At the beginning of 2020, when COVID-19 was still only in the peripheries of our awareness, I was recuperating from neurosurgery. I have an unusual neurological disease, connected cable syndrome, and in October 2019 I had been through an invasive operation to detach my spinal cord from where it had linked to the surrounding tissue. Simply 10 days later, I had another surgery to repair a CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) leak.
Serious pain and complex symptoms have actually belonged to my life given that as long as I can keep in mind. Even after the neurosurgery, I remained in physical treatment, using my recumbent bike daily, and getting weekly ketamine infusions for hyperalgesia. I was attempting desperately to find my brand-new persistent illness baseline. In spite of all this, I still saw clients in my function as a psychologist 4 to 5 days a week, typically working till 8pm.
Then, around 250 days back, I was detected with COVID-19.
In early March, I was the very first individual that myself or my physicians understood with COVID-19. I was blazing a trail with a medical diagnosis of a disease people didn’t know much about at the time. Sadly, a familiar function for me.
Later in March as my conditions intensified, I had my very first emergency room (ER) visit. I was informed I likely had a sinus infection and anxiety. I keep in mind explaining that I wasn’t experiencing increased stress and anxiety, however at that time they would not check me for COVID and released me. My physician sent me back to the ER seven days later on with intensifying symptoms– I was finally evaluated.
Since then, I have showed an exhausting number of symptoms. At one stage I spiked with fever multiple times a day for more than 80 days, I have experienced lung pain and pressure, extreme psychological and physical fatigue, labored breathing, full body pains, brain fog, shortness of breath from standing or strolling, increased headaches and migraine attacks, diarrhea, bloating, stomach gurgling, tinnitus, cold and hot sweats, loss of odor and a dry cough. That isn’t even the full list. Now think about that I am still experiencing a huge series of these symptoms almost nine months later. As a long-haul COVID-19 patient, among lots of thousands in the U.S., it’s been hard not to feel that my body has been kicking me while I’m currently down.
When I unwittingly became ill with COVID-19– likely from an asymptomatic person– I had already implemented social distancing at my office and took care to wipe down and disinfect all surface areas after each client. Then, we weren’t yet wearing masks, as this was well prior to mask mandates and more comprehensive information about the infection was readily available. As a medical health psychologist in Illinois who sees immunocompromised patients, I’m so grateful that I took it upon myself to take these safety measures– and I am not aware of any of my clients contracting COVID-19 from me.
One night early on, I seemed like I was having a cardiac arrest. My blood pressure dropped and I experienced a surreal, out of body feeling. I didn’t call 911, generally due to the fact that I had been to the ER many times by this point– I felt like there was little bit they would have the ability to do to help me. I was also worried that I might be viewed as a drama queen. Clients with chronic discomfort can often be stereotyped, specifically when they present with symptoms that are unusual. It then took a week for me to get an echocardiogram and I needed to take a trip an hour away for it considering that regional facilities and health centers wouldn’t confess a COVID-positive clients for the treatment. I understand the safety measure, but it can make you feel helpless in a situation where you are counting on others for assistance.
Were we not in the middle of a pandemic, it’s likely that I would have been hospitalized on that first ER check out. Nevertheless, healthcare facility beds were scheduled for the sickest of the ill. I remained in an odd, and frightening, position of being too ill to be at home, however not sick enough to be hospitalized. At home I would question: Will I become worse and then be confessed just to find out it’s too late? Will I die at home? What damage has currently been wrought on my body from this infection?
I had to take numerous days off from telehealth with patients in the early weeks of my COVID-19 diagnosis, so I’m fortunate to have such incredible and understanding clients. A number of them saw me sweating and looking half-dead with an oxygen tank beside me. I know it was tough for my patients to see me like that, however we would have open discussions about my health problem. Frequently, they were worried that I was still working; I would inform them how I felt a substantial part of having the ability to make it through each day was the time invested working with them.
However an hour long session might feel like an eternity during the times when my insides felt like they were shrieking, and sometimes that is still the case. I am utilized to being able to focus when experiencing extreme pain and parallel symptoms from my neurological condition, however the continuous effects of COVID-19 have actually included a totally different measurement. I wondered if I was pushing myself beyond my limits, or whether continuing to work was helping me endure mentally.
As an independent professional who doesn’t earn money for holiday or sick leave, I felt that I needed to keep working. I have more medical expenses than the majority of and graduate student loans to settle. There was also the issue around the connection of take care of my patients. Numerous had actually declined to see another therapist while I was taking ill leave for my neurosurgery. I likewise could not quickly transfer them as I am extremely specialized and usually work with complex people.
Another element for me is the worry that if I did take an extended period away from work, my mental health would suffer so greatly that I would never have the ability to return to work as a psychologist. It is an absolutely scary thought.
In the early phases of my COVID illness, I experienced a substantial variety of flashbacks from previous medical experiences that were comparable. Initially I didn’t even understand I was experiencing medical PTSD until the director of the private practice I work at carefully pointed it out to me. Psychologists are typically really aware of secondary trauma and considering that March it has actually felt like my present signs and the trauma from my neurological illness have actually been existing in a sort of terrible parallel.