This week I have been branded with “The Scarlet C.” Coronavirus. COVID-19. After 9 months of social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing my hands until they bled, COVID has infiltrated my tiny bubble and has taken us all out. Our world has been flipped upside down ever since I saw that second blue line on my rapid test pop up-POSITIVE. The rate at which things can change rivals when I saw the second line of a positive pregnancy test 7 years ago. I immediately went into action mode: When was I exposed? Who have I seen? Who do I need to call? I was almost so overwhelmed with contact tracing that I didn’t realize how quickly my symptoms were worsening.
I’m not writing this to tell you about my symptoms. Any Google search can tell you about the physical manifestations of this virus. I wanted, no, I NEEDED to write this to talk about the lesser known side effect of COVID: mental anguish. From the minute I was diagnosed, I have experienced every feeling and emotion that is humanly possible:
My first reaction was to get in my car and scream words that would make Ralphie from The Christmas Story blush, and would’ve most certainly gotten my mouth washed out with soap. I wasn’t angry at anyone but myself. How could I have let this happen after spending the better part of a year being so careful?
Am I going to die? Is my husband going to die? Is my son going to get it and die too? Who is going to take care of my son if both my husband and I are sick? Once all of these questions entered my mind, I began Googling “healthy 38 year old woman dies of COVID”. (I highly advise against doing this).
This has been the worst feeling to experience for me. Who did I infect? We’ve all been hearing for months how contagious this virus is. Until you experience it for yourself, you cannot truly understand just how easily it is spread. Anyone who came into contact with us in the 48 hours from when we (we being my husband and I) were exposed to when I began showing symptoms, became infected. Thankfully, I was at home with my son for the majority of that time, and my husband only encountered a few people, but it was a few people too many. We unknowingly destroyed the holiday season of at least two other families. The guilt I feel for this weighs heavier on me than the tight band on my chest that I feel every time that I breathe.
This feeling was definitely surprising, but hear me out. I have spent the last nine months living in fear of getting COVID. Well, now I have it, and I don’t have any other choice but to face it head on. I’m not going to come out of this and run around without a mask and never wash my hands because I’ve already had it. But I’m hoping that I can at least ride the wave of a few antibodies for a little while. Not that I would ever wish this upon myself or anyone else, but I’m trying to focus on every bright spot that I can at the moment.
Now that we’ve gone through the emotions (I’m sure there are more, but that sums up the big ones), back to “The Scarlet C.” After feeling all of the things, above all else, I felt embarrassed. How could I be so careless that I let this happen? But that’s the thing, I wasn’t careless, and it still happened. So why do I feel so much shame when I tell people that I have COVID?
I told a few people, but then of course the news spread like some sort of dirty rumor. Instead of getting messages from people inquiring how I was feeling, or if my family needed anything, I was getting messages from people wanting to know how/when I was infected? A very good friend made the comment that they “expected more from me,” as if I’ve been out partying with a hundred people, not giving a darn about anyone around me.
I fear for what happens when my quarantine is up and people are still afraid to be around me, or continue to pass judgement on whatever choices that landed me with the ‘Rona. I truly believe there is a perception that if you caught it, then you must’ve been careless, causes a lot of people to stay quiet about their symptoms. This thinking is counterintuitive to actually stopping the spread!
Can we please stop the judgement, blaming, and finger-pointing at everyone who is diagnosed with COVID? I’m not saying that there aren’t people being careless who catch it, but there are a heck of a lot of people who get it despite doing everything to prevent it. We need to be able to speak freely about our experiences with coronavirus. We need to know we are not alone in all of the things that we are feeling. Bottling up all of these emotions, all while battling some really miserable physical symptoms, topped with being isolated, is a recipe for an even bigger disaster than the pandemic itself.