I don’t write this to scare you. I don’t write this to reprimand you. I think enough of that is going around right now. We share posts and memes and feelings and warnings all day long now. We judge who has it. We judge who doesn’t have it. We judge how people got it. We judge how people are coping. Depending on the source, everything that you’re doing is right. Depending on the source, everything that you’re doing is wrong.
The truth is that we are drowning in fear and unknown and we are all messing up. I know I am.
I’d finished a virtual wine night with my family. I’d been staring at my wine more than drinking it because I was having a bad bout of acid reflux. When the call ended, I told my husband I was feeling terrible. I was shaking and cold and my flare up was killing me. I had this inkling that it was chills, even though I do sometimes shake when the pain gets bad. So I took my temperature. It was 100. My husband begged me not to let my anxiety hurl me into thoughts of coronavirus just yet, and I agreed and forced myself to sleep. The next day I felt better—no fever—and I went for a nice long walk.
But sinus symptoms kept lingering, and I’d have bouts of feeling totally fine and then suddenly I’d be exhausted. Of course, being tired all the time isn’t really new to me. I have a husband with a three hour daily commute, a seven month old that thinks she’s ready to crawl, a ten-year-old poodle that attacks the shower whenever we turn it on, and a part-time job building websites for people. I’m tired all the time. I’m also good at putting on makeup and pretending I’m not sick.
Then my husband’s company notified everyone about a coworker that had tested positive. Then he started to feel sick. Then I started to feel lousy again. Then he had a fever. Then I had a cough. Then he had a bad cough.
We got scared. So we did a telehealth appointment and our doctor scheduled us for tests to see if we had COVID-19. Let me tell you, that was not pleasant.
I’ve always wanted to be in a movie (former theater geek/aspiring actress), and going to the hospital for a drive-thru COVID-19 test felt like it was straight out of a pandemic thriller. It felt cold and sterile. As it should.
Don’t roll your window down. Makes sense.
Don’t get out. Obviously.
State your name. Over and over.
Turn off the car and roll your window down. Are you sure?
This is going to hurt. It did.
I was never that kid who got something stuck up her nose (I did put Play-Doh in my ear), so I can honestly say that I have never experienced anything quite like a swab being shoved as far back up both nostrils as I think is physically possible. And then you just drive off. You go home. It was all done right and perfectly. That didn’t make it suck any less, but kudos to the hospital for how they handled it.
Then we waited.
We wore masks to handle our daughter. We slept in separate rooms. We washed our hands until they were raw. We took a walk to get fresh air while carefully avoiding other people and being sure not to touch anything. We checked everyone’s temperature obsessively.
We told our jobs. We told our families. We told our friends. We read about it too much. We felt like we were doing too little. We felt guilty for waiting too long. We took our antibiotics just in case. We had a telehealth appointment with our pediatrician.
I cried. I read friends’ angry Facebook posts at people struggling with this situation. I read strangers’ posts that were so angry that someone gave it to someone. I read posts about the government. I read posts about parents not able to see their kids. I read posts about people dying.
I said screw it to the antibiotics and poured a glass of wine. I cried some more, stared at the wine, and took my antibiotic.
My husband started to feel worse. I slept on the couch while he slept on an air mattress to make sure he didn’t stop breathing in the middle of the night.
I told myself and him that if our tests were positive, then we were almost through it, so then we didn’t have to worry anymore.
It was negative for me.
So I cried some more and took my antibiotic. I did a Zoom chat with my friends and I told them how I felt. I told them about the guilt of what ifs and the new fear of what could be. In some ways had it been positive, then at least we could stop being scared and deal with it.
My husband tested positive.
The guilt and fear swept over me again. I’d gone to the grocery store. I’d held and kissed my daughter. I hadn’t quarantined from my husband. I had all the symptoms of a sinus infection. He’d had all the symptoms of a sinus infection. What if we’d screwed up somewhere and gave it to someone?
Was I really negative?
Maybe eventually I’ll know that answer.
Hopefully we learn and do it better. Hopefully we stop judging those who have it or are at risk because maybe they didn’t know. Maybe they showed no signs. Hopefully we try harder to make sure we are cautious and safe.
I don’t write this to scare you. I don’t pretend to know who is or is not symptomatic or even what all of the symptoms are. I write this to plead that we show kindness. I write this to ask that we don’t let fear keep tearing us apart. With so much unknown, don’t panic with every symptom. Don’t show up at ERs. Don’t blame. If you’re unsure, then call a hotline, do a telehealth appointment, wear masks, limit exposure, and stay home. The system does work.
Please try your best. I know it’s hard. I know it’s not going to be perfect. Let’s stop judging, because it can happen to any one of us, despite our best efforts. But our best efforts are what we need right now.
Please be safe. Please be smart. Please be kind.