I woke up one morning and realized that I had sweat through my sheets.
A wave of panic swept over me. This is happening.
Over the next few days, my chest grew tighter and tighter. It hurt to wear a bra. It felt like someone had taken a roll of plastic wrap and encased my entire torso.
I was afraid to say it, but I knew. I was coming down with COVID-19.
In an act of pure denial, I powered through the next few days because that’s what we’re all doing right now. That Thursday, I turned 38.
Still, I wouldn’t acknowledge what was happening in my body. Once I said it, the nightmare would become a reality. By the weekend, my breathing had gotten substantially worse. It felt like someone was pouring cement straight into my lungs. I was beginning to drown from the inside.
The panic set in again. I called my doctor, and I was transferred to a call line for people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. I relayed my symptoms of the past week to the nurse on the phone: fever, shortness of breath, night sweats, chest tightness. She diagnosed me immediately. Honestly, I didn’t even need a test. I already knew. I knew the first day.
It’s now day 27, and I’m still sick. Somehow, I believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. On some days, I can even see it. It’s hard enough to have a novel virus that we know little about, but on top of that, I also went first. I’m the first person I know who contracted the virus.
Going first is incredibly loaded. It means that I almost always feel misunderstood as I attempt to share my experience. It means that I am reluctant to be honest about the severity of the virus when I know that so many people are scared of it. On top of that, I’m afraid to walk around because I have no idea if I’m still contagious.
The moral injury that I face every time I leave the apartment to throw out my trash is overwhelming.
There are so many questions and almost no answers.
As I attempt to navigate life with a novel virus, the leading voice I can hear is my own. That was terrifying until it became my superpower.
Going first is also an invitation. I’m being invited to trust myself. I have the opportunity to make decisions about all facets of my health that are based primarily on my intuition. I now filter every treatment option through a new channel: my own voice.
I can hear myself reflect: Do I want to put that in my body? What would be in my best interest to do right now?
My opinion is now the one that matters the most. It took a virus for me to get here, but I’m here.
I’ve come home to myself.