Yesterday morning I opened the trash can in my kitchen and found an empty crisp bag. Immediately I felt my body tense up and I got this panicky feeling that I’m so used to these days. You would think that this is about my family’s late-night snacking or something like that. It is not.
It is about my body craving salt since I got sick 3+ years ago. And it’s not a craving of the type I need to have this now because it’s so good. It’s more of the type: if I don’t eat something salty right this minute I will pass out. So my reaction to seeing the empty crisp bag in the trash can has to do with me, every day for several years, always securing there is something salt to eat in my vicinity. Crisps or salted pistachio nuts have been my go-to solutions. But here is the thing:
My body does not crave salt in that acute way anymore. Today I don’t feel that I will faint if I don’t eat something salt right away when my body starts feeling low. But I still feel a panic rising in myself when I notice that we’re out of crisps because I remember how horrible it felt to crash.
Upon reflecting I notice that I feel like this a lot these days. Things can trigger me that have nothing to do with my current reality, but everything to do with my Long Covid-life.
The other day I went on a walk. That same evening my husband and I drove to a stadium in Stockholm to watch Cirque du Soleil (incredible show by the way). As parking is outrageously expensive near the stadium, we decided to park a bit further away. But as we drove further and further away from the stadium I felt the same panic rising: This is too far! I already took a walk today, my body won’t handle walking even more on the same day. This will cause a crash and I will lie on my couch again for the next five days. But here is the thing:
My body did not crash. I could enjoy the show, walk back to the car, sleep during the night and wake up with enough energy for a new day. No need for panic, but still I experienced it strongly.
I have the same thing with sleep and alcohol. I feel panic rising in my body when it’s getting past 21.00 in the evening. And the thought of drinking alcohol: I’m afraid to even try a sip because I fear my body crashing in that horrible way Long Covid can make your body crash.
The memories of Long Covid and the havoc it caused inside my body are still vividly present inside me. I realize today how much I have adapted my life on so many levels in order to cope with it all. It has literally felt like surviving, every day and for such a long time.
Today I can breathe in a way that I haven’t been able to breathe since March 2020. I have more energy and the tight feeling in my chest occurs sometimes, but most of the time it’s gone completely. I’m still quite vulnerable to infections I’ve noticed but also this seems to improve. The human body is amazing. How hard it works every day, trying to restore and heal as much as it can.
I’ve written a lot about spoon theory in my Corona Chronicles. This is about each activity representing spoons: brushing your teeth, getting out of bed, making a cup of tea, etc. Each of these activities = one spoon. And the theory is that you only have a fixed amount of spoons to your disposal every day. When you’re out of spoons, you cannot do more that day. I realize that the amount of spoons to my disposal each day has (more than) quadrupled and for that I’m so grateful: I can’t quite express it in words. However, this realization currently resides in the logical-thinking part of my brain. So I intellectually understand it, but my body’s autonomic nervous system hasn’t quite grasped it yet. That’s why I still feel panic so often in my body these days.
Being severely ill for such a long time has taken a huge toll on my life: my marriage, my work, my dreams… I still today need time to process and my body needs time to re-learn certain patterns it has gotten so used to since I got ill. An empty bag of crisps in the trash can is just that: an empty bag. Two walks on one day is great exercise. And sleeping a bit less or drinking a glass of wine will be manageable too (but one step at a time).
I read on Twitter the other day:
Grief is a necessary part of healing.
There’s no way around it.
Experiencing panic and then realizing where it’s coming from is challenging as I am reminded so clearly about all the ways in which my life was destroyed by the effects of Long Covid. So I allow myself to grieve that for a bit. The most important thing is that I’m aware of it. And that, I believe, is the ultimate way out of it. I can notice the panic and grief in my body, recognize it for what it is, sit with it for a while and then move on with my day. I’m very hopeful that with time, repeating this over and over again, it will fade away. How incredible Life is!
PS: last night I went to see Depeche Mode in a huge stadium in Stockholm. I’m thrilled that I could experience the concert standing up and dancing the whole time! It truly was a healing experience for me.
Thank you for reading! ♥
Photo: Vicko Mozara – unsplash.com
I can’t remember your name but I think you were on Slack in those dark days of 2020 when some of us were unlucky enough to get a novel virus which after three years we are still recovering from.
I find it hard to think back to those terrifying days but I too am emerging. I had 18 months off work. I am a primary teacher and have been back at work on a four day week for about 18 months. I had a legacy of chronic back pain following my covid infection and I have fought for my health much as I suspect you have. I have been working with a physical trainer for the last 6 months and at 52 this week I have signed up to run a 10k in September 2023. I have learnt so much about the importance of living your life when you can. All those days I took my health and life for granted. Never again. I literally dance to work each day now.
The joy of being able to get out of bed and go to work with young children. They are the future and I love being with them and teaching them everyday.
Hi Harlow! My name is Nanda, and yes: I was part of the Slack community back then. It was such a life-saver for me at that time! Our stories sound quite similar, I’m so happy to read about your progress and can fully relate to the “dancing to work” 🙂 Thanks for leaving a comment! I hope you will have a great summer ♥️