COVID 2.0

I got COVID in 2021 & 2022 and as terrible as it sounds, the mental repercussions were far more virulent than the physiological ones.

I am writing them down here so that it becomes a shared collective pain.
It was the month of April — my social life was pretty much restricted to cycling from point A to point B with some of my cycling friends. So naturally, when my throat closed and my nose was all runny and heavy, I thought it was something innocuous I caught from dust particles.

I gave it a few days. But my nose did not become less heavy. I felt as though fatigue had settled into my body (leading me to cancel out on some long-distance cycling plans) I have caught the ‘lazys’! I thought. My uncle suggested I get an RTPCR test done, just in case, to avoid any suspicious looks. Right before the RTPCR guy showed up, I decided to go to the kitchen to “smell” things. Naturally, I couldn’t smell anything. I do not know what part of my brain concluded this, but I thought to myself: Ah! this is so common, in common cold. I somehow convinced myself that each time I got a cold my taste and smell was reduced to 0. Indeed, my taste and smell were reduced to ZERO, so much so, that I couldn’t smell some of the most potent spices and condiments at home.

We called in one of those home testing guys. He came with a rather callous disposition. But who was I to comment? I sneezed, coughed and spat all over him as he took my swab test. With each sneeze, I must have had a part of common sense erode. Because despite being a “suspect” I still did not isolate, mask up or be cautious around my aged relatives.

How could I get the virus? I was the most cautious human being. The test results were unusually late. That should have been a warning signal. And then I got the news from my uncle, who politely conveyed to me that I was COVID +ve.

I was shell-shocked. What do I do? Where do I go? Am I dying? Sick? Hallucinating? I don’t know what variant I caught, but it was during the time Delta had rocked the earth. All I could think about was the rising death toll that came in my newsfeed every day. Was I going to die? Were these my last days on earth? Should i stay in my room and expose the family to such a life-threatening disease?

My cousin asked me to go to the nearest hospital and meet the doctor. He volunteered to take me there. At the moment I accepted the offer, only to find a wave of guilt hit me later. I thanked him for the offer and decided to take my scooter to the nearest hospital.

In all my hurry, I forgot my phone at home. My parents suggested I admit myself to the hospital. But I had never gone to a hospital alone. I was unsure of protocol!

The hospital, Columbia Asia was packed! I felt as though I was in the middle of a crowded railway station. Although an entire area was dedicated to people with the virus, there were people with all degrees and variations of it. Some had come to take the test and were unsure if they were covid +ve. Some more serious, lying on hospital beds, outside in corridors, across the garden patches of the hospital. Those who weren’t COVID +ve surely got the virus, and those who were just a little unwell — like me — fell sick to their stomachs!

I waited and waited. Some of the numbers in my COVID report were alarming, I don’t know what they were, but I was told to get a CT SCAN. Worst decision.

The on-call doctor was a fragile, exhausted, and petite person. She had the bravest face on. There was nothing she could prescribe other than for me to wait.

I waited for an entire day. Seeing families cry, people with brave faces on, people who had given up. I saw death that day. I had never seen death the way I saw in that hospital on that dreaded day. Many had lost hope. Of survival, lost hope for life. Seeing them made me squeamish.

I could not stay in that place that reeked of death. I got the CT Scan and decided to head back home. To hell with it all. My aunt had luckily arranged for a place right below her apartment, which was empty. I had mustered up all my strength and courage to drive to and back the hospital. I entered the room and crashed.

Fatigue hit me hard. My mind and my body were fighting a deadly disease that had killed millions.

I had no fever and my blood oxygen levels were fine. The basic parameters were not alarming at all. But I was tired and I couldn’t breathe. Simple tasks made me huff and puff. Lying down was painful, walking was painful, and eating was the most painful — since I could not smell or taste anything.

I was isolated & alone. My aunt was right there, my friends were a call away and my parents checked in on me multiple times a day, and yet, I had never felt so lonely in my life. I would wake up in the night and look at the space around me. It was empty. Like my will to live, like the connections I had. Void.

News of people dying kept increasing by the day. And a part of me kept dying with each day of isolation. Luckily I had taken up a Coursera/Google course at the exact time I got COVID. The course was designed for 6months — 1 year. But I could not be left alone with my thoughts. Each waking moment went toward finishing the course. I completed it within 15 days of isolation.

Finally, on day-7 things started to look better. I regained some of my taste and smell. And everything started to look so much better. I felt stronger. My appetite was back! It took me about 2 months after I was detected with COVID to recover fully. Normal breathing exercises seemed difficult at first and thankfully by June, I had gotten back to cycling.

Cut to January 2022.

Since April 2021, I had a free ticket. A free pass to roam around with little to no repercussions. After I got vaccinated, I felt invincible. I was hit during the worst variant and things are only going to get better?

Towards the end of January 2022, my mother was detected with COVID. She had isolated herself long before the report. We were all left wondering! None of us stepped out of the house unless absolutely necessary, we maintained distancing and masked up! We could not wrap our heads around the source of this infection.

This time, however, I was wiser. I isolated myself soon after. I had made several mistakes during my first bout and I was careful not to repeat them this time. My throat had begun to feel a little sore. We as a family were prepared. By day 03 my fever shot up to 101 or even higher. Some part of me hoped that it would just be a sore throat and that I would be out of isolation in a day a two. My report came in shortly after I started getting fever. This time I was not caught unaware. Aarti S. COVID+ve.

I had to go through the same isolation routine again! Not again! Please, not again. I went back to my chamber of loneliness. Crying, sobbing, weeping, and wailing. At a burning 101, I had to get up and layer up if I was freezing. Fetch me some water if I was thirsty and set up alarms at godforsaken hours to take medicines.

I felt as though I was on a lonely island within arms distance of my loved ones and yet, so far away. I listened to every song that youtube recommended. Cried at every beat. I could not believe that Omicron affected me as badly as Delta. I thought this was supposed to be milder.

I was left with the same sense of isolation, bereavement, and sadness as Delta. I had family in the next room, friends a call away and my parents checked in on me every hour. And yet, I was still lonely.

Luckily, it got better. I got better. It was quite instantaneously. My isolation ended uplifting my mood almost immediately. The virus that had left me shaken, saddened, and down, literally left me. I was no longer shaken, saddened, or down. Unlike Delta, the looming thoughts of death & fear hardly ever came to mind. Although I did not have a Coursera course to rely on this time, I did not let my mind wander to darkness. And although I was in my chamber of loneliness, I tried to lead my mind to places filled with joy & laughter.

COVID was tough. And even though I was extremely lucky to have survived the virus quite easily, it did have a major impact on the way I think, behave and live. I guess what COVID has taught me in all the struggles and fights was — you may be lonely, but you’re never alone. There’s always a killer virus that will be happy to give you company.

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