With COVID-19 cases rising across the country and more students returning to campus for the spring semester, many people are wondering what the experience of actually having it is like. Well, I’m here to tell you.
Cases and symptoms vary from person-to-person and case-to-case, so this may not sound exactly like what you’ve heard before, and it may not reflect your own experience if you have also been diagnosed with COVID-19. This article is intended to tell you about my own experiences; I hope that it’s enlightening!
On Sunday, December 6th, I began to have a slight tightness in my chest. This was nothing new for me, as I have asthma that is sometimes triggered by my dog when I pet her too much, so I wasn’t too concerned. But after laying down for a while and taking Benadryl, the feeling didn’t go away.
That wasn’t encouraging, but honestly, I just went to sleep. I didn’t feel too bad, so I decided I probably wasn’t in danger of dying overnight. And when I woke up, I didn’t really feel sick. But my brother did.
Despite being the family health nut, my brother came down with symptoms suddenly and swiftly. My parents decided that both of us should get tested, given that we had similar symptoms that matched up with the official list from the CDC. Meanwhile, I tried to make myself some chicken noodle soup, because I had been strangely craving it since the night before. I had even spent half an hour looking at recipes to make homemade ramen. Looking back, that may have been a sign that whatever was wrong with me wasn’t just allergies.
That afternoon, I drove my brother and myself over to our doctor’s office, where we waited in line for almost an hour to do the drive-through testing.
Because we didn’t want to spread COVID-19 to the rest of our family, on the off chance that we were positive and they were negative, we remained quarantined upstairs in our rooms until the call came. And once we got the confirmation that we had COVID, we prepared for a long day of waiting until we knew whether the rest of our family also had it.
The next day, which was roughly the second day after I started showing symptoms, I didn’t want to get out of bed, which may have been a good course of action, because I immediately felt nauseous. But once I was settled back in bed, I still felt mostly normal. My brain felt a bit foggy, but watching half a season of Parks and Recreation didn’t require it to be operating at maximum capacity.
My best friend called me to see how I felt, but my brain felt almost too paralayzed to form coherent responses. I generally try to see the bright side of different situations, but I don’t think he appreciated me saying, “Hey, maybe they’ll put me on a ventilator and I’ll lose twenty pounds!”
I spent most of the day alternating between TV and the book I was reading at the time, and texting my dad, who was working from home, to bring food to the top of the steps between meetings. But I did start to feel pretty bored, so I knocked on the door to my brother’s room, only to find him wrapped up in his duvet, with a thin sheen of sweat on his face that proved that his fever hadn’t gone away. Though he talked to me for a few minutes, most of his replies consisted of “mmhmm’’ and “yeah,” so I left him alone.
My symptoms started to accumulate throughout the day. Though I still felt pretty good, my joints had started to ache a bit, I couldn’t smell the soup my dad brought up to me, and I couldn’t taste the bland toast I had at all. My head had been pounding all afternoon, and I was already halfway through the bottle of nasal spray that my youngest brother had brought up for me earlier in the day. Despite all this, I felt more of a detached amount of concern than actual worry for myself, because none of the symptoms were too severe.
As soon as I woke up, I knew that the jig was up. I had felt mildly bad before, but now I could feel the illness pressing down on me, binding my body to my bed despite the insistent calls from my bladder that I actually needed to get up. About four years ago, I had a bad case of the flu that lasted a full two weeks, during which I fluctuated from “conscious but in pain” to “barely awake and regretting even that.” Though this wasn’t quite as bad as that had been, I still struggled to find a reason not to just take a couple of melatonin pills and wake up whenever my body was done doing whatever it was going to do.
And getting out of bed only made this option seem more appealing. Though, again, I’ve had worse illnesses in my life, it had been years since I’d felt such a bone-deep desire to never move again. I didn’t really develop any new symptoms, but the ones I’d had continued to worsen. As a newly-minted twenty-year-old, having a left knee that felt decades older was nothing short of existentially terrifying.
The rest of my family finally got their results back on this day, confirming that they were indeed positive. However, I still didn’t venture downstairs most of the day because any unnecessary movement felt entirely not worth it.
I spent some time on my phone reading about severe COVID symptoms and comparing my own to the list I found. After I was sufficiently convinced that I wasn’t in eminent danger of dying, I returned to my Parks and Recreation binge.
Days Four to Seven
Fortunately, the third day turned out to be my worst. Though the recovery went more slowly than I would have liked, I started to feel better day by day as the week went on. The rest of my family each developed their own symptoms: my mom lost her sense of taste and smell, my dad had pretty extreme fatigue, but my youngest brother didn’t develop symptoms at all.
There weren’t any new developments over the rest of the week besides my symptoms slowly being alleviated. By the end of the first week, my only remaining symptoms were fatigue, brain fog, and congestion.
At the end of the quarantine period, it felt weird to be allowed out into the world again. Though I’d been social distancing for months at that point, it’s not like I had suddenly stopped needing groceries. Somehow, being around people felt even more alien than it had before.
Even though I was free to venture out into the world after two weeks, my symptoms continued on for several more weeks. The one that really stuck out for me was the congestion in my nose that it woke me up almost every other night for the next month. But as classes drew nearer, I began to notice that my brain just refused to focus on any actual assignments or essays. I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until it finally began to abate nearly a month after I had initially tested positive.
Overall, I ended up not having too bad of a case. Luckily, my entire family came out of it relatively unscathed, despite my dad having been a type 1 diabetic for most of his life. I did have a couple of unpleasant days, but the most surprising part of having COVID-19 was that its effects lasted for much longer than I had thought it would. I’d read accounts of people who had been struggling with symptoms for months, but in my case, it felt a lot more insidious. I didn’t realize how much it had affected me until my health was finally restored, more than a month later.
Since the start of the pandemic, my family and I have been very careful about wearing masks when we go out and limiting our exposure to people outside of our family. And even with those precautions, we still caught COVID-19. There’s no reason to live in fear, but it’s all too easy to fall sick with this virus, so mask up!