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August 11, 2020

Figuring it All Out After Surviving COVID-19.

This Friday will be five weeks since I was released from the hospital, where I spent six days as a COVID-19 patient.

For the most part, I am recovered.

All of the “sick” symptoms are gone, and I feel mostly normal.

But it’s the things beyond the physical symptoms that I am still struggling with. It’s not just about the lack of energy and strength due to what the virus takes out of you, and how it seems to eat muscle and flesh, leaving your skin looking oddly wrinkled in some places.

It’s not just about the crazy weight loss that gives you the impression of looking at someone else in the mirror now, which is further confusing when you go into your own drawers and closets and find that nothing fits you, making you feel a little bit like you came out of the illness in another body completely. People seem to think I’d be happy about the weight loss since I was working on losing weight previously, but they don’t understand that this is not a healthy body—it’s saggy and sick looking and weak, and it just doesn’t feel like mine at all.

I didn’t suffer nearly as badly as some who come out worse and need therapy—bless their hearts. But I’m still struggling with what I’ve been left with after COVID-19 ravaged my own “self.” Looking in the mirror has felt like coming through a tornado and having to survey the damage. Yes, I am lucky. And yes, I can rebuild. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not still traumatizing.

It’s more than that, too.

This whole experience has given new meaning to “isolation.” It was heartbreaking, and perhaps the loneliest thing I’ve ever experienced—and never want to experience again.

The way you are separated from your family. The way the doctors and nurses keep their distance unless they have to touch you for something, making you feel like you are a plague that no one wants around. (Bless their hearts, their lives are at risk too, so I understand.) There is no one to listen to your fears, or hold your hand, or stroke your forehead to tell you it will be okay like we normally do for our loved ones when they are sick.

There is none of that with COVID. You are alone.

None of this is meant to knock any doctor or nurse working with these patients. They are wonderful, tireless, beautiful human beings risking their own lives a million times over every single day. But they are there to work, not to coddle or comfort every single patient, and that’s just a fact.

In this time of COVID, we are already so separated from our families, especially those who don’t live in our own homes. And it’s even more difficult if we’re taking this virus as seriously as we should and not risking our health or the health of those we love. For me, it’s my two oldest daughters and my four beautiful grandchildren—I miss them so much it hurts.

This experience is isolating, and not just in the terms they tell you it needs to be, but in heartfelt, lonely, painful terms. What I wouldn’t give to feel one of my grandchildren in my arms. We do what most are doing, and we video chat and stay in contact in all the ways we are safely allowed to, but there is no substitute for a hug, for human contact. And if nothing else, this time of illness and isolation has sure made most of us understand the value in that.

When we suffer through the virus, these feelings of isolation are intensified. And I find that no one around me really understands how alone I have felt and still feel. I am not ungrateful; these doctors and nurses saved my life, and I’m working on rebuilding a healthy immune system again. I am honestly grateful beyond words because I know how lucky I am.

But there is survivor’s guilt that is hard to convey, and there is the feeling that I belong—heart and soul—to a club of people who I never wanted to join. Yet, I am a part of them, because they understand all the things I’m feeling that my loved ones don’t.

Only…where are these people?

Are there others out there, others who feel completely lost and changed after recovering?

Are there those who thought certain things were so important before they got ill, but now question those very things and are in search of living a life with more meaning and purpose now?

Are there those out there who just can’t seem to connect to these times, where days of the week and hours on the clock mean absolutely nothing because we don’t have anywhere to be or anything to do at a certain time?

Are there those who feel like their days are stretching out endlessly while they fail to figure out all the new and confusing thoughts in their head because they just feel different now?

Are there others who will understand the things I’m feeling and trying to say, others who don’t think I’m just nuts or milking an already tough issue?

Is there anyone who will understand the constant loneliness I have felt since being sick, the loneliness I can’t even really describe or convey?

I’ve decided to try writing about this feeling in the hopes of coming into contact with others who’ve survived, whether they were mildly or seriously ill, or were positive and showing no symptoms but were struck with the realization of how lucky they are. Although, I truly feel that unless you have suffered the scary and painful symptoms, you can’t truly understand what I’m trying to say.

In any case, I just wonder if there are other COVID-19 survivors struggling in any of these ways and wishing they had others who could understand the trauma they have experienced, the loneliness, the confusion about “what now?” and, in my case, the way I feel changed but can’t for the life of me figure out what the heck that means.

I would love to hear from anyone who is feeling lost after surviving this powerful, all-consuming virus. Or am I just crazy to be feeling so lost afterward?

~

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