Stories Are More Than Words

“We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one.”

~Doctor Who

Being the sort of person who ruminates on things written or said or even left unsaid, I think it is quite natural for me to have had the theme of stories twisting about inside my head for a while now. Four years ago today, I had an appointment with my chiropractor that ended up being more of a mental therapy session than a physical one. One of the many things I like about my chiropractor is the way he genuinely connects with his patients on a personal level and how that compliments his treatments. He does not view his patients as merely walking, talking injuries or diseases or excerpts from a medical textbook. In my experiences with dozens of health care providers of all sorts, this level of whole person care is exceedingly rare, but it makes all the difference in the world when you receive it. Since that day four years ago, I reflect back on that conversation and the blog post that flowed from it with some regularity and particularly the past month or so.

Stories tend to have chapters, at least that is true if you have moved on from the picture and learn to read books of early childhood. Life has chapters, too, but then again, what is life if not an epic story. As I have been reflecting on the past four years, I have realized that that moment was the beginning of a new chapter for me. Sure, I might have thought the same at that time, but I could never have anticipated where my story would lead me to four years later. I couldn’t even foresee what the next few weeks would lay at my feet, and those troubles were so much greater than what led up to that conversation with my chiropractor. Isn’t that ironic? Something inconsequential devastated me for a day or two until I was given a listening ear and good advice. And yet, that compassionate ear and good advice reminded me of who I am and what makes me me and cleared the debris so I could see the solid foundation beneath my feet, which enabled me to traverse the troubles ahead with more grace and dignity than I would have thought possible.

The purpose of my blog is, I suppose, to tell my story, to share my journey of growing and becoming. Sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I forget who I am and what matters most in determining who I am. My chiropractor has said that I will always need to be reminded of this, because I am never going to feel as if I have arrived at my best or fully defined self. I could not agree more. I am not content with good enough. I am not satisfied with being less than. When I read a good book or watch a good movie, I want to know more. What happens in the story after I turn the last page or after the credits roll? I want to know! And personally, I want to be more, not to be famous or anything so outwardly showy or shallow. I don’t even know how to explain it; it is just the way I roll. This is part of my story.

The chapter of my life started four years ago has yet to be tidily wrapped up in anticipation of a new chapter’s beginning. I hadn’t expected this chapter to last so long, and I did get a little lost in the pages and weary of the narrative. If my life was an actual book, this chapter is one that I would quickly skim through once I realized how dusty and boring it was. There isn’t much that is exciting about healing something that seems prepared to fight you every step of the way. In fact, it’s rather exhausting, in real life and in the retelling. When you have stood on the top of mountains, it isn’t so easy to feel excited about standing on top of a mound of dirt, but that is precisely what the past few years have felt like. Personal victories have been small, seemingly inconsequential, and easily missed. Progress in some areas has stalled and in others regressed. The sad story gets really old very quickly. But the story does not need to end there.

“Go laugh in the places you have cried. Change the narrative.”

~unknown

Having felt quite frequently that I have lost sight of myself and mulling over conversations on that subject, I have begun the arduous task of clearing the debris from my path once more. That solid foundation of who I am is still there beneath my feet. In fact, I have been standing on it all this time! That’s the thing about solid foundations…they are built to last and they support us even when we forget their existence. I am thankful for the One who has given me the ultimate foundation, and I am thankful for those who have been placed in my life and care enough to speak into it. You know what? I am also as thankful for the struggles along the way as I am the triumphs.

“If you look back at my story, it doesn’t matter where you look, but God’s fingerprints are all over the place.”

~Jeremy Lin

A Letter to Self

Hey you!

I’ve seen you cringe when you look at yourself in the mirror. I’ve heard your sighs of disgust every time you get dressed or sift through your clothes for something that might fit a little better. I know your frustration with not seeing a change on the scale, and I bear the brunt of your self-loathing when you beat yourself up for not being perfect with your nutrition or exercise. It breaks my heart to see you despair at ever feeling as strong and confident as you did before the disc herniation. I know that lately you feel alone, invisible and unseen, as you keep going and doing in spite of the pain and the weariness that has seeped into the marrow of your soul. Very few see your tears, but I see every single teardrop and I hear your cries of sorrow and anger and frustration.

Do you remember 2017? I know you do, because the herniation occurred that November. But do you remember early in the year when your sacroiliac joints were quite irritated for a few months, followed by a less than stellar performance at Provincials in June, and then being dropped by your coach in July with a competition only a few months away? Back then we thought those were difficult times, but we made it through. Of course, you were more confident then and, while you didn’t always react well in all of those circumstances, you were quick to find your footing and move forward. Things weren’t easy, but you knew who you were, what you were capable of, and you had a vision of where you were going. When the herniation happened, you didn’t lose sight of yourself or your goals, even though the process of recovery derailed life quite drastically. That was a challenging year, but it was also a very good year for personal growth out of those circumstances.

Here we are now in 2021, and you do not feel like the 2017 version of you and you can’t see a way back to her. Healing has not been linear, nor has it happened the way you thought it would. Who would have thought you’d have constant burning, tingling, and throbbing pain in both legs and feet after 3.5 years? It doesn’t seem fair, but it is what it is. You might feel as if you’ve stopped being strong, but do you realize how strong you are for doing all that you do every day despite being in constant pain? I know you like to downplay your efforts and your pain, saying others have it much worse and you have no other choice. Yes, there are people suffering more than you! Yes, your pain is mostly tolerable. But pain is pain, and each person experiences pain uniquely. While your pain may be mostly tolerable, that does not mean that your pain is insignificant or invalid. Do you know why you say you have no choice but to carry on? It’s because you are strong! Some people give up at the slightest inconvenience or discomfort, but you have never let your pain completely stop you from living life. Take courage, dear heart! Your strength of spirit has never wavered.

A dozen different medications over the past few years have messed you up. Weight gain, weight loss, weight gain, mood swings, brain fog, nausea, loss of appetite, insomnia, fatigue…the side effects have always been more effective than the supposed benefit of pain relief. While you can’t always cling to the drugs as an excuse for being heavier and lumpier than you’d like, beating yourself up for struggling to lose the excess doesn’t help and only adds fuel to the lies that there is something wrong with you, that you’re not good enough. It is good that you know where you could do better or make positive changes, but remember that you can’t do it all at once. Allow yourself some grace to slip up now and then, and focus on making small changes consistently. You’ve done this before, remember, and you can do it again.

But here is the thing that is most important…remember who you are! The number on the scale does not speak of your character. After Provincials in 2017, a friend spoke wisdom to you, reminding you that you are more than a title, an occupation, or a performance. Those words are still true today. You are still Angela. My job as a barista does not make me who I am. Lifting weights and hoping to get back to powerlifting does not make me Angela. I am a wife and mother, but even those important things do not make me me. So often in our society, we link our self-worth to what we do or the people we are associated with, when really who we are at our core is what makes us a good wife or mother, a good employee, professional or athlete or performer, a good neighbour. Everyone has an expectation or ideal for who you should be, and we are just as guilty of slapping a label on ourselves, placing ourselves inside of a tiny box, and expecting ourselves to live up to our own definition of self. We fool ourselves into thinking that we have a set destination where we will have arrived at our ideal identity. Do you recall why you called your blog Becoming Angela? It’s because you knew this was an active process, living and breathing and changing. Life is about change and growth. But Angela, the core character parts of you should not, and indeed have not ,changed. You are still strong, caring, compassionate, empathetic, loving, hard working, grateful, joyful, hopeful, determined, confident, focused, organized, and fun. There might be some rust around the edges, because let’s face it, chronic pain does knock you around more than you let on; however, you are still Angela. Your value is not based on your job. Your strength and confidence are not dependent upon a return to powerlifting competition. Your peace and hope are not based upon a pain-free existence. Your self-worth is not found in a particular number on the scale or a clothing label. You were not created to be put in a box but to live abundantly. So keep on becoming!

Love,
me

Mixing Metaphors

In spite of many good intentions, this is only my third blog post this month. Many times I have set out to blog, but either I had too much to say or not nearly enough. I fear that all I have left to say will sound like whining or ranting, and I worry that all the interesting bits and pieces of myself have crumbled into dust, waiting to be swept up and thrown in the trash. Of course, those fears and worries are not true, but knowing the truth doesn’t always keep predators at bay. And make no mistake, fear and worry are often predators intent on devouring one’s peace and confidence and so much more.

January and February felt so slow and laid back for me. Almost the entire month of January was a write-off as I was sick with Covid-19, while February was intentionally slower as I returned to work and working out, no longer sick but still not 100%. By the end of February, I was finally feeling normal again, if you didn’t count the always present nerve pain. The past two months have whizzed by, and I am not sure I have much to show for it. I worked a lot, and work has been insanely busy. It’s good but exhausting. I have gone to the gym and been running several times a week. Staying active is simply part of my life now, a habit or routine that I rarely stray from, but there has been a significant increase in pain in the right leg that began early in March and is still ongoing. The pain eats away at my joy like acid. It makes exercise feel that much harder, disrupts my sleep, makes ordinary things uncomfortable if not painful, and generally just sucks. So between working, running, working out, keeping up with housework, and trying not to fall into the depression vortex created by the perfect storm of chronic and acute pain, I am feeling rather exhausted and drained, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Then I think about what life was like this time last year still so early in the pandemic. Life seemed so simple, slow and quiet but also rather enjoyable. I had been off work for a month and wouldn’t return to work for another two weeks. There was nowhere to go, nothing pressing to do. I did my workouts at home. We went for hikes. I made homemade pasta, donuts, and sourdough bread. I picked up a crochet hook for the first time in too many years to count, and I found ways to engage with people from a distance in order to bless them and fill my heart with joy. There was more uncertainty at this time last year, but those weeks were so wonderful in unexpected ways. The forced slowdown was so restful; I miss that the most I think. While I understand that the pandemic has negatively affected many, many businesses and industries, my workplace has been incredibly busy, so busy that you’d never really know there was a pandemic if you only looked at our numbers. This is good. It is good to be employed and to get the hours you want or need, but I feel this weird disconnect between the realities of the pandemic and the sheer craziness of how busy we are. Maybe it is just pandemic fatigue. Who would have ever thought that would be a thing?! When you mix together the right ingredients and add some heat, you can wind up with something super delicious and amazing. Or you could end up with something vile and disgusting. Right now, it seems as if I’m being served a dish that might be better placed in the garbage or at least smothered in gravy or ketchup or something to make it a touch more palatable. I keep trying to remove the tasteless ingredients and add in quality ones, but even that task soon becomes overwhelming.

There are so many mixed metaphors here, but even that shines a light on what is going on inside of my head these days.

The Empire Strikes Back

So my theme for 2021 is A New Hope, which is fitting for me on multiple levels, but here I am in early April feeling like I’m in stuck in The Empire Strikes Back. A month ago I started a new training program designed to help me reach some of my goals, like getting back to being more athletic, running more consistently, and losing the extra weight I’ve gained the past year or two. The new program was exciting, but I quickly found myself experiencing stronger pain in my right leg. I’m assuming that it is nerve pain, because it mostly feels like nerve pain. There have been really bad days and not so bad days, but the bad days have definitely outnumbered the good. When I run, it gets worse. When I do certain exercises, it gets worse. It’s as if my leg has conspired against me and my goals.

The pain has been bad enough that I have caved in and taken several doses of the medication that I absolutely despise, because it is the only drug that provides even a little bit of relief. The side effects hit me within a couple hours of taking the first capsule last Monday, and those side effects linger even when I go a day or two without taking the drug. Headache, brain fog, extreme fatigue, dizziness, shakiness, excess sweating, dry mouth, loss of appetite, insomnia, and nausea. Sounds like a great time, doesn’t it? Yeah, not really, but I am in that desperate place of needing some relief regardless of the cost or effectiveness.

The drug doesn’t exactly ease all the pain; it only reduces some of the burning in my feet. While that is enough of a change to make a difference to me most of the time, it really doesn’t do much for the nerve pain in the rest of my legs, from top of the buttocks down and that is where the right leg is feeling the most pain these days. My pain doctor wanted me to try taking this drug sporadically as needed, even though I knew it wouldn’t truly be helpful and the side effects would still be nasty. Having an appointment with my pain doctor next week, I felt now was a good time to try it out. It went about as expected. Between the pain and the side effects, I have felt terrible all week.

I’m not sure what comes next, but I’m hoping the Return of the Jedi makes an appearance.

The Phantom Zone

Have you ever been in that uncomfortable space bordering on depression and despair, where fatigue is oozing out of every pore and your troubles are so heavy that you know you cannot add one more thing to your load? Have you been there in that place and then had that one more thing placed on your shoulders? That’s where I am right this moment.

My ever-present nerve pain and frequent low back pain have been increasing over the past few weeks. The nerve pain down the right leg has been all over the place but mostly in a very bad place. The burning, throbbing and tingling have been super strong. I discovered an excellent tracking tool at painbc, and it’s been interesting and disappointing to see the negative progression. Of course, the increased pain impacts many areas of life. It affects my sleep, my energy and motivation, my physical ability to run or exercise, do housework or my job. And no matter how much I try to remain positive and strong, it takes a heavy toll emotionally and mentally. It is also extremely exhausting.

Since the pain has been worse, I had been internally debating the merits of medication again. Last time I saw my pain doctor, she suggested taking Duloxetine again when the pain was bad and not necessarily just taking it long-term. At the time I was open to her suggestion, because the pain wasn’t bad enough to go through with it. Now that the pain is bad enough, I wanted any little bit of relief I could get (which from experience I know Duloxetine will give me just a little which is more than any other drug); however, I wasn’t sure the nasty side effects I get from it were worth such a little bit of potential relief. I am still not sure it is worth it, but I took a capsule this morning. Nausea hasn’t hit yet, but the fatigue, headache, and brain fog have rolled in and the dry mouth is just starting. So far, no discernable difference in pain. I don’t know that I can adequate explain just how exhausted and emotional I feel lately, especially today.

And then I got a text from my coach about my squats at the gym today. He said I shouldn’t be afraid to do more reps, that I still had lots of speed left to work with. I read the message and instantly felt crushed and wanted to cry. Now don’t get me wrong…my coach is great and this isn’t intended to be a slam against his character or knowledge! But in that moment, I felt unseen, unheard, and defeated. Part of me wanted to throw in the towel and quit trying. Not because my coach said I could do more, but because I feel like I am trying so hard and getting nowhere. Watching the videos of my squats doesn’t tell the story of what I am feeling in my body at that time. Yes, my squats looked pretty good, but you can’t see the pain shooting down the back of my right leg, the pain tingling through the left leg, the fatigue in every cell of my body, or the grimace of pain on my face. The videos definitely don’t show the pain I am in once I get home and sit or lay down, or the limping as I walk to my car or around the house. Could I push through for a couple more reps each set? Probably. But do I want to be down and out for the rest of the day? Not really. Chronic pain is heavy and just because you can carry it well doesn’t mean you’re not struggling. My coach didn’t do anything wrong; he’s just doing his job and most days I’d accept his message and rise to the challenge. But I’m not in that head space right now.

Weary in the Waves

I suppose it has been a while since I last blogged, twenty-two days to be exact, though only for lack of inspiration and not desire. It’s not as if there hasn’t been points of interest over the past three weeks, but so much of life is also rather mundane and repetitive. I go to work, to the gym, for a run, with an errand or two sprinkled in between laundry and housework. It has now been a year since the pandemic disrupted life locally and provincially, and, even though I know that Covid-19 is real and of concern for many, I am also weary of everything about it.

I miss seeing smiles outside of my house. Even though it moves quickly, I am tired of the need to wait in a long line outside just to get into Costco every few weeks for a package of toilet paper, eggs, Greek yogurt, and butter. I am increasingly irritated by people who give you a 10 foot berth with a suspicious side eye as you pass them on the sidewalk. While I’m not a touchy-feely kind of person, I miss hugs and shaking hands. Pandemic fatigue wasn’t more than the occasional blip on my radar for the longest time, but those blips are pinging rapidly now.

If the pandemic wasn’t heavy enough, the weight of always being in some state of pain only seems to be getting heavier. I like to think I wear that weight well, but it is heavy and sometimes oppressively so. In working towards some goals, I have been reintroduced to some exercises I haven’t done since before herniating a disc and I’m excited about that. However, one of the exercises doesn’t seem to play nicely with the nerves in my right leg. It is so frustrating and disappointing…and painful. Although that particular exercise has now been switched out for another, I am still disappointed. I liked that exercise. I want to be able to do it; it really isn’t that hard and certainly involves no weight. But that’s beside the point.

My mantra of the pain being tolerable is getting as old as the pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, it is still tolerable, but the things we must tolerate can still be heavy and burdensome. I kind of feel like a big rock in a river. I might be firmly planted and at no risk of being swept away with the current, but the relentless beating of water is subtly eroding and shaping me into someone I might not recognize in the future.

The Prescription Paradox

A week ago I walked out of my appointment with my pain doctor with yet another prescription in hand. While the appointment went well, as well as such meetings can I suppose, and we both agreed that there wasn’t much point in pursuing more interventional treatments, my doctor just cannot seem to stop pushing the drugs. This is something that I find quite frustrating, and yet ironically, I did go into this appointment half hoping that she would push some my way once again. And so, I took my prescription to the pharmacy, waited for it to be filled, and then spent the rest of the day figuratively staring at the bottle, questioning and doubting myself. I hemmed and hawed over taking that first capsule for hours (it was to be taken in the evening so I had time to delay) and even talked it out loud to my husband before finally taking it. The next day I told my husband that I wasn’t going to take the medication after all.

I suppose my position might not be easy to understand. Why would I want a drug that might help the constant nerve pain I feel but then not want to take it? The answer isn’t so simple. I hurt all the time, but the pain is often tolerable without any medication. Quite frankly, out of all the medications I have tried, only one has been somewhat effective in reducing my pain and it had multiple, terrible side effects. Many of the medications prescribed for nerve pain are antidepressants. (Please know that I am not dissing the use of antidepressants! They are beneficial for many people and situations.) My experiences with several antidepressants, while not horror stories to be sure, are still not pleasant. I do not feel like myself mentally or emotionally, and I am weary of being the guinea pig. Let’s try this drug. That didn’t work, so let’s try this one. Perhaps an injection here will help. That didn’t work, so we’ll do an injection there. And on and on it has gone for more than three years. These drugs obviously aren’t working for me, so I have no interest in being on them.

And yet…

As often as the nerve pain is tolerable, it is always uncomfortable and unpleasant, and sometimes it is really quite intolerable. Around the end of December and beginning of January, the nerve pain was strong. It was strong enough for me to miss work, which is an exceedingly rare thing for me to do. During those days, I desperately wanted something that might give me some relief. In the days leading up to my most recent pain clinic appointment, the pain was reasonably moderate but I still found myself in some moments wishing for relief, something that could just disrupt the pain signals if only for a while. This is why I took the prescription offered to me. This wasn’t the one drug that had given me some relief with nasty side effects, and how twisted is it that in the really painful moments I want to go back to that. Both the helpful but nasty drug and this current “let’s try this one again” drug are antidepressants, and this is why I ultimately decided not to continue taking it. I am unwilling to go back down the road of feeling mentally and emotionally sluggish and off, not now when I am just starting to feel clear-headed and normal again.

It is true that I am only now feeling like the old me again. Mostly. Sure, there have been glimpses of that girl now and then over the past few years, but the pain and the medications have done a pretty good job of keeping me stuck in a deep, dark basement full of cobwebs. Then adding a case of Covid-19 in January only added to the brain fog and feeling out of sorts well into February. The Covid headache finally cleared a little more than a week ago (but then I did something to a nerve in my neck that has created a lingering but different type of headache), and the last few days I have realized that I feel more energetic and clear-headed than I have in a very long time. There’s no change to the nerve pains and I’m dealing with upper back/neck and low back pain all related (or mostly) to the nerve in the neck thing, so I’m physically not necessarily feeling any better than usual. But it is amazing the difference a clear head can make in how you feel overall! Why would I want to throw that away?

Reset & Refocus

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

~Margaret Thatcher

As is the case with many each January, I like to start the new year off with fresh goals and ideas and plans on how to achieve them. There is excitement, hope, and determination mixed with just enough grace and peace to accept the areas where I won’t be quite as successful as I had hoped. I recognize that one month isn’t going to make or break the rest of my year…unless I allow it. But good grief was this January so NOT what I had anticipated! The last few months of 2020 were a little rough and tumble for me mentally, emotionally, and physically, but I felt like things were looking up and getting brighter heading into Christmas. However, back and nerve pain was quite bad over the holiday season into the first week of January, and then I got Covid-19. Although I’m now out of isolation and mostly better, I am not 100% yet, nearly two weeks after ending quarantine. All those good vibes I felt about my goals and resolutions were replaced with a fairly constant headache, brain fog and fatigue. I keep saying it could have been worse, and that is true. We’ve all seen the news stories of people very ill or dying from this virus, even the young and healthy, so I am thankful that my case was pretty mild. It still sucks to find yourself tuckered out and breathing heavy after doing something as simple as meal prep.

I haven’t had the motivation or focus to keep my nutrition on point for most of 2020. There was a lot on my plate between the ever-present nerve pain, a couple of medications with side effects, the pandemic, and other stressors outside of my control. Tracking and managing my food was just not something I wanted to deal with, and so, between my lack of control and medication, I’ve struggled with my weight and I’m disappointed with myself. Heading into January, I was finally ready to get myself back on track and make the changes I knew I needed to make. And then I got Covid. I lost my appetite for several days and then just ate whatever was convenient. Of course, I was also inactive for those three weeks of being sick. Now I’m back at work and the gym but still tired, head hurting and foggy, and easily winded. Bad habits are difficult to break but that doesn’t mean impossible. It takes time and determination. One thing at a time. One choice. One decision. Not beating yourself up when you screw up and not allowing a screw up to keep you from moving forward.

“Give yourself permission to reset, restart, refocus or realign as many times as you feel you need to.”

~Helen Marie

Happy New Year 2.0

I saw a headline the other day about how the pandemic has affected time, or at least something along that line. To be honest, I didn’t bother reading the article, because time often feels strange and the pandemic hasn’t really changed that from my perspective.

“People assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibblywobblytimeywimey stuff.”

Doctor Who

And yet here I am on this last day of January wondering how it was possible for one month to feel so incredibly long and drawn out! I am used to finishing a month wondering how it disappeared so quickly, but this first month of 2021 has felt like the month that never ends. I guess being sick and quarantined will do that.

Normal life begins again tomorrow. February 1. This will be my first day at work since January 7, and I’m hoping to get back to the gym this week, too. Of course, I expect this first week back to be long and exhausting, and I shouldn’t be surprised if I have periods of feeling not so great. I mean I shouldn’t be suprised, but, knowing me, I will get caught up in doing what needs to be done and then wonder later why I am feeling rough. My case of Covid-19 was mild, but there are still hangers-on, like some nasal congestion, a cough, and feeling winded, lightheaded, excessively hot or fatigued. While these lingering symptoms or side effects are a little annoying, but I am thankful they are as mild as they are. There are many who get much sicker with this virus, and there are plenty of stories of recovery, even from mild cases, being slow. The moral of the story is that I need to remember to extend some grace to myself.

January was not the month I expected it to be, and my carefully laid plans for it were unable to even get off the ground. Frustrating, yes, but our plans and best intentions sometimes collide with the realities of life. There isn’t much we can do about that, and there is little point in allowing that frustration to undermine the possibilities of tomorrow. When you fall down, you pick yourself up and carry on. That is living! My goals and plans for January can carry over to February and the months that follow. The first month of the year might have been a write-off, but every day is an opportunity to start fresh.

Covid Update

My regional health authority declared me free to end my isolation last Friday. It’s now been just over two weeks since I started feeling sick, and, while I definitely feel much improved since then, I still do not feel 100%. The headache/brain fog is less but still there. Nasal congestion is still present but doesn’t obstruct my breathing. I have a mild cough that makes an appearance sporadically through the day, and a little bit of exertion can leave me feeling too hot, a bit winded, shaky and fatigued. I did end up losing my sense of smell, but I think it might be slowly returning as I could kind of smell my dinner last night. All in all though, I would say that my case of Covid-19 was a mild one. My only real concern at this point is how long these milder symptoms will linger.

I still have no idea where I might have got the virus. Although it can take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear after contracting the virus, the science shows that the average is 5 to 6 days. When I look at the week prior to the start of my symptoms, I don’t really see a lot of opportunity for exposure, and the week before that was equally uneventful. I worked a total of 5 days within those two weeks, always masked and washing/sanitizing hands. I went to the gym four times in the two weeks, again always masked and sanitizing hands and equipment and never within six feet of anyone else. Aside from work and the gym, my only outings were to a few stores, probably not even a handful, and always masked and so on. We didn’t socialize, and we didn’t eat out. Unless my husband got it from one of his customers, which might be possible but also unlikely as he doesn’t typically spend much time with them, we simply have no idea how we got Covid-19.

The whole experience has been interesting though, and it has certainly illuminated some differences between what we are told through media and what actually happens in real life. My case was milder. My husband’s was a bit worse but still not all that bad. He did need to go to the Emergency department last week, because his breathing did not sound very good during a follow up call from our health authority. The nurse on the phone talked to me and told me to call the hospital to let them know that my husband was coming in and had Covid. So, I called the hospital, got transferred to the ER, and explained the situation to the woman on the other end. Her tone came across as uninterested and annoyed, and she informed me that it was not necessary to call ahead, that all patients are triaged and Covid patients get separated. After a chest x-ray, he was given an antibiotic and sent back home and has improved since then. While the care my husband was given in the ER was pleasant and attentive (or as attentive as it could be due to other factors), I personally found my brief conversation with the ER staff member to be frustrating. Why are people told to call medical facilities in advance if those medical facilities don’t want to receive advance warning?

The whole contact tracing thing feels kind of like a joke, at least from where I am sitting. Maybe it would be different if I had been at a party or had recently returned from some exotic vacation or if I worked in a school or something, but the only questions asked of me that could in any way be considered contact tracing were: Had I recently travelled out of country or had direct contact with someone who had? and Did I have direct contact with someone who had recently tested positive for Covid-19? The only contact tracing is really about who I might have passed the virus to in the two days before my symptoms began. I understand that how I got infected might not be nearly as important as who I might have infected, but there is something about it that just feels a tad off. Maybe it is simply a matter of manpower or perhaps it is pandemic fatigue. I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t even matter.

Body temperature, while not the only factor, is something that my workplace requires us to check before starting our shift. I have no idea how many workplaces have been or still are using temperature checks, but I do know that at least some medical offices perform a temperature check on patients prior to an appointment. This is because a fever is often a sign of illness and, more specifically, Covid-19. Understandable and I have no issues with taking my temperature at work. But here’s the thing…I haven’t had a fever at any point in time over the past two weeks. Quite honestly, I haven’t had a fever for years, but that’s not the point. Everyone is hyper focused on having a fever, yet we know that not everyone has the exact same symptoms or severity and some are asymptomatic. At my job, we have a checklist we go through in addition to taking our temperature, and that makes sense. The checklist asks about other symptoms and contacts that can still wave a warning flag, even if your temperature does not, which is quite unlike my daughter’s experience with an ENT last summer. My daughter’s temperature was taken and was allegedly a little high. Even though she had no other symptoms and no reason to think she was sick, her appointment was instantly cancelled because the receptionist said she had a “fever.” We got home from that appointment and checked her temperature; it was fine. My daughter checked her temperature every day until her rebooked appointment…no fever. Fast forward to a little more than two weeks ago, I could have walked into that ENT office and had an appointment, even though I was in fact already infected with Covid. Does that seem off to you, or is it just me? I have no issue with wanting to ensure someone isn’t sick, but how can you focus on one symptom when that symptom is not always present?

At any rate, I do not return to work until next Monday and I am thankful for that. Today, in this moment, I am feeling pretty decent. The headache is mild and the brain fog has thinned out a bit, at least until I get up to make dinner. Most of my nose-blowing seems to take place in the morning or evening. Same with the cough. So, I’m just going to take this last week to keep resting and healing.