photo credit Harvard Health
It all started December 7, 2021—at least for me. Leading up to that Tuesday, the prior week had been a bit stressful. With the anticipation and demands of the holidays; and coming off of Thanksgiving's pre and post-testing for COVID—I thought I'd skated by on the pandemic thin ice. I was scheduling my booster, especially since I hoped to see my daughter and her boyfriend for Christmas. This would be their first Christmas in a new apartment back in her hometown of Brooklyn, and we were all so excited to get together after this long past year. Then I tested positive for COVID—shit.
With the numbers rising as flu season and the holidays were setting in, I took all precautions against getting the virus. Masking up, social distancing, washing my hands, fully vaccinated, and committed to getting my booster—still, I tested positive. I was curious which strain I had contracted. Was it COVID-19, Delta, or Omicron—a breakthrough case? Did it matter? Details of which virus strains anyone of us may have are only available at the research level, citing the complexity of genomic sequencing of the virus, thus leaving each of us who've tested positive a bit in the dark. So in the dark, we sit, symptoms varying. I was fortunate not to experience a respiratory strain. My COVID symptoms were/are primarily neurological—killer COVID headaches and fatigue. As if I didn't already have enough challenges with stress-induced anxiety and depression—remember I am looking for a new job: let's now layer on a virus with crushing cluster headaches for the holidays. Again, shit.
As reported by the CDC, their most recent 7-day tracker tells us (as of the week ending 12/17) the average daily new cases before Christmas was 120,000+, with over 50+ million cases reported in the United States since the start of the pandemic. You all already know this—it's all over the daily news. We won't see CDC recorded holiday numbers until January 7, 2022. I guess even the CDC tracker needs a break! What we can do in the meantime is follow the guidelines, please. Get your shots, wear a colorful mask to make others smile, wash your grubby little germ-filled hands, and social distance where and when you can. Science proves it saves lives.
How's it all going here? Well, it's been a bit of a roller-coaster—ups and downs—a mash-up like these lawn lights that my sister was convinced is an intentional artistic display. I found them more random and unsuspecting like COVID.
My body and CDC recommendations said hunker down. Ten days of mandatory isolation was the worst—bringing up historic trauma—a right hook straight out of left-field, even as I knew I wasn't alone in the mental health complications. With loving support from friends and family—all hoping I would quickly recover and still make Christmas in Brooklyn (NYC), I did the best I could. Meditation helped: whether sitting with a Zoom group in the early mornings, walking alone by the shore, or on the neighboring golf course. The fresh air in my lungs and a pause to look up to the sky left me feeling grounded in knowing; I am a speck in a much larger sphere of life. When you breathe in that awareness, there is immediate ease—I am not alone is a gift of peace from all the feelings. Sleeping with my head on a heating pad and ibuprofen helped immensely. Taking lots of natural immune system boosters (Rose Hip C, Echinacea, Cataplex G, and Lion's Mane for the brain/nervous system) and drinking cup after cup of hot chamomile tea with raw honey and lemon helped too. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate is my knew mantra; and an anti-inflammatory diet (no processed foods or refined sugar) prescribed by my doctor and a fellow long-haul COVID friend have been key in my recovery over these past few weeks. It is all working, and I am grateful. It is just a bit slower than I would have liked—and like many this holiday season, I missed Christmas with the ones I love most. Sometimes, I wonder, will this all ever end? Is this the forever new normal existence? Watching apocalyptic movies like Don't Look Up doesn't help, except to remind me to count my blessings instead of the deficits. That film is another mash-up mess. Instead indulge in the magical childhood story of A Boy Called Christmas. It will give you hope. Vanessa Williams Christmas concert played on YouTube across the TV screen—a Christmas day tradition, and there were lots of FaceTime calls with the NY crew to share in the festivities even if from afar. Cooking the holiday dinner for my savior sister who lives next door, was comforting—although we had to isolate ourselves again as she had been directly exposed just two days before Christmas. After dinner, I suggested we drive in our separate cars and take in the holiday lights for at least a tiny bit of cheer. That worked wonders! We talked with each other over our phones, laughing as we oohed and aahed at the ones we loved, then offering suggestions around uniformity, at least I did, on the chaotic explosions in yards like the one above. We laughed harder. My favorite scene reminded me: even in this upended world we are living in, that with a little intention, you can find grace in the craziness. So here's my grown-up post-Christmas COVID wish—may you all find precious moments of peace on this earth with those you love this holiday season. And for good measure listen to a surprise performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony Ode to Joy—you'll feel so much better! Merry post-COVID Christmas.