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Covid has become part of the new normal. For most of us, aside from shaking our heads at the daily case count and complaining over the latest safe management measures, Covid has become more of a background problem.
I admit that I never really thought much about Covid even while the numbers were increasing. We’ve all lived with it for so long that for many of us, myself included, we’ve become a little bo chup about it.
That was until I got it.
Came out of nowhere
About three weeks ago, I woke up feeling worse for wear. My body was aching, I was getting bouts of dizziness and my throat was sore. At first, I brushed it off as a bad night’s sleep and that the morning grogginess would go away by itself.
But it only got worse. I started wondering if I was coming down with the flu. It didn’t even occur to me that it could be Covid until I saw some Antigen Rapid Test (ART) kits on my table.
On a whim, I decided to take a test. At that point, I was still in denial, I just wanted to officially rule out Covid as a cause of my feeling so lousy.
After I did the test, I casually glanced at the results and I was completely blindsided when I saw those fateful two lines.
I became a mess in every sense of the word. Thoughts raced through my head. I had been feeling fine all the way till that morning. I even took an ART earlier that week, which was negative. How did this happen?
Too naive and underprepared
In my panic, I did what most of us would do when hit with shocking news: I Googled frantically on what to do.
However, in my state of panic, I was floored by the sheer amount of information about the virus. It was hard finding the next course of action for my circumstances. And I wasn’t alone in that panic.
I now know where to go — MOH’s Covid website (if you want something a bit more child-friendly, check out “I Can Recover At Home!” a free e-comic for kids by a Singaporean author and illustrator) — but then, I was legit freaked out.
My mind was racing as questions flooded my mind. Where did I get Covid? Who was it from? Will it get worse? How long will this keep affecting me? Where could I have gone to get it? Who could have infected me? Worse, who could I have infected?
It made me anxious because despite my daily efforts at keeping safe, I still got sick.
I only began to calm down after I told my family and friends, who sprang into action. I would have been paralysed by fear if it weren’t for them.
Following the guide, I first took another ART to confirm the results — which turned out the same result. A friend then told me to use an online tool to locate the nearest Swab And Send Home (SASH) clinic to get a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.
A day later, I officially got my Covid diagnosis.
Since I did not have any life-threatening symptoms and had my own room, I was allowed to serve my 10-day quarantine on home notice. By that time, my family and I had already started taking the necessary steps to isolate myself as much as possible.
Same but different
As an introvert, isolating myself in my room wasn’t that different from a normal day in my life. However, being Covid-positive came with many more precautions I had to take and rules I had to follow.
I had to be very careful of the surfaces that I touched because I carried the virus. Whenever I left my room to go to the bathroom, for example, I had to consciously avoid objects around the house. On top of that, I had to wear a mask whenever I left my room to reduce the chance of transmission. After each time I left my room, my family had to disinfect the bathroom and everything I touched, like light switches.
Even something as mundane as clearing my bin was complicated. I sealed my trash into ziplock bags. As I could not leave my house to go to the rubbish chute, my family members, wearing gloves, would help me dispose of them.
Communication was via text. This was unusual for us because our flat isn’t that big. I’m used to stepping out of my room and immediately seeing them face-to-face. During my isolation period, I often found myself subconsciously getting up and going to my door to talk to my family about something, only to remember that I couldn’t.
Experiencing Covid firsthand is strange: Towards the third day, I lost my sense of smell. It was an annoying yet fascinating sensation. I also had a runny nose and occasional bouts of dizziness. This was especially hard to handle because constant coughing fits made my sore throat even worse.
The symptoms got progressively worse during the first six days. My sore throat got so bad that it hurt even to breathe out. I couldn’t move any part of my body without aching everywhere.
By the sixth day, my body pains and sore throat started to ease up. And towards the end, my dizzy spells disappeared. Yet at the end of the 10-day isolation, I still had a runny nose, sore throat and cough, which kept me on medication.
By the end of my Isolation Order, I was relieved because I could finally stop worrying about infecting my loved ones. When I took the ART again, the second line was extremely faded, which left me confused. When I asked the doctor what that meant, he said that it takes a while for the virus to completely leave my body and reassured me that I wasn’t contagious anymore.
Other than having to deal with the physical symptoms, I went through an emotional rollercoaster.
I thought, as an introvert, I would be okay with the isolation, but it quickly got to me.
Each day was tedious and uncertain. It was very stressful at first because I had to quickly break out of my normal habits and adopt a different way of living. What made it more frustrating was that there were many small changes to remember.
With so much time on my hands, self-doubt and self-pity set in. I started thinking to myself: Of all people, why me?
Normally I wouldn’t mind staying at home all day (in fact I prefer it). But with all the things that I couldn’t do, it was hard for me to remain calm.
Being afraid of infecting my family members, who can’t afford to be sick for various reasons, took a toll on me. The silver lining was that they were very understanding and did their best to help me. This made things easier for me on the road to recovery.
Right now, I’m just glad that I’m in a much better physical and mental state.
Scary yet valuable experience
Just because Covid has been with us for almost two years doesn’t mean it is any less scary. It still is a highly contagious virus that can turn deadly. I was extremely lucky that my symptoms weren’t life-threatening, but that may not be the same for someone else.
I was relieved that my family all tested negative and so did everyone I came into close contact with (that I know of). My symptoms were not too severe as well. I am also grateful I had supportive friends who helped me tremendously from the beginning.
The experience reminded me that Covid takes a toll on mental health just as much as it does on physical health. It also highlighted the importance of a good support system when fighting the virus.
From friends, I received many well wishes and advice about where to get the information I needed and how to manage my mental health.
When my symptoms got worse during the isolation period, my family constantly made sure I was okay. It gave me much needed reassurance and put me in a good mental place to focus on recovery.
A good support system helps
If you have a friend or family member who has Covid, please check in (remotely!) on them and offer them support. Help them find any information they need. Reassure them that getting Covid is nothing to be ashamed of and that they are not alone.
If they are in your household, set up a calm space in the home for them to recover. More than just providing them with living necessities, emotional and mental reassurances works wonders during the recovery process.
Emotional support is especially useful because they are in isolation. Even introverts get lonely too! It would have been much worse for me if my loved ones didn’t check up on me. So please do the same for yours.
You are never alone
The hard truth is that with an endemic Covid, it is always possible to get the disease.
If you do get Covid, remember that it is not your fault. You’ve already done the best you can to minimize the risk and that’s all that matters.
Also remember that you are not alone in your struggle, even if physically it might feel that way.
Reach out to people you can trust to share how you really feel. Nobody will hold it against you. Keep connected with other people – be it family WhatsApp groups or public Telegram channels!
The battle against Covid is not over. But we can still support each other to fight through this.
I can now say that I’m a Covid survivor. And even though I got through it relatively unscathed, I still wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone. Be safe, everyone.