The COVID Aftermath

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

Back in mid-September, my COVID ticket finally got punched--2.5 years was a good run.  It was inevitable.  Not because it had to happen but because it had been a long time since my partner, I, my place of employment, my family--nearly everyone--decided to give up on navigating a world where we took care to remember the most vulnerable are left to have to do all the extra labor of caring and protecting.  It's a very common and unfortunate way we exist and something that lots of folks with disabilities of all sorts know all too well.
A spikey husk for a tree seed that resembles what the COVID virus looks like
And COVID knocked me on my ass.  I started to really notice symptoms on a Thursday, but in hindsight realized there were symptoms 2-3 days before that I hadn't realized or just assumed were other things. As Thursday turned into Friday, it was evident that I was sick but the first and second tests I took showed negative results. By the end of Friday, I was full chills, aches, brain fog/headaches, and just utterly miserable.  

Saturday was much the same.  In fact, I registered my lowest "Body Battery" score on my Garmin watch: 23 even after sleeping 10 hours. (Garmin has this feature that calculates what it perceives as your energy exertion for the day and its recovery--up to 100% total--based upon sleep, exercise, heart-rate, heart rate variability, and other things it measures). I lost taste and smell during this time.  

I rode the couch and bed till Monday and things began to get better.  Good enough to do a few hours of remote work but not much more than that. I did catch up on a couple shows as a result of COVID.  

As I saw signs of recovery, my partner started to crash as COVID also broke her record. The days that followed were a mixture of trying to work, rest, and care for her.  It's a test of a relationship to have both folks sick and still trying to care for one another. We'll call it a relationship win even if it was otherwise a rough week and a half.  

But the thing that I struggled and now--7 weeks after the first signs up is the long road to recovery. Regularly readers know--running is my self-care space. Its infinitely helpful for being in my body and really important for my mental and emotional health.  

Evidence of COVID lingered in me for about a month (congestion, a light cough, etc). And during this time, I largely avoided exercise, not because I didn't want to but because what I could tell from my body's readiness.  I did actually try at the end of two weeks to bike to work. Keep in mind that work is 3.5 miles away and is largely a flat terrain with a few places that traffic causes one to stop.  At my top speeds (pre-COVID), I could make it, door-to-door in 14 minutes and still feel perfectly fine.  When I biked this time, knowing I was still recovering, I took my time (18-20 minutes).  I had some lung capacity issues and I also found that my energy level for the rest of the day and the next day were zapped.  

I stayed away from this activity for another two weeks.  When I started again, I started with very light jogging at 20 or so minutes.  It's a weird thing, I can feel that I could definitely do it--my body; it has the muscle memory from years of running.  Even my lungs can do it.  But my energy level and its impact is much bigger and take a larger toll on me.  And it's not just in my head or a psychosomatic experience.  From my Garmin watch, I can see the physiological impact--elevated biometrics for hours afterward and diminished quality of sleep that impact me.  For now, I'm still in a holding pattern of finding I can't do more than 30 minutes of exercise and that must be at a lighter level than I want or feel like my body desires. 

I also know that I'm incredibly lucky in the way that COVID has played out for me. I had work flexibility to navigate it. My body isn't back to where it was but it's also not suffering as many long-term effects that I know others and I had access to the vaccine which diminished its impact on me as a whole.  That I could stay away from it for 2.5 years--even though for half to that time I was not taking protective measures, also speaks to some of the luck and privilege of my own situation.   

Still, to say this has been a struggle for me is an understatement.  I've written a lot about running on this blog--dozens of posts on the subject. It is a place where I do so much of my own emotional and mental processing. It's been essential in helping me figure out work problems, move forward with my dissertation, be a better partner, friend, and colleague.  Running grounds me.  

Running also gives me space to feel in my body; to be present with what my body can do, what's going on in my body. In the last 12 years, it's become an act of self-love to run and feel my body to its fullest. It's an essential part of my story and transformation from learning from society to hate my body to learning from myself to love it.  

In the first two weeks of COVID, I didn't think much about it. I knew I was sick, I knew it was serious, and I knew I had to take it seriously.  But as I got into week 3 and work and life were more stressful, I felt the absence of running.  For the most part, I could name it and observe it and put it to the side, but damn, did I get irritable.  I had a lot of mental "WTF" moments for things that did not matter or were small enough that I usually put them aside.  I appreciated that I had the bandwidth still to notice and reflect as opposed to react but it was hard--adding another level of mental struggle.   

As I continue to reflect on all of this, I also know there is a part of me that fears the loss of running.  Not just the loss of being able to run but the love of running.  And, the mind is a tricky bastard because with that comes the catastrophic thinking of "well, then you're going to lose the love of your body and..."--so many thoughts after that ellipses.  Again, I can see this and name this. It doesn't go away but it does allow me to give it a good side-eye.  I also know that some of this thinking is because I haven't been able to "run" it out of me.  

The thing is, I know--in my bones--that if I lost running, it would be ok. It would be a challenge and it would take time to navigate but I can and would find a way. And I can know it and also experience those anxious thoughts. I know that someday, I will lose running; after all, our bodies are often only temporarily abled and we will spend significant parts of our lives not being able to do the things we want.  

But I have to name it, I have to sit with it, I have to work my way through it.  And in some ways that's what I'm learning (relearning) as I feel the effects of COVID months later.  

Things aren't resolved and yet, that doesn't entirely matter at this moment and that's an ok place to be.  

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