A few weeks ago, most of my family members and I tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, I can now tell you that my family has recovered (although one family member is still suffering the after shocks).
When my family tested positive, I started writing about my emotions and reflections on the experience. Looking back on my few weeks with COVID, I want to help others understand the difficult emotions and thoughts even mild cases can bring.
The Psychological Symptoms
The news will tell you about physical symptoms of COVID like coughing, fatigue, and the loss of smell and taste. I experienced these, but what was more unsettling to me were the psychological symptoms the virus brought.
For me, fear was the worst part. It’s scary to lose your sense of smell. It’s scary to lose your sense of taste. It’s scary when you have no idea how many symptoms you’ll experience or how bad they’ll be. And no one can tell you what to expect because it’s a new virus - doctors don’t really know what to tell you; nurses don’t really know what to tell you. It’s scary when your body has a sickness no one seems to know much about.
I did my best to stay positive and told myself, “I'm going to be just fine and back to normal soon.” (Speaking affirmations to yourself can be very helpful.)
If you know someone who has tested positive, they might be fearful. You might be fearful. Remind them, and yourself, that the recovery rate is high and stay calm. The calmer you are, the calmer your loved one will be. No horror stories.
One of the first nights after I tested positive, I had a dream I was living in the Bible times. The Pharisees (church leaders) came around me and pointed to a man with leprosy (a disease that led people to devastating isolation). They said to me, “See? You’re like him now!” I objected. They began to pull my shirt down. When I looked down, my exposed skin broke out in a horrible, ugly rash. I was sent away.
When you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, no one wants to be with you. (I know that no one should be with you, but it still hurts that no one wants to be with you, even if it’s for a good reason.) I mean, when the only place you can drive is the hospital and they want you to stay in your car…it feels lonely.
When people came to drop things off at our door, the most important part of their delivery wasn’t the food. The most important part was knowing that people were thinking of us and taking time out of their day to connect with us in some way.
The virus infecting my family was not a result of anyone doing anything wrong. It just happened. It really could happen to anyone, even if you’re doing everything right. The weird thing is – you still feel guilty for having it because it is seen as a danger to other people.
Even when I knew I wasn’t infectious anymore, I had to fight anxious thoughts as I drove to town for the first time. It was my first outing and I went to buy masks at the mall. It felt wrong for the first few minutes. That’s when I realized I was more afraid of what others might think than I was afraid of infecting someone.
The shame is real. It will probably take a while for me, and others who have recovered, to feel okay being “back in the world”. Psychological recovery is a whole different ball game than physical recovery.
What God Reminded Me Of
Though dealing with COVID-19 felt scary, lonely, and shameful, God certainly used the experience to remind me of some important truths. He really does work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
The following reminders are ones that I can carry over into every aspect of my life. I hope that they will encourage you and apply to your life, even though we have different experiences.
God reminded me of how I can validate my grief and keep it in perspective, that emotions are not definitive, and that I need to support and be supported.
Validate Grief and Keep it in Perspective
Even if you haven’t had COVID or lost a loved one to COVID, you’ve been affected by COVID. Maybe you couldn’t see your family or friends for a while. Maybe your trip got canceled. Maybe your workplace is more stressful now. Whatever it is, it’s safe to say we are all grieving our pre-COVID world.
I spent a few days grieving my sense of smell and taste. I spent a few weeks grieving the health and wellness of my family. Sometimes I felt stupid for feeling sad. Afterall, these were probably temporary loses.
The truth is, we can validate our grief, even if what we’re grieving isn’t a permanent loss. We don’t have to compare our loss to the losses of other to keep our grief in perspective. We can keep our grief in perspective by being thankful for what we have and remembering the hope we have for the future. (2 Cor. 4:17-18)
Emotions are not Definitive
Emotions are valid. Often, they are a reflection of our circumstance. It made sense that when my family and I had COVID, I experienced fear, loneliness and shame. Emotions are part of what makes us human and they are a God-given gift.
Emotions can be directed. Instead of numbing out and pretending they’re not there, when we validate our emotions, we can re-direct them. We can direct them into something productive (a to-do list), something creative (an art piece), and we can direct them toward God.
Emotions don't have authority over us, or the outcome of our situation. I believe I have authority over what I do with my emotions, even if I have to roll with them sometimes. I also believe that God has authority over the outcome of my situation, even when I'm really scared of what he might be doing. He is good and he is making everything new.
Support and Be Supported
Whether you are “pro-mask” or “anti-mask”, “pro-vaccine” or “anti-vaccine”, be safe and kind. The reality is, you are relying on other people in some capacity and other people are relying on you.
If you’re like me, you’re more comfortable being the one doing the supporting. You’re pretty comfortable sending encouraging messages, picking out gifts, and lending a hand. If you’re like me, what you really have to work on is being supported.
The truth is, if I’m not supported, at some point, I won’t be able to support others. I also need to remember that God is the ultimate support for me and for others. As people, we let each other down. We let ourselves down. God will ultimately be the support we need to be supported by others and to support others.
We’ll Get Through This
Friends, this too shall pass. COVID-19 sucks. I won’t sugar coat it. It’s done damage and it’s difficult to deal with. Let’s just remember that we are in it together.
We can be concerned without letting fear completely consume us.
We can learn to connect better with one another when we’re lonely.
We can learn to bring our shame to God and let Him be our support.
COVID-19, like all our sources of pain, will not last.
“And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.’” Revelation 21:5 NLT.
About the Author:
Brittany is a Steinbach local studying counselling in BC. She loves connecting with people, creative writing, and the combination of chocolate and cheese. You can check out her blog at thegracebasement.ca.