I had somehow expected confetti. Bubbly drinks and happy songs. Suddenly seeing the world in brighter colors…
Getting fully vaxxed is nothing like that.
Funny how the mind works!
I now have hybrid protection against covid-19. Never heard that expression before but we all have gained a lot of new words since the pandemic started (quarantini, anyone?). Hybrid protection apparently means being both fully vaxxed and having had the virus. But back to the confetti.
My 16-month experience with covid-19 and Long Covid all the way up to vaccination number one has been enormously challenging but also incredibly insightful for me. I’ve never come even close to dealing with the physical, mental and spiritual challenges that the past 16 months threw at me and at the same time I’ve never felt that I gained so much insight and wisdom about myself and living life either. It turns out that at some point apparently I decided, pretty unconsciously, that vaccination number two would mark the end of my journey with the virus and its long-term effects and start a new chapter in my life. And having lived through such a major, long-lasting and transformative event in my life felt like it would include some serious celebrating. And if not confetti, at least a huge feeling of relief and a surge of energy.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Instead of walking on small clouds these days I binge-watch HBO’s The Good Fight in my sweatpants on my couch, eating crisps and generally feeling pretty numb. I think this is why:
Today I feel as close to ‘normal’ as I have since I got sick. However, buying a new bicycle a few weeks back taught me that I’m still not 100%. I’ve been so excited about owning a bike again; it’s been years since I owned one and the Dutch girl in me really longed to ride again. So a couple of weeks back I bought myself a beautiful (pink!) bike. I was so excited I couldn’t stop smiling. My first ride took only 15 minutes to a beautiful lake near my house. The way back included a bit of uphill-riding and I felt my pulse increasing and started sweating. Upon coming home I totally crashed; my body felt so empty of energy and it seriously took me five (!) whole days to regain it. It’s very obvious that my body isn’t ready for high-intensity training yet, instead it likes walks and yin yoga. I also still feel a slight pressure and pain in my chest area which causes some tiredness, combined with phlegm in my throat. When I feel stressed, this worsens immediately. So it’s a good indicator of how I’m doing but also a pretty constant reminder that something still isn’t OK.
Avoiding high-intensity exercise and not focusing on my chest problems too much is something I manage really well these days so my focus has been on getting the vaccines. As I wrote in my previous post, getting the first vaccine stirred up a whole lot of trauma inside me. The after-effects of it were thankfully quite manageable however I could have done without the whole swollen armpit-thing that came after nine days, lasted a week and was incredibly painful. Going back to get my second shot was a totally different experience! I wasn’t terrified at all anymore, which felt really great. During the first night, though, I got ill with a high fever and super chills, the two days after all my muscles ached like hell but this vanished too. It hasn’t been nine days yet so let’s see if the armpit-problem returns or not.
Today I am confident enough to say that I do not foresee any major problems post-vaccine, I will start to work again in a couple of weeks (!) and I am as protected as a human being can be against the virus at this point in time. Except for carefully managing my energy levels, be mindful of what I eat and make sure I get enough rest, there is nothing I actively can or have to do anymore that has anything to do with covid-19 or Long Covid. Finally I have reached this point where I truly can start a new chapter in my life.
There it is.
The reason for my sweatpants-couch-lying-binge-watching self at the moment.
The thing is this:
I feel like what I imagine a soldier feels upon coming home from the battlefield. It feels like I finally can drop my guard, for real this time. There finally is room for the past 16 months to settle more. I feel like one of those cartoon characters who has been hit with a frying pan over and over again; here I stand vibrating, feeling pretty numb. It will take a while to let it all settle and come into this new chapter in my life.
Once again I reach the conclusion that I need more time. Time to digest more, time to let things settle more, time to be with my body, time to explore the elements of the new (working) chapter in my life (everyone around me with a job has been talking about Zoom-fatigue; perhaps I will find out what that feels like too, who knows). I look forward to a whole new life during this fall, and one that hopefully fingers-crossed will be ‘delta-free’. Seriously, the idea of getting re-infected is too much to even contemplate…
I often think about people with disabilities, chronic or terminal illnesses these days. I feel enormously privileged that I got out of the covid-trap. Even though it took a crazy amount of time, at least I got out. For millions of people around the world, this is not the case. I can’t even begin to imagine the challenge that must be! Thinking about this makes me feel humble, and fills me with a deep, deep gratitude for my life.
I will end with a quote from Robert Frost that feels fitting and incredibly true:
In three words
I can sum up
IT GOES ON.
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Photo: Jason Leung – unsplash.com