat symptoms. Hopefully I’ll get some answers at the next in person appointment later this month. Just like the pandemic as a whole, I have to wait for an unknown time for this to be over. Maybe this is how my life is from now on.
Distant hope for the future.
All things considered, my life is alright. I’d like it to be better, to be different. The struggle with this chronic condition is so hard. Especially because there isn’t a cure or specific medical treatment yet. A lot of days, I wonder if what I’m feeling is due to this condition or a flare-up of the preexisting depression or anxiety that I manage. Well, one day at a time. I’m so tired of being patient. I’m so tired of chronic health conditions that I have little control over. Thanks for letting me vent a bit.
It took me much longer than usual to write this week. It’s hard to write when your health gets in the way and you need to prioritize that. Do you or anyone you know struggle with Long Covid? Let me know in the comments! If you like this and are a new reader, subscribe below and checkout my latest posts! Thank you for reading!