Reflections from the other side of COVID

NOTE: I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share this, or to just write it for myself as a way of reflecting. More recently, especially with the new Omicron variant (ugh!), I’ve had more friends test positive and I am just so bummed for them. Hopefully this post in some very small way, shape, or form will be encouraging to those who get a dreaded positive test. Sending love, friends.

As most of you probably know, we got Covid in October, and today, I want to share some reflections and learnings from that experience. 💛 I’m intentionally not going into certain specifics – like how we got it (we don’t know), what our physical symptoms were, etc. – but instead will be focusing on the emotional and mental aspect of getting Covid and our time in isolation/quarantine. Writing is one therapeutic and helpful way that I process emotions and life experiences, and often am able to connect with, learn from, and be encouraged by others in doing so.

But first, let me back up. I originally shared about our positive Covid tests here, which was written right after we tested positive. I was honestly still in a state of disbelief and frustration and just so so sad. Here’s a blurb from that post:

This week, we tested positive for COVID. We took at-home tests prior to traveling, and our positive results were also confirmed via PCR tests.

I did everything I could to not get COVID — we quarantined at home for months last spring. We got the vaccine as soon as it was available to us and have been awaiting the opportunity for the girls to get it. We’ve avoided large indoor, high-risk gatherings as much as possible and mask up as needed. We’ve tested in an abundance of caution so many times. We’ve endlessly weighed the risks/benefits of situations and calculated decisions from the beginning. We’ve been really careful. I’ve tried to take care of myself, my kids, my family, and others in my community.

We really tried and it wasn’t enough.

I hate cancelling our trip to Ohio and telling Lucy — who has been looking forward to this trip for weeks — we can’t go. I hate texting (the very few) friends we’ve seen that we’ve unknowingly exposed them. I hate the unknowns.

I hate that a global pandemic, a virus that’s killed 715K people in the US alone, and public health best practices have become politicized. I hate that me sharing this update makes me nervous some people will be rude and argumentative, rather than empathetic and kind.

I hate that what we’ve so desperately tried to avoid actually happened to us. I hate that we did all “right things” and still got COVID. 

I feel frustrated, sad, helpless, discouraged, disappointed, and honestly mad. The last 18 months have been draining, anxiety-inducing, scary and overwhelming for all of us, I know. Getting a positive test result brought all of those feelings — and more — to a head for me today. It just feels really unfair. 

I’m grateful our physical symptoms are mostly mild so far (cold/allergy type) and that we tested in an abundance of caution before unknowingly spreading it to my extended family and others.

Our experience comes from a place of privilege — that we have flexible jobs and work from home, that we have a safe space to isolate, that E and I had access to the vaccine in the first place, that all of us are normally quite healthy.

I know I shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty or embarrassed but I do right now. I know I didn’t do anything wrong, but it’s hard to not feel like I should or could have done something differently to avoid this outcome. I know shame and beating myself up makes me feel worse and isn’t productive or helpful or TRUE. I’m trying to not let myself go there, but it’s hard not to. 

I’m trying to be kind to myself and give myself grace. I’m taking things one day at a time. I’m reminding myself what my resilient three year old said to me this morning: “it’s going to be okay, mama.”

I’m sure you can tell from reading my words at the height of that time, but I  was feeling so overwhelmed and scared and guilty and ashamed and frustrated and sad and SO many feelings all at once. I never wanted this to happen. I  HATE that this happened to us. Seeing those positive test results felt really unfair, after a year and a half of doing our very best to keep ourselves and our community safe and healthy.

We are a few weeks out from having COVID and thankfully, in a much better place physically, mentally AND emotionally. Those two weeks were quite the roller coaster for our family, especially for E and I. The girls were so resilient and while it was tough to parent when we felt under the weather and were mentally and emotionally very overwhelmed, they brought so much light and joy to us during a tough time. Below, you’ll find some random word vomit reflections and life lessons from the other side of Covid, and a few photos from our 10 or so days at home. 💛

REFLECTIONS & LESSONS FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF COVID

ALLOWING MYSELF TO GO THROUGH STAGES OF GRIEF. I  totally went through all the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – during our time in isolation. I  actually shared about how I  felt the stages of grief at the very beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 HERE and it felt eerily similar to process those same stages/emotions once again. Right after our positive tests, I felt denialthere’s no way this is happening! We’ve been so careful! We haven’t done ‘anything risky’!. The next few days I  felt a lot of anger – at the world, at our federal, state, and local government, even at other people, although I’m trying to not blame others individually. It felt unfair that we fell victim to COVID, especially after being so cautious and careful. At one point I was bargaining with myself – trying to explain to myself what we could have done differently – if only the girls didn’t go to school, if only we didn’t go out to dinner on the patio, etc. Of course, rationally, I  realize we can’t eliminate all risk and know that we’ve made cautious, calculated choices and things can still happen. I also felt the stage of depression – feeling sad, lonely, hurt, forgotten, etc. – it was like the world moved on and we were stuck in an infinite present at home and it just felt sad. I did eventually – in bits and pieces and then more regularly as the days went on – experience the stage of acceptance. This happened to us. It wasn’t our fault. We didn’t do anything wrong. We will get through this. We can do hard things.

TAKING THINGS DAY BY DAY. The first couple of days were SUPER emotional and just really overwhelming. One thing that helped me was to just focus on the day in front of me. To not allow myself to worry about the next day or later in the week and just literally get through THAT DAY. Especially when it came to symptoms, rather than worry “is it going to get worse?” we just tried to face what was in front of us on that given day.

ACCEPTING HELP. We were, gratefully, flooded with generosity and kindness and people willing to help us. Eric and I are both problem solvers and go-getters and usually just do things we need for ourselves. But, when you’re home and can’t go anywhere, you don’t really have a choice but to accept help. It was humbling and a gift.

EXPERIENCING AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE LOVED & CARED FOR. This is sort of related to the accept help part above, but on a deeper level, we were really, truly showered with so much kindness and thoughtfulness. I spoke to my therapist during isolation and she mentioned I likely have been experiencing compassion fatigue from trying to help and support other people all of the time. I  love being able to do that and really want to be a good friend. But, getting Covid and the aftermath with how people treated us, was opportunity to be cared for and loved that I think I was needing in that moment.  Friends and strangers (!) alike treated us with so much kindness and generosity in their words and actions and it was a really touching experience in the wake of getting Covid.

LEARNING PRACTICAL & TANGIBLE WAYS TO BE A GOOD FRIEND. I’ve had friends get Covid before and of course, have sent text check-ins, but the way people showed up for us when *we* had Covid has showed me how to be an even better, more throughout friend when others are struggling. Our porch was flooded with all sorts of things – soup and other meals, huge boxes of cookies and ice cream, a bottle of Worcestershire sauce after promising the girls I’d make Chex Mix with them, Starbucks, and more. We received gift cards, random Venmos, daily ‘how are you, I’m thinking of you’ texts, games for the girls, and more.

FINDING JOY AND PEACE DESPITE CIRCUMSTANCES. This is not an everything is great (!) statement, and I  would never wish Covid on anyone. But – a few weeks prior to getting Covid, I  was talking to my sister about how I wanted to find peace and joy even on hard days. It’s REALLY easy for me to be cheerful and grateful and at peace when things are going my way and when life is good. But, I had caught myself emotionally spiraling MANY times on the days and moments that didn’t go my way. I had been telling my sister how I  wanted to have peace and joy, despite whatever was going on, or whatever my circumstances that day/week/month year were. I  certainly didn’t have joy or peace the entire time we were in isolation, but getting into that ‘acceptance’ phase of grief really did help shift my mindset. We had moments of joy despite this hard experience. We cried, but we also laughed a lot. We were frustrated, but also found peace. It might sound cheesy to some of you, but really, looking back, it was a time where I  was able to experience joy and peace DESPITE circumstances.

OPPORTUNITY FOR CONNECTION AND QUALITY TIME. When you’re at home in isolation/quarantine, you obviously don’t have the usual busyness and distraction and routines that ‘normal life’ has. But looking back on our time yet again at home, I do remember some sweet and valuable moments of family connection and quality time. Again, this is not a ‘yay covid is fine!’ thing — but just one reflection I have looking back on our time. Despite the scary, sad, hard, stressful moments, there was some really special moments where we had nothing but one another. Problem solving and working together with E. Building puzzles with Lucy. Movie nights. Admiring the sunlight pouring through the girls’ room while Lucy built blocks. Swinging in the backyard. Watching the girls decorate cookies (thank you, Alex!) and play a new game (thank you, Ali!) and so many other ways our family was showed with love. Afternoon popsicles. Dance parties. Walks (distanced, of course) in the park. Face painting because why not.

BUILDING RESILIENCE. Before we got Covid, getting it was one of the biggest fears. It was obviously something we were trying to NOT get and actively tried to make choices to avoid. But then – one of the worst things – getting it – happened. Our time in isolation/quarantine was a stretching experience and truly did build resilience. At the time, time stood still and it felt like it would never end. But, I  tried to trust and believe we would make it through. And we did. I meditated on these lyrics from a JJ Heller song “what if the world doesn’t end when the fears come true?  What if we have what we need to make it through?  There is manna from heaven and mercies new. What if God is still here in this desert too?” This brought me a lot of comfort. I know not everyone reading this believes the same things or finds comfort in that, but for me, it was almost like reciting an affirmation – I will make it through this. I’m not alone in this struggle.

REMINDING MYSELF THIS WAS NOT MY FAULT. I  did my best. And we still got Covid. In my post sharing our positive test results here, I said “I  did my best and it wasn’t enough” and so many people left kind, thoughtful, encouraging messages reminding me I  DID NOTHING WRONG. I got vaccinated as soon as it was available to me, we take care of our bodies regularly with food and exercise and sleep, we made cautious and calculated decisions, we tested in an abundance of caution so many times…we really tried and we still got Covid. And it wasn’t my fault. In the middle of a pandemic that has unfortunately become politicized, it initially felt like I was a failure or somehow ‘less than’ for actually getting it. But I wasn’t a failure and I’m certainly not less than. Grace upon grace.

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