Back in late January I developed a “respiratory infection”.

By Sarah May

Back in late January I developed a “respiratory infection”. My memory of the time is now a bit fuzzy. I'm not sure if it's because of the illness, because everything has been so disorienting since,or because strangely, I fell madly in love right after. Last January and February many people in the area I lived had been coming down with a “bad cold”, “flu”, etc. I live in a suburban/rural area and Covid was still a new idea thought to be somewhere else. I remember getting sick and thinking I would take a couple days off and feel good enough to go back to work in a couple days like I had when I got sick the previous year. But I felt so much worse this time.

I went to urgent care where they diagnosed me with “respiratory infection”, offered me antibiotics and sent me on my way. A week approached and I convinced myself I should go back to work. I guzzled Dayquil and it barely made a difference for more than an hour. I even wore a mask long before they were implemented because the coughing would not stop. I worked in a store and I had told my supervisors how ill I was but they didn't seem to believe me. They kindly condescended to me that I would feel better soon but I did not for a while. It would seem to subside then come back on strong again. I coughed and coughed until my stomach and lungs ached. I doubled over in pain, the cough still rising from my chest. That ache in my lung was one of the last things to leave.

Vertigo and fatigue set in that made it hard to shower or move from room to room. I'm in my 30s, live alone and come from a family without much sensitivity to others. I learned to “deal” and “push through” some of the most harrowing experiences of my life by myself. I also live in New England where there seems to be a fetishization of suffering silently. As I lay alone in my apartment, I distinctly remember trying to joke with friends, family, or the man who would become my boyfriend...“Might be dying guys.love you...I think my lung might have collapsed...Should I go to the hospital?.. When do I call an ambulance? Haha...ha.” Vaguely texting into the void, I worried quietly about not seeing any of them again. Getting better was gradual. A light cough and fatigue hung around for a while. Again, my memories from six months ago are a bit scrambled at this point.

I now think mine was one of the early cases. I am getting an antibody test. It was a month later when I was laid off from work and quarantine began.

In a side-note, my co-worker, an elderly woman, became ill not long after me. She was almost incapacitated . She is a beautiful person who had been kind and generous to me. She also had some type of spirituality that made her avoid doctors,medicines that weren't natural and believe that becoming ill was a part of some grander spiritual plan. She kept assuring everyone that she was alright and on-the-mend, but as of this writing she is still recovering. Six months later. I carry a lot of guilt that I might have been the one she caught it from. That I might have spread it further in those early days before we know what we do now. And wonder about how things might be different if we had the proper information in due time.

I can say most things I was doing before have gone or changed drastically. The relationship I mentioned has progressed through the bizarre filter of quarantine. I wonder if maybe I had been more open to it due to the fear and solitude I experienced during my illness. I have more money from unemployment but my depression and anxiety have become overwhelming. Routine and staying busy were my coping mechanisms. Any plans I had have been postponed or deviated...possibly for the better. But who can say at this point?