If you type in “post” to the Google search button the first thing that pops up is “post-covid syndrome”, the very FIRST thing. That should say something about the crazy train ride that many of us are still on with this thing we call COVID.
In 2019-2020 we saw COVID march across the planet, one area at a time obliterating and upending “life” everywhere. No one was exempt from COVID then, or now. 2021 brings us the “new” Delta variant which is now making its’ way around the United States and the rest of the world. Once again, we are hunkering down for another round of ‘Rona, and if truth be told, I am tired of “her”.
I am still dealing with round 1 of ‘Rona.
For much of 2021, my daily life has been “fine” and ‘Rona is more of a bad memory with a few lingering annoyances in the form of feet, hands, arm, and elbow pain. Every morning, the simple exercise of bending my elbow to drink my coffee is a battle of mind over matter. Of course, if I stress my body too much then body tremors will set in as a bit of a reminder that I have “overdone it”. Clearly, these tremors have “something” to do with “possible, undetectable” nerve damage to my nerve pathways; and no pun intended, they are very unnerving. Again, they have improved but anytime I push my body in any physical capacity, the tremors emerge.
The ringing in my ears also increases with exhaustion or fatigue, and the worst of it; “POTS-like syndrome” symptoms. The simple task of bending over, getting up too quickly, or for no reason at all becomes a race of willpower to not pass out. The battle between my brain telling my body to behave and my body telling my brain to get into the backseat ensues which usually ends with my body winning.
The “Long Haulers”
For me and many like myself, we now fall into the “COVID Long Haulers” category with the primary diagnosis being “no one has ANY idea”. Physicians are stumped. Neurologists are stumped. Scientists are stumped. I have had every test possible and I would like to take this moment to brag, I am completely healthy! Yet, I am not. The only solace? I am not alone as I know that my fellow long-haulers understand, yet I feel alone. Friends and family are sympathetic, my primary care provider is amazing, willing to run tests or order medications to offset symptoms.
While all of that is great, it doesn’t help the longing I feel as I see neighbors jogging by my house or whizzing by on their bikes, I want to BE THEM! For me, getting through a 40-hour workweek proved nothing short of a marathon. The greater frustration; I love my current job but my body will not tolerate it. This lead to the decision to look for less physically stressful work.
COVID has most definitely upended my life. However, I often remind myself that I am one of the “lucky” COVID survivors.
Being in the health field my biggest, never-ending question becomes WHY? Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn, an Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Preventive, Occupational, and Aerospace Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester in this video; and Dr. Ravindra Ganesh, Medical Director Post-COVID-19 Care Clinic, Mayo Clinic in this video discuss post-COVID syndrome effects and possible treatment options. Clearly, much is still to be learned.
Many people afflicted with the post-covid syndrome have had every conventional diagnostic test done with the same diagnosis: healthy. This is both good news and bad news. I am relieved there is nothing diagnostically wrong with me. However, I am also frustrated with the “flares” that set me back and require me to alter my daily life routines.
In the above video, Dr. Ganesh discusses retraining the brain to help calm the central nervous system to “quiet” the “fight or flight” response that our bodies get stuck in. so to speak.
My personal research (ahem, Google) offered some additional insight. Our childhood was very dysfunctional. Our mother was a “raging alcoholic” who went into fits of rage while projecting a tirade of physical and emotional abuse. This resulted in a state of “hypervigilance” which led to a constant state of “fight or flight”. Clearly, not everyone that is dealing with post-covid syndrome has grown up in these circumstances. However, the link to a chronically heightened state seems a perfect prelude to host a virus that has been shown to attack the central nervous system in millions of people, either acutely or chronically.
There is a pain so utter that it swallows substance up
Then covers the abyss with trance—
So memory can step around—across—upon it
As one within a swoon goes safely where an open-eye would drop him—
Bone by bone
Emily Dickinson sums up beautifully the idea that our bodies and minds are amazing machines! To remember that all machines need maintenance and vigilance to keep them running smoothly is key to our health. The idea of retraining our brains to accept the present, work with it, and then supersede it, provides hope for recovery.
There is pain so utter that it swallows substance up
Then covers the abyss with trance-
So memory can step around-across-upon it
As one within a swoon goes safely where an open-eye would drop him-
Bone by Bone
Hope is a powerful tool if you let it in.