April A-Z: M is for Mask

Is it honestly too much to ask

That we cover our face with a mask?

It’s not all about us

So stop making a fuss

Just one small thing – no onerous task…

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

Who Indeed…

Who remembers the poor bloke from Hove who went on a sales conference in Singapore last January 2020, then went on a short ski-ing trip with his family in France, then flew home to the UK in early February and went to the pub, as you do, all before realising that while at the conference he had been in contact with a delegate from Wuhan, China…? So for two weeks he had just been getting on with his life, totally oblivious to the fact that he had been infected with Covid 19 and was inadvertently passing it on to others through his normal everyday social contact.

Remember this was all pre-lock-down, pre-pandemic – in fact pre- pretty much any understanding of the significance of the devastation this particular deadly coronavirus would have on the world. The papers all jumped on the story at the time and rather cruelly named him a ‘Super Spreader’ due to his asymptomatic status. I mean, it was cruel because the poor bloke did nothing wrong other than be at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was the first Briton to be diagnosed with Covid. In February 2020. And remember he was asymptomatic, and unwittingly passed it on to several others.

So how come the UK Government claim that the reason they were (and still remain) so adamant in creating a national test and trace system that ONLY tests people with at least one of three main symptoms is that THEY WERE UNAWARE OF THE PREVALENCE OF ASYMPTOMATIC TRANSMISSION! Seriously guys, you’re the bloody Government! All you had to do was pick up a copy of any red-top tabloid back in February 2020 and they would have told you that there was clear evidence of under-the-radar transmission of the virus right from the very beginning – it was the very first case, widely reported in the usual sensational style.

But even now, one year on, if you go online to try to book a Covid test here in the UK it asks if you have at least one of three symptoms – fever, new continuous cough, and a change to your taste or smell. That’s it. If not that specific narrow selection of symptoms, or no symptoms at all, forget about it. Self-isolate if you think you’ve maybe been exposed, but officially we’re not interested in you. At all. No symptoms, no test. Yet when I caught Covid at the beginning of the year I’d already been feeling decidedly unwell for a few days before my strange sense of taste developed.

Headache, dizziness, ear-ache, sore throat – that’s how it started for me. I thought I might be coming down with flu. It was only around the fourth day when I had a strange metallic sensation in the back of my throat and developed a bit more of a cough than usual that I took a test. Things got a bit worse later on but I never did develop a fever. And had it not been for the lock-down imposed after Christmas I’d probably have been at work for those first few crucial days, so even with a mask and sanitiser and social distancing who knows how many people I might potentially have infected?

This virus has a two-week incubation period. Not everyone gets the same symptoms, and some people do not get any symptoms at all. Whether pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, if you don’t test the entire population to see how the land lies, you can’t possibly begin to control transmission. Lock-downs alone are not the answer, not without adequate testing and tracing too. Restrictions have to be there for a reason, to tackle the problem head on not just kick it down the road to be dealt with at a later date… Grrr…!

OK, enough of a corona-rant for today – and sorry for shouting, but really, at times Boris and his gang are the absolute limit! 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Who

April A-Z: C is for Catching Covid

It’s weird. You start to feel a bit unwell, but surely you’re not unwell enough for it to be the dreaded thing you’ve spent the last nine months trying to avoid? Granted you have one possible Covid symptom, but not enough to make you think you actually have it? I mean, you know you’ve been careful, always wearing a mask in grocery stores and santising your hands and keeping your distance and mainly staying at home.

You’ve not been out-and-out arrogant and stupid like so many others you see. It’s January, and it’s winter so you tell yourself you’re probably just coming down with a flu bug or something. But you do as you’re supposed to do and book a Covid test anyway and go out to get it done and come home again and wait anxiously for the result, worrying about wasting people’s time and being a drama queen and a million and one other crazy thoughts.

But the next day your test comes back positive. It’s written there in stark black and white text: ‘Your coronavirus test result is positive’. You read it and then read it again and you suddenly think – shit – is this it? Could I maybe be dead in ten days time? It’s such a scary sobering thought, realising you’ve caught a virus that may potentially kill you as it’s already killed many others. But then you calm yourself down and try to be rational about it.

Because of course those are the only cases you hear about – the bad outcomes – you never hear about the many untold millions who catch it and feel shit for a few days and survive. No, you only hear of the ones who don’t make it through, or perhaps the occasional miraculous saving of a life against all odds. People younger than you, fitter than you, healthier than you, now dead or left disabled for life. What about me, you wonder? Which set of statistics shall I come under? Who can tell?

But no-one can tell. And that’s the biggest source of fear. You ask yourself – what if I get it bad? What if I have to go to hospital? What if I have to be ventilated? What if I don’t come home again? So many unknown ‘what if’s’… So that’s why it’s so shit-scary realising you’ve caught Covid because in that very moment you have absolutely no idea what the future might bring. You can’t go back in time and un-infect yourself. All you can do is prepare yourself, mentally and physically, to ride out the potential storm ahead. And then you just have to wait and see… 😦

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

Note to Self

‘Note to self – be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it’

Since catching Covid in January, I’ve been keen to be offered my Covid vaccine to be as sure as I can be that I won’t get sick with it again. I was lucky at the time to have only developed a ‘mild’ infection (as in feeling bloody awful but thankfully not ill enough to have to be in hospital) but even so many of the symptoms have still not dispersed fully – three months on my sense of smell has returned but not my full sense of taste, I still have ongoing headaches, tiredness, tight-chested breathlessness and continuing aches and pains, and of course I still have that tell-tale cough.

When I finally received a letter the other day inviting me for my vaccination, I was really excited. I’ve heard it said that for those people like me whose symptoms are somewhat slow to depart, sometimes getting the vaccine can kind of kick-start the immune system into re-setting (or whatever), to help get clear of the last lingering dregs of Covid – woo-hoo! Fingers crossed it works for me! So first thing yesterday morning I had my jab, and all went well with no immediate signs of any side effects… Or so I thought.

Except… last night just before going to bed I suddenly got the mega-chills, just like I’d had with Covid. Serious physical bodily shivering and a total inability to get warm at all. My head was thumping, I was dizzy again, and OMG I felt like I ached from every hypersensitive pore. Lovely, I thought, it looks like I’m not escaping the scourge of side-effects after all. So I didn’t get much sleep last night, and although thankfully the chills have now passed, the headache and whole-body-ache remains today.

Hopefully it will all turn out to be a short-lived storm in a tea-cup, and my annoyingly vivid vaccination side effects will dissipate soon enough taking my lagging Covid remnants with them. I had hoped that, having already developed some natural antibodies post-infection I might have got off lightly side-effect-wise, but no such luck. I can’t help but wonder how my second dose will go? Oh well, I suppose at least now I’ll know what to expect… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Note

28 Days Later

No, not a zombie apocalypse movie but 28 Covid-related thoughts 28 days after testing positive…

  • So amazingly relieved and thankful that, having spent the entirety of January with Covid, I haven’t had any symptoms severe enough to warrant a hospital stay of any kind – result!
  • I know I’m finally starting to feel properly better now but surprisingly, considering I’ve had such relatively ‘light touch’ symptoms in the grander scheme of things, more flu-like than pneumonia for me –  I’m still not fully recovered
  • Recovery is confusing – apparently after your 10 days self-isolation you are no longer infectious UNLESS you still have a high temperature, in which case you should wait until you are 48 hours clear of any fever
  • However the ongoing cough and lack of taste can continue for several weeks afterwards so that’s OK and doesn’t count
  • Suffice to say I left it for quite a bit longer than the required 10 days before venturing out, just to be sure
  • Because I haven’t had a high temperature at any point in this illness
  • And I cough all the time anyway – but at least now I’m actually starting to cough stuff up
  • Even now I can still ‘taste’ it sitting stubbornly right at the back of my throat
  • Actually it’s pretty much the only thing I can taste clearly – everything else is bland with a hint of salt, bland with a hint of sweetness, or bland with a hint of spice
  • But I can now smell stuff reasonably ok – strange, I thought taste and smell were inextricably linked?
  • Food smells nice again, so I taste it with the anticipation of full flavour yet sadly it still tastes disappointing
  • I’m still eating enough though – probably too much – comfort food and all that
  • And I’m still resting lots – I still get too tired and out of breath too easily to do much else
  • Who knew that having a shower, washing my hair, and getting dressed would count as exertion?
  • Or cooking a basic meal, or washing up afterwards?
  • I keep on challenging myself though, and I’m managing to do a bit more each day before I need to stop and rest – hooray!
  • Rest is the best – the sofa is my saviour, complete with cuddly comfort blanket
  • Convalescence is such an old-fashioned word, but it’s definitely time for a fashionable come-back
  • No hugs from my husband while I was self-isolating and feeling so unwell was horrible, but it was so worth the sacrifice
  • How amazing that I didn’t pass the virus on to him
  • With so much time to think about it I wonder constantly why some people seem to catch Covid relatively easily and others not at all?
  • Or why some people get really sick and others hardly feel ill at all?
  • Even now it feels more like the luck of the draw than anything else, a weird kind of respiratory Russian roulette that for once has left me dodging the bullet
  • Even though I got off amazingly lightly I really don’t want to risk getting it again
  • So now I wonder just how long my post-infection immunity will last
  • What about all these new variants, will I have any natural immunity to them?
  • Or did I maybe catch one of the new variants anyway?
  • Either way I’m looking forward to getting my Covid vaccine a soon as it’s offered to me – and the sooner the better

Drive

I don’t seem to have a lot of drive at the moment, but I tell myself that’s OK, I’ve not been well, I’m still recovering from Covid and at least I am on the mend now. Even though the worst of my symptoms have been relatively mild considering it can be such a deadly virus for some people, the ongoing tiredness and breathlessness have been decidedly bothersome.

And anyway, we’re in lockdown again so much of the rest of the world is hanging around kicking its heels too. It’s been almost a month since I first got sick, a month of minimal motivation for anything much other than getting better, but I’m OK with that, because my health has to come first. I’ve survived Covid, and that’s enough for now 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Drive

Behind the Scenes: Riding the Covid Rollercoaster

I must admit that so far, the first three weeks of 2021 have not quite gone the way I’d expected. All day long on New Year’s Eve I wasn’t feeling so great – not full-blown sick but definitely a bit under the weather.

We saw in the New Year alone, my husband and I, and spent a quiet although enjoyable New Year’s Day going out for a walk together in the fresh air then eating a lovely home-made celebratory roast dinner. At that point I felt as though perhaps I was maybe coming down with a cold or a touch of flu – sneezing, headache, dizziness, sore throat, tight chest, and an aching tiredness – but thought no more about it. I checked my symptoms online and it said that if you’re sneezing it’s not Covid, so I felt reassured it was just the start of a common-or-garden winter illness: Nothing remarkable for me at this time of year.

When I woke the following morning with the beginnings of a bit of a weird metallic taste in my mouth, and with my usual asthmatic cough sounding (and feeling) a little bit tighter, a bit more high-pitched squeaky than usual, I took my temperature but thankfully had no fever. I was still sneezing intermittently so again put it out of my mind. But by the next day the weird taste and falsetto cough were even more noticeable so I figured I’d best be sensible and follow Government advice to book a Covid test just to be on the safe side. I walked to our local testing station, did my throat and nose swab as instructed, and walked home again.

And my test result came back positive. My husband, who had also felt as if he was coming down with a cold, also booked a test but amazingly his result came back negative in spite of the fact we had spent a lot of time together in close contact since I’d been feeling unwell. So we temporarily changed our living arrangements at home accordingly to ensure we minimised the risk of me infecting him, and both immediately embarked on our individual self-isolation for the required period, strangely together yet apart for the duration.

At that point I didn’t tell people who didn’t need to know because I didn’t want anyone to worry unnecessarily – by now we were already all going in to full lock-down nationally and so there was nothing anyone could do anyway. Instead we simply got on with dealing with things as best we could alone, ordering online a delivery of groceries to see us through and hoping my symptoms didn’t get any worse as time went on. Thankfully, in spite of a lifetime of poor health and ongoing respiratory issues, they didn’t.

I’ve felt all along like I’ve had an ebb-and-flow mash-up mix of a really bad cold and mild flu, but nothing worse than that. My main symptoms have been sneezing, sore throat, headache, dizziness, earache, and a bone-aching tiredness. I’ve also had a bit-more-than-usual cough, a bit-more-than-usual tight chest, and a bit of an ongoing weird taste in my mouth affecting my sense of taste and smell. And still no fever throughout, just the chills. Even now I have continuing day-to-day highs and lows – ‘Riding the Covid roller-coaster’ my husband calls it. But the strangest thing for me has been the fact that there was absolutely nothing about how I’d felt in the beginning that screamed ‘Covid’ to me any more than any other winter-borne illness.

I’d always assumed that I would know right away if I caught Covid. That it would feel alarmingly different enough to be recognised immediately – in particular I naively assumed that a high temperature, top of the list of symptoms everywhere you look, would be an inevitable not-to-be-missed calling-card heralding its imminent arrival. That the dry cough, too, would be noticeably different from any ‘normal’ cough I might have – and that ultimately I would know my own body. But I didn’t. I knew I wasn’t well, I knew I was coming down with something crappy, but I certainly didn’t know I had Covid rather than anything else.

In my mid-twenties I had pleurisy, which was extremely painful and extremely debilitating, so I was expecting a similar level of debilitation with a lungful of Covid. But amazingly for me this particular infection seems to have settled more persistently in the ear, nose and throat area than buried agonisingly in the farthest reaches of my alveoli. I can still taste it and feel it scratching in the back of my throat, still feel it aggravating my ear canal making me feel dizzy now and again, still pounding in my head from time to time – and yes, it still catches abruptly in my chest after almost any exertion at all, leaving me out of breath and needing to rest for a while until everything settles again. But thankfully, incredibly, it seems there is to be no deep-level pneumonia for me – or not so far, at least.

So three weeks on I do feel as if I’m on the mend, recovering slowly but surely, and feel so hugely relieved not to have developed the extreme illness that knocks so many for six. Once I was past the required self-isolation infectious stage I let people know I’ve had Covid but am doing OK, just convalescing and taking things easy for as long as it takes. Symptoms for me have certainly eased a lot down the line but disappointingly have not yet disappeared entirely – it seems to be a really stubborn virus, not keen to let go once it has caught hold. Nevertheless I’m absolutely astounded to have got off so lightly and feel eternally grateful to have been so lucky.

Incidentally I’m not mentioning where I picked it up from because I feel that’s irrelevant  – I caught this virus myself, no-one ‘gave’ it to me. Like many people who test positive for Covid I try to follow the current regulatory advice as best I can. Suffice to say I now have first-hand experience of the stark reality that not all transmission of infection is due to large house parties or other major law-breaking activities. One small lapse in infection control procedures on one isolated contact occasion by otherwise responsible people is sometimes all it takes unwittingly to pass it on.

This is definitely not the path I expected to be walking along in 2021, but it’s the one I find myself on so I’m making the most of the unexpected detour as best I can, ultimately grateful still to be on any path at all, to be one of the walking wounded rather than lying prone in an induced coma in an intensive care bed, or worse, cocooned in a shroud. Looking on the bright side I’ve caught Covid and I’ve survived, and for now that feels like a really good reason to feel positive about having tested positive…

Weekly Prompt: Path  

Trick Cyclists and Other Balancing Acts

No idea where I’m going with this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday post with the prompt word of ‘trick’ other than steering well clear of all things Halloween.

I also have no idea why we Brits use the rather derogatory slang term ‘trick cyclist’ to refer to a Psychiatrist, but we do! I could always look it up on the internet but where’s the fun in that? Anyway, suffice to say I’ve seen a couple of Trick Cyclists in my time and both have been perfectly non-tricky. Nice guys (not being sexist here – both Psychiatrists whose care I have been under were actually male) who clearly acted and advised with concern and my best interests at heart. Definitely much appreciated.

Sadly I can’t say the same for all the Psychotherapists I’ve seen though – the last one clearly had a narrow agenda all of her own and on our last meeting where I sat silent for the entire hour with tears running down my face in sheer frustration because everything I had said previously had been twisted to suit her preferred pathway of thought, I decided enough was enough and I wasn’t ever going back. It still smarts when I think of it, years later, to have felt so disempowered and disenfranchised and tied up in tight knots by someone who was supposed to be helping me loosen and unravel my long-term mental health issues.

Trying to stabilise and level out my own psychological problems does sometimes feel like a bit of a balancing act though – here I am right now feeling caught in the spotlight of my very own personal circus ring, the rest of the world looking on as I struggle to stay upright and show that I really can do this life thing, watching me fly my freak flag high and keep my multiple plates spinning while constantly adjusting my balance on my rickety old unicycle. A collective sharp intake of breath from the front row as the world watches me fall, then exhales in relief as I pick myself up, dust myself off and get straight back on again.

So these days I am basically my own trick cyclist, allowing everyone else to be able to mutter gratefully under their breath ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’ as they leave the tent reassured that thankfully I have finally found the ability to keep my own show on the road and my melancholic monkey-mind under some semblance of control – for now at least… 🙂

Quarantine Questions

Having been subjected to stay at home restrictions (to one degree or another) over the past six months, would you say that quarantine has made you a better person? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

Hmmm. Has this pandemic made me a better person? Different, certainly, but better – no, overall on balance probably not…

Lockdown began with a deep fear of what might happen if I or anybody I loved caught the virus. Scared, I stayed at home for the duration as instructed, and enjoyed being a loner home-maker and a gardener for a while. But as the weeks passed I became increasingly disheartened, disconcerted, distressed. I missed people, and places, and soon it seemed like partisan politics got in the way of everything else and none of it made any sense any more.

As the infection rate and death toll here in the UK first rose alarmingly and then gradually started to fall week after week, I questioned the lack of testing, the lack of track and trace, and seriously struggled with the free-fall never-endingness of feeling trapped in a groundhog-day-style lockdown limbo. It felt like as a collaborative community we could not simply hold our collective breath forever, and that sooner or later something somewhere would have to give.

And eventually when the time came I went back to work. New rules, new restrictions, new possibilities for potential infection to get my head around. People to see and places to go, granted, but cautiously, carefully, all masked up and keeping our distance, dancing around each other delicately as if surrounded by an invisible forcefield like repelling magnets of similar polarity. Social contact, but still without any physical contact. Together but apart. The new normal.

To date thankfully my family are all fine in that none of us have had Covid, but other long-term ongoing health problems have become far more difficult to deal with across the months and the generations. ‘Protecting the NHS’ when it comes to Covid seems to have meant forfeiting so much else health-wise for so many of us, even now that first peak has passed. The importance of continuing family connections definitely means more to me now – I know potentially there is a lot to lose for all of us if things go pear-shaped.

Six months on I now feel frustrated as well as fearful. I still don’t want to catch this damned virus but I also want to live, not just continue to exist: I want to enjoy life again. What I miss most is the freedom to just be, without having to think about it. Go out where I want, see who I want when I want, socialise or not as the mood takes me. Now we no longer have that freedom I do appreciate what we have lost – perhaps temporarily, perhaps forever.

But whereas before I tried hard to be someone with a ‘live and let live’ mentality, I currently find myself far less tolerant of those selfish individuals amongst us who choose to demean, debunk, disregard and blatantly dismiss the scientific reality of our current global situation. I feel like saying to those self-important ignorant idiots – well, screaming at them, anyway – it’s not fake news, fuckwits, get with the program!

So on one hand I’m more grateful for what I have, but on the other hand I’m definitely far less trustful of others. Some of the time I’m wary and weary, emotionally exhausted, easily irritated. The rest of the time I’m just happy to still be alive…

Fandango’s Provocative Question