In this anonymous essay, a Health Program Specialist II shares their experience with COVID-19.
Was getting COVID-19 scary? Yes, it was. Watching the news every evening, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths around the world was just shocking. My husband, three children and I did everything to protect ourselves: staying home, not socializing, wearing masks, washing our hands and staying six feet apart from others when out for errands. However, even with all that, I was terrified the first time I realized something was wrong.
COVID-19 started with a slight fever
July 7, 2020, was just another day. My youngest child had a dental appointment and I asked the older two to come along to get them out for a quick drive away from the house. As my oldest two waited out in the car, I went into the dental office with my youngest and that was when everything changed. They took our temperatures at the door, and I can still hear the Dental Assistant say, “I’m sorry but your daughter has a slight fever. We won’t be able to see her today.”
At first, I was calm, but as I got right back in the car, my heart sank: I knew what this could possibly mean.
By July 9, all my kids had mild fevers, achy bones, and headaches, and were very fatigued. This did not last too long – within seven days they were feeling better. I tried to have them tested for COVID but all locations said it was not necessary to test them, that they would be OK.
From the kids to the parents
My husband started showing symptoms around July 15, but he was able to get a test before me through his work. He tested July 20, and seven days later, his results came back positive. On July 23, I was finally able to get tested at one of the institutions, and a few weeks later I received my results. No surprise: positive. There was a sense of relief officially knowing I had COVID-19, even though I was already dealing with it.
My symptoms were getting worse each day. On top of the headaches, nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea, new symptoms began. On July 28 I went back to Urgent Care because my body began to hurt so badly. I could not get comfortable sitting or lying in my bed, my joints hurt to the point I couldn’t unlock them, my lymph nodes were getting swollen under my armpits, my neck became tight and hard to move, my jaw locked, my body starting turning yellow, and I was quickly forgetting everyday tasks and words.
Headaches, nausea, and sleepless nights
July 10 is when it all started for me. I had head-crushing headaches, nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea. A week later, my eyes started swelling, making it hard for me to blink or even close my eyes to sleep. I called all the places offering COVID-19 testing but during this time, cities were saving the tests for high-priority individuals.
On July 18, I drove myself to Urgent Care because my stomach would not settle. My eyes were incredibly painful. I was so exhausted, I could hardly stay awake for more than 30 minutes. Unfortunately, my headaches were making it impossible to even get out of bed. For many nights, I was either cold and shivering or burning hot and sweating. A few nights my chills would keep me awake and cause my entire head and skull to hurt. Even with all that, Urgent Care sent me home with a fecal test to rule out a parasite. I already knew was not what I had. I kept calling for a COVID-19 test but had no luck.
COVID symptoms lasted for months
My daily COVID-19 symptoms lasted from July 10, 2020, through late November 2020. Every few days the symptoms would change and affect another part of my body. I was still very sick and my day-to-day functioning was getting more difficult.
My symptoms included breast pain, locked jaw, loss of smell, loss of taste, left eye twitching, chills, earache, fatigue, fever, joint swelling, joint pain, organ pain, body itching, diarrhea, nasal drip, chest pain, underarm boils, burping, cold sweats, body aches, dry cough, yellow eyes, eye strain, weakened eyesight, fatigue, sadness, anxiety, depression, severe hair loss and memory loss.
My bones began to feel frail, and my hands and feet began to swell. Every day I was dropping items because I could not close my hands. Many nights I laid in bed having suicidal thoughts, something I have never experienced before. As miserable as I was during these five months, my COVID was considered a “mild” case.
Impacts on the entire family
It has now been just over seven months since my family was first impacted by COVID-19. My kids look much better, although my youngest still cannot smell and my middle child remains very fatigued; we are working with their doctors to help resolve this.
My husband still struggles with daily fatigue and headaches. I still have headaches, ear ringing and am still getting swollen lymph nodes under my armpits. What I still struggle with is how isolated I felt during this time and how this isolation led to fear. I still worry every day if we will get it again. “Does the person standing next to me in the grocery line have it?” So, I now live in constant panic.
Having COVID-19 left its mark on my family forever – and we are now considered recovered. I can tell you from experience that you do not want to get this virus. And, you definitely do not want to spread it to a loved one.
Recently, I was offered the COVID-19 vaccine and at first, I was not sure if I was ready to accept it. I began to remember everything my family went through these past six months and how it all felt and still feels, so it was a no-brainer – I needed to do this for my family. I hope reading my story will help you make the same decision.
Did You Know?
- A survey completed just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic found that about one-third of American adults have experienced suicidal thoughts, and nearly half knew someone who had died by suicide?
- As more people in the world get infected and recover from COVID-19, researchers are learning more and more about some of the longer-term impacts the virus has on the recovered patients’ mental health? A study conducted by Oxford University, which looked at the health records of 69 million Americans (including over 62,000 COVID cases), found that anxiety, depression, and insomnia were common among patients who recovered from COVID-19. The researchers also found significantly higher risks of dementia. (Read the study.)
While these findings are still early and research will need to continue as more and more people recover from COVID, these initial findings are a sobering reminder of what we still do not know about this virus and its long-term effects on us. Make sure you are continuing to protect yourselves and each other from getting the virus. For those of you who have recovered from COVID-19, do not be afraid to ask for mental health services and support if you are feeling depressed, anxious, can’t sleep or are having trouble with your memory.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re looking for ways to support those who are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can learn more about the #BeThe1To campaign.
You can also use the CDCR Wellness App for employees and their family members. This allows 24/7 access to information and resources regarding a wide variety of wellness tools, programs and services such as:
- Peer Support Services
- Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Services
- Fitness and Nutrition
- Crisis Resources for Staff and their Families
- Anxiety and Depression
- Financial Fitness
- Parenting and Relationships
- Burnout and Compassion Fatigue
- Stress Management
- Much, much more