A COVID-19 diary

My record of good fortune on the COVID front finally ran out on 17th December 2021.

Steph had a presumptive diagnosis way back in March 2020 (based on symptoms in those pre-test days), and it was assumed it would be impossible for me to avoid it, but it appears I did. I maintained that record for more than 18 months, and also had zero reaction to any of the three vaccinations.

I’m using this blog to record my experience of the infection. Please don’t expect entertaining writing: my exhaustion is mental as well as physical. Mostly I’m writing it as a warning against complacency on the COVID front …

Friday 17th Dec 2021

I’d long been in the habit of doing a home lateral flow test before any social event. We were due to go to theatre to see Life of Pi (which itself had been rescheduled twice due to lockdowns), so I did a test in the morning. That had a faint but unmistakeable positive line.

Tried and failed to book a PCR test to confirm, but a doctor friend suggested we just turn-up and try for a walk-in. Since our local test centre is literally two minutes walk away, both Steph and I did that. Had to wait around an hour, but finally got tests.

Saturday 18th Dec 2021

At 7am, I got a text with my PCR result: positive. As it turned out, the confirmation was a formality, as by that stage I had moderate flu-like symptoms. Everything ached, and even sitting up in bed was an effort.

Back-story: People often use the word ‘flu’ to describe a bad cold. Me included, probably, before I experienced the real thing many years ago. When I caught it, I couldn’t sit up, couldn’t eat, could only drink through a straw while flat on my back (which hurt my throat), and if you’d put £10,000 six feet away from me and given me an hour to claim it, I wouldn’t have even tried. This led to some confusion when I described my COVID symptoms as ‘moderate flu-like’ as that was my basis for comparison. This time, I could drink, eat, sit up and use Facebook.

I was stuck in bed for four days. Given that I’m a writer (so not exactly physically demanding work), freelance (so don’t get paid when I don’t work), and my office is right next to the bedroom, me being too ill to crawl out of bed and work is something that happens no more than once every few years.

Wednesday 22nd Dec 2021

Finally made it out of bed, a cause for considerable celebration on the part of both myself and Steph (who I think would admit she is not natural nurse material …), and resumed work. But work was basically all I did for the next week and a half – I was mentally exhausted by the time I finished each day, and went to bed around 6-7pm each evening. Each day I planned a walk around the block, and each day I didn’t have enough energy for it.

Friday 31st Dec 2021

I’m not much of an xmas person, but new year’s eve has always been a big thing for me, so I was determined to make it to a NYE milonga. The Eton one felt like too much effort, but did make it to the Los Angelitos one.

That went well. I only danced about six tandas, and I was really tired by the final one, but even joined in the midnight conga line before heading home. I did, however, pay for it the next day – was back in bed for pretty much the whole day.

Wednesday 5th Jan 2022

I had a private lesson scheduled with Diego, but there was no hope of me having either the physical or mental energy needed to work on my tango for an hour. However, it would be my final lesson with Diego before he left the country, so I came up with a cunning plan.

Those who follow my tango blog will know that I’d last year hit something of an existential crisis in my dance, before finding a solution. The executive summary is a gradual process of expanding my real-life milonga vocabulary by revisiting things I can do in theory, and bringing them up to milonga standard. So for this lesson, I came up with a list of things that I wanted to work on, and had Diego demonstrate each of them with Steph, talking me through the technique issues involved, while I video’d them. This was a really helpful lesson!

Thursday 6th Jan 2022

The first week of Jan had seen me back to my previous routine: get up, work, back in bed by 7pm. Having grown very bored with this, I decided on an experiment. Sometimes when you feel very tired, exercise can actually revive you. I decided to try a brisk one-mile walk to Tower Bridge after work.

The briskness didn’t last too long, and by the time we got there, I was feeling dizzy. Took the DLR back and went to bed.

That experiment turned out to be a very bad idea. The next day, I really struggled to get out of bed, and felt worse than ever. My sleep also suffered: waking in the early hours, and either not being able to get back to sleep, or sleeping fitfully.

Several friends who’d had COVID and suffered the same exhaustion told me off, and I assured them there was no risk of me repeating the experience. I’d wait for some energy to return, not try to force it.

One of my frustrations was that I tend to use the end of the year as a time to catch up on my to-do list. As a freelance, I don’t get any paid time off, so tend to work through most of xmas, but it’s generally a quieter time, so a good point for an anti-procrastination offensive. Being too tired to tackle any of it had been driving me quietly nuts.

I decided, then, that I’d attempt one small item each day. So on separate days, we fitted the new electric blanket; I sorted out my wines after the new wine-rack was installed; I cleaned my tango shoes and put shoe-trees in them; I caught up with a bit of over-due scanning; organised some keys. Small tasks, taking 5-10 minutes, and one per day instead of whizzing through them all in a day or two, but it felt good to accomplish something outside of work.

Saturday 8th Jan 2022

As if having one ill person in the flat weren’t enough, the gods decided that two would be more amusing. Steph gets occasional flare-ups of anterior uveitis. She hadn’t had one for several years, but what better time than when I was ill too?

When it occurs, it needs a hospital check-up then medication, and the general busy-ness of hospitals at present meant she ended up spending a fair chunk of Saturday waiting to be seen, then had to return later for the medication.

Monday 10th Jan 2022

Wanting to get some exercise, but very mindful of not repeating Thursday’s mistake, I walked around the block. That, and staying up until 8pm, both felt like achievements.

Wednesday 12th Jan 2022

In bed by 6pm the previous night, but a significantly better today followed. First, while I still had zero energy physically, I had enough mental energy to at least contemplate a time at which I’d be able to do something other than work and sleep. I bought Michel Thomas’s Foundational Spanish course. More on that here.

Second, a fellow filmmaking friend came over in the evening to discuss a planned collaboration. I had enough brain power for the conversation, and didn’t go to bed until after 9pm – a post-COVID record!

To be continued …

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