Why should anything go as planned? I got sick after just one week of training and that completely interrupted everything. Even though my symptoms are coherent with COVID-19, I’ll probably never know what virus hit me as tests are only for those unlucky enough to end up in hospital. So in the end, I’m quite grateful that “my” virus remains unnamed.
For the curious among you here is an overview of what happened.
The sore throat and chills started at midday on Monday. I cycled home after my classes. By the Thursday night my throat felt on fire. It was so raw and dry that it woke me up and prevented me from going back to sleep. I also started coughing.
Even though I had been in contact with people from affected areas, I had not been there myself. So neither my GP nor the dedicated COVID-19 information line recommended a test and they said I could wander as I pleased. Nonetheless, I was sick and used common sense and self-isolated anyway.
I felt better over the weeked, not great but I thought I was recovering and could go back to normal soon. At the time I was also struggling mentally with the training interruption and was keen to get over this illness as quickly as possible.
My throat felt like I had inhaled a bagful of sawdust. This resulted in such a croaky voice that no one understood what I said.
The GP extended my sick leave and maintained that I did not have to self isolate. I stupidly tried a “fake it until you make” approach… To satisfy an urge for movement and nature I walked to our local deserted beach.
Turns out viruses aren’t sensitive to a psychological approach. I got out twice before realising I was way too tired for that. Seriously, I didn’t even have the energy to to watch films, let alone read. Basically, I slept most of the time or listened to podcasts.
One evening I even almost passed out in the shower. I sat on the bathroom floor for about 10 minutes and waited until I could get up again. After this, I did not lock the bathroom door, just in case I needed rescuing.
At the end of the week, my throat started to feel tight. Thankfully, I didn’t have any chest issues but the GP prescribed some antibiotics to clear up an obvious surinfection.
The antibiotics worked but I got even more tired and the tight raw throat and voice loss persisted. For the second I felt a bit better but again, it did not last.
Tuesday, finally brought some change, but not welcome change: I started having gastointestinal issues. I could not eat and even had to force myself to drink. By that time my symptoms were recognised as potential COVID-19 and the GP told me to self isolate for two weeks. My daughter had to miss school, which she did not appreciate at all. I agree, she can be weird.
As lockdown loomed, everybody started panic buying. Of course I had not shopped for over two weeks, our cupboards were bare. Naturally, our usual delivery services were swamped and I could not manage to get a slot. How were we going to eat?
Thankfully some amazing kind friends went shopping for essentials. Hurray, they sourced enough food to see us through a week to ten days. I was so thankful and touched I bawled my eyes out. The next few days were nonetheless pure logistics as I tried to organise deliveries for later in the month.
Eventually we managed to arrange a reasonable supply of food that guaranteed we would not go hungry. I’m pretty sure my years spent in the field organising expedition food for weeks helped me find solutions to those logistic challenges.
By the end of the week, I was so tired I surrendered to the situation. I stopped worrying about work and cultivated my mental strength. I couldn’t remember the feeling of being healthy. My body needed to remember its purpose: movement. So to encourage recovery I committed to 10 minute sessions of gentle yoga per day.
Haflway through the week my gastrointestinal symptoms got better. After hardly eating for days, I started craving meat (!). I listened to my body and cautiously ate some cawl I had batched cooked for The Cub. It felt wonderfully right.
Schools closed, which helped The Cub cope with self-isolation. Mind you, she also became ill. Thankfully her sore throat only lasted 24 hours and her cough about a week. However, she hit the jackpot when it turned out she had head lice. Dude, really?!
As Murphy’s law would have it, the sun came out as soon as lockdown started.
What do you do when you’re sick and the weather is gorgeous? Lay in the grass to feel the ground, smell the earth and enjoy the sun of course! Believe me, fresh air is lovely and touching the earth reminds us we are alive.
I did not notice it, probably because I was still very weak, but I was slowly overcoming the virus and getting better.
My GP recommended another week off work as my throat was still really sore and I was still very tired. I measured my improvement by the number of naps needed and the length of my yoga sessions. By then I only needed an afternoon sleep and could manage up to 20 minutes of yoga. Things were looking up. I was even starting to believe Momentum Jewellery‘s “stronger than yesterday” wrap that I not left my arm for the past three weeks.
Looking back and moving on
Quite simply, I had never been that ill for so long. I come from the tropics I had dengue fever a couple of times. This was comparable in intensity but lasted way longer.
Seven weeks after the start of the symptoms, my throat still hurts and feels raw. I still avoid speaking for longer than five minutes. Actually, even breathing a bit harder than normal hurts. So even though I went back to work 10 days ago, I’m not ready to run or cycle again.
Interestingly, this also impacted me mentally. First, I got very close to having panic attacks. From the start of my illness I stayed away from media, scaremongering and other information useless to positivity and recovery so I think the panic attacks were caused by a combination of tiredness, a racing heart and a tight throat. Years ago, when I was on expeditions in the forest I experienced several full blown panic attacks. Every time they happened as I was falling asleep and were linked to exhaustion. Over the years I learnt ways to cope with these. However I never thought I would need these tricks again!
Then I lived in an altered state of mind for a couple of weeks. Looking back on it, I realise I wasn’t quite there for several days. When I emerged from it – more or less in week 4 – it felt like I had gone through some sort of spiritual experience. Profound and intriguing. It certainly helped me reframe how I view my place in the world and my purpose in life.
Do I mind the interruption in training? Seven weeks on it doesn’t matter at all any more. My current focus is to get some strength back and recover fully from this illness. Even gentle excercise such as walking, yoga and Pilates is a challenge so I will just take recovery a day at a time.
And remember: keep smiling, laugh loads, eat well and stay positive.