I got sick. It’s hard to tell the COVID-19 symptoms from my typical fibromyalgia symptoms, so I don’t know when I got sick, but I know today it feels definitely different from what I usually experience. The night sweats this time were accompanied by chills and later moved into a low fever during the day. The pain is a little deeper in the back of my neck, and the fatigue this time makes my body feel somehow heavier. There’s an itchiness and rawness in my throat like I smoked too much the day before, but it’s not much worse than that. The confusion today was much worse than typical fibromyalgia brain fog as I stood staring at the medicine cabinet for 3 minutes, not knowing why I was there.
It’s been over two weeks since the last time I was in a large crowd (thankfully, for others), but less than two weeks from my last work day.
Reviewing my actions, I did take a lot of precautions. I took a lot more than most people I’ve spoken to, since my partner and I are both at risk of complications. I started self-isolating before the lockdown, I cleaned every surface with bleach or soap or alcohol, then started doing it daily or multiple times a day. I spoke to two friends from 6 feet away. I let a neighbor get too close when they were talking to me. I took medicine and medical supplies to the curbside of a friend who was struggling to breathe, after sanitizing them with alcohol or bleach and wrapping them in two garbage bags. I went to the corner store the day the lockdown was announced, and washed everything I got in dish soap before putting it away. I have a background in microbiology so I knew what to do before the government told us.
I’ve since gotten groceries only by delivery and also washed them. I wear a fabric mask that’s normally reserved for protests when I walk the dogs. I wipe down their paws when they come home, bleach the bottom of my shoes and then leave them outside, and then hand-wash the mask with bar soap. I’ve been eating lots of immune boosting foods, anti-viral foods, and generally eating healthier than I’m used to. None of it was enough. And now I will have to stop taking a lot of the immune boosters, as they can antagonize the disease.
Human interactions: Last day of work, walking the dog, going to the store, talking to people with the six feet distance – actually the safest thing I did was take medicine to an already sick person. It’s impossible to know where or when I got infected, but I do know anyone I’ve spoken to is likely to have been infected by me, if they weren’t already. Well, it’s too late now.
I think I’ll for sure get better and just have to rest a lot, but because of the similarity of my normal symptoms I don’t know if this is the first day of sickness, or if it’s towards the end and I’m feeling it a bit harder just before it goes away. That’s the thing with chronically ill people. I’ve looked it up, and there’s no information on the combination of COVID-19 with my condition. I do know that even if I go to the hospital they won’t test me for COVID-19, because they wouldn’t even test my friend who had a fever, cough and painful breathing. I assume it is COVID-19 at this point, and I’m hoping my partner’s sickness is or will be mild, because he’s at risk of MRSA any time he gets sick.
People are struggling both financially and mentally through isolation right now. And being social animals, humans will use any interaction with others as an opportunity to make that interaction closer. It’s easy when a friend asks you to to come over, even to be outside with them, with distance, to think “oh they’re isolated and I’m isolated,” and you crack. It’s hard to say no to people. It’s hard to not be “nice.”
But kindness is more important than nicety right now, and kindness means not putting others at risk, giving people supplies as safely as possible, insisting to your bored friends that they talk to you over Zoom or FaceTime or any video instead of in person. Kindness is sterilizing your fucking floor.
And by the way, now is a great time for any assigned-female people to decondition themselves from always being polite. You don’t have to be polite to people who won’t give you adequate social distancing space. Who gives a fuck about that dude from across the street that always walks over and insists on a conversation? Who cares about the stranger at the store that has to crack jokes at you, insisting you fake a laugh for his ego? They sure don’t give a fuck about you. And now, when you walk away from them, while muttering to yourself how annoying they are, you might also be walking away with COVID-19.
In retrospect, all the government and health official and doctors’ advice in the U.S. were bullshit. First they said no gatherings of more than 500, then no more than 50, then no more than 10, then it’s ok to be around people with 6 feet of distance. In the U.K., it’s 1.5 meters of distance (which, if we’re really counting, is actually 4.9 feet). So which is it? And do we really want to play around with finding out the exact distance needed to prevent infection? I think back to all the articles quoting doctors from just a week ago saying anything that’s not fever, dry cough or respiratory infection is a regular cold or flu – all bullshit, and millions of people’s lives are at risk because of it. Most of my actual useful information has come from friends’ Facebook posts, descriptions of their symptoms, documenting the doctors refusal to test for it, and having to go to ER tents (we’re only one week into lockdown and already treating people in tents).
Smokers and alcoholics (which I am both) are also in greater risk, so I’m lucky my symptoms aren’t the you-can’t-breathe type. (My last cigarette was already smoked. As often as I say that, it has to be true this time.)
I share this with you because if you aren’t taking every precaution, all the rest of the precautions you take are only decorative. And I don’t want you to get the thing where, you know, you can’t breathe, and then your organs fail because they’re being attacked by your own immune system.
Please stay safe. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re overly paranoid. Whatever you’re doing to protect yourself, do more. And don’t pass it on – out of kindness, out of solidarity.