Reading over my posts about living with COVID-19 the past ten days, I’m struck by my flippant indignation and simmering ire about everything from the systemic failings to my personal inconveniences. As I head into Day 10 without respite, those sentiments shift. I’m ashamed by my shallow even callous comments. This is not a joke.
I’ve had lots of familiar symptoms, but their tenacious grasp on my day to day life feels less like something to be endured and more like a permanent shift in my reality. I really cannot taste almost anything. I can barely smell. I’m hungry, but I fear being overwhelmed by salty, sweet, and sour sensations so I avoid most food. The same is true of scent. If I had the energy to scoop a litter box, this might be actually useful. But deprived of two essential senses does not make for a good life. The lack of certainty about the return of these functions adds to my sense of unease that my body has actually been permanently changed by this virus in ways I may not ever realize.
A cup of hot tea is more comforting, especially laced with honey and infused with the power of herbal additives, but I still make coffee each day. A stubborn attempt to stake my claim on my routines or nostalgia? Who knows? No one cares. I should drink the tea and be grateful. Every speck of phlegm and mucous it dislodges from my body is a victory for the home team.
I’ve been reduced to lying in bed watching pouf biographies about important women via the BBC. Hour long episodes that focus on WWII, adultery, tempestuous family relationships, and redemption are ridiculous yet strangely comforting. I just finished Grace Kelly and am now introduced to someone entirely unknown to me – Margaret Gellhorn. Other things I didn’t know until now – Grace Kelly was from Philadelphia, the Hunger Winter, anything about Madame Chiang Kai Shek or Coco Chanel. I’m only halfway through the series. I’m tempted to measure the conclusion in quantities of cough medicine I consume, but that again is my flippancy. I’m appreciating a chance to learn in a context that is consumable.
I don’t feel recalcitrant at all about staying in bed. I get up and change from nightclothing to shorts and tee shirts, then back again. I go downstairs every so often. I have even walked out onto our patio. But I’m not restless to get out or about. I’m not afraid to leave and it isn’t so much a sickbed at all as a healing bed. It would perhaps be improved by a few fluffy throw pillows, but I’m not inclined to buy anything.
I can admit that I resent the fuck out of the person who didn’t wear a mask and infected me. I don’t know this person and obviously cannot tell for sure that it was them. But they represent a careless arrogance and self-absorption that has time and again changed my life without my consent. I worked so hard on the Pittsburgh MasQue ProjecT that this resentment seethes through the aches, pains, and hacking. It matters not that I did more than my share, no matter my sense of self-aggrandizement. I wasn’t chosen to either do that work or suffer the fallout. It just is what it is.
And I have changed. In small ways like not really caring or being curious about sounds on the street below my bedroom window. In the realization that wearing a matched pair of warm socks does matter. Not so much at 2 AM when you are terribly chilled and any piece of material that fits over your freezing feet is passable. In larger ways as well, a more acute awareness of my own coldness and impatience and disregard for making amends. But I’ve also been less impetuous than during previous confinements, knowing that waiting is always best.
I told my therapist about some fragments of disturbing dreams that had themes tied to my childhood trauma so she could make a note to return to them when I am fit to process. She was amazed I was capable of remaining so committed to recovery while sick, I was just disgusted that my torment seems to never abate. Telling her at least temporarily removed that anguish. But therapy was mostly updating her on my systemic struggles.
It was telling to me when Laura strongly and ardently even demanded that I go to MexExpress rather than Allegheny General Hospital. She said quite frankly “The Emergency Room has never been kind to you, they only see your mental illness regardless of why you actually are there.” She’s right. MedExpress just sees my health insurance and debit card. All I needed was a chest xray and a stethoscope.
Well back to the BBC and hopefully better hours ahead.
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