‘I thought it was allergies. It started with a dry cough and the slightest tickle in my throat. I didn’t think twice.’: Woman explains how to navigate coronavirus diagnosis while battling anxiety

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“When you have a generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder like I do, you are constantly catastrophizing every situation.  One of the worst-case scenarios in this pandemic was, in fact, contracting COVID-19. Well, guess what, I have anxiety and I got coronavirus.  Aside from anxiety, I am young, healthy, and without any known coronavirus risk factors living that single girl life in Chicago (aka, living in pure isolation!).  Here is my ongoing journey both physically and mentally through coronavirus.

Initial Onset

On Thursday, March 19, I started with a dry cough that lingered all day.  It had come seemingly out of nowhere, and it was accompanied by just the slightest tickle in my throat.  It was a warmer day in Chicago, so frankly, I just thought it was allergies and didn’t think twice about it.

When I woke up Friday morning, I had a low fever – around 99.7 – and started to have some sinus pressure.  Again, all signs kind of pointed towards allergies for me, but coronavirus did start to cross my mind. By Friday night, I could barely sleep because I had such intense lower back pain.  I thought it was from the power flow yoga class I had done that morning, but the pain was quite prevalent. When I woke up on Saturday morning, my temperature was back to normal and I felt much better. Yay! A fluke, I thought. Anxiety meter: 3.

Courtesy of Nicole Webber

Days 3-5

On Sunday, day 3, I knew I had the dreaded coronavirus.  My fever spiked to 101, the low back pain had progressed to aches throughout my entire body, and the sinus pressure was so intense without any relief of sneezing or a runny nose.  I also became increasingly fatigued and occasionally a little nauseous. When I went to eat dinner that night, I had also fully lost my sense of smell and couldn’t taste the delivered pizza I was so excited about.  I was still in a bit of disbelief, but I was certain that this was coronavirus.

Days 4 and 5 continued with the same symptoms.  I spent the entire 48 hours sleeping and force-feeding myself bone broth and fluids.  The hours I was awake were spent taking Tylenol to reduce my fever and warm Epsom salt baths to ease the aches.  At the time, I did not have any breathing issues, but I reached out to my doctor just as a precaution. Her advice was to manage the symptoms at home, if I could, since I did not qualify for a test, because of my age, health, and lack of risk factors. She also reiterated the risk of infecting others en-route to the hospital was high.  It was frustrating to not even be considered for a test, but I understood with the limited testing it should be for those above 60 and at higher risk than me.

I really disengaged from the news and social media during this time and turned towards positive reinforcement from loved ones.  I am fortunate to have such a strong support system of both family and friends who checked up on me every single day, especially being that I live alone.  I did my best to focus on positivity, not letting myself become overly anxious, and resting. Anxiety meter: 6. I was anxious but too sick to be panicking.

Courtesy of Nicole Webber

Days 7-9

The trajectory of this virus is a rollercoaster.  On day 6, the following Wednesday, my fever broke, the aches were starting to subside, and I was starting to feel better.  Then, on day 7, a new wave of symptoms came. In addition to the overall sinus pressure and dryness caused by the virus, it had moved into my chest for the first time and it felt like there were a ton of bricks laying on me. I felt like I couldn’t take a full, deep breath. This is when I got scared, and I started having panic attacks. I got on the phone with a friend who had recently recovered from COVID and she reassured me that she had similar symptoms, and while they were scary, she was OK, and she was sure I would be too. I also had a 20-minute phone call with my doctor, who I have a great relationship with.  We discussed my symptoms and what the next steps should be if things worsened, which thankfully, they did not.

These days were the scariest for me, because I was in a clearer state of mind without a fever, and it was a waiting game to see if my symptoms were going to get any worse and if I would need to seek medical care.  I had to rely on Xanax because the panic attacks were making everything worse, and I couldn’t clearly monitor my symptoms. These days I continued my routine of rest (thanks to the Xanax), Epsom salt baths, and added in a humidifier and diffusing essential oils at night, which helped me a lot.  Although I was isolated, I was constantly speaking with family and friends and I truly never felt alone. Anxiety meter: 1 million.

Courtesy of Nicole Webber

Day 10 and On

On day 10, I decided to share via social media that I had coronavirus.  I intentionally waited that long because I didn’t want anyone’s reactions to scare me.  By day 10, my chest heaviness had lightened. I felt like I was finally on the road to recovery and could safely say I had turned a corner.  I still could not smell or taste a thing, but I hadn’t had a fever in days, the sinus pressure was getting a little better, and my breathing was improving.  Between days 10 through 14, it was basically another rollercoaster of one day feeling good and one day feeling not so good – frustrating, to say the least! By day 13 I started to get my sense of smell back, and my taste is currently slowly coming back as well.  I still need to have that pizza.

It’s been many days since my first coronavirus symptom and I’m still not 100%.  Although I am recovering, my anxiety is lingering. My anxiety tends to react stronger to the trauma of an event after the fact.  It helps that I am back to work (remotely) and can implement some sort of routine to my day. I am slowly incorporating easy at-home workouts into my daily routine, doing virtual therapy appointments, and watching happy TV to distract myself.  I am still in constant contact with friends and family via text and FaceTime. Now that my breathing is better, I’ve incorporated a lot of guided meditations and breathing exercises to reduce my anxiety as well. With so much uncertainty and being without my normal routine, it’s been challenging to get my anxiety lower and while it’s a work in progress, these things have helped.

I write this to say that even as a young healthy person, this virus is no joke and should be taken very seriously.  I’m also writing because I am sure that I am not the first anxious person to be infected with COVID-19 and I will also not be the last. It is my hope that my story can be a comfort to anyone who is going through this while feeling the stress of existing anxiety.  We are in this together and thanks to our amazing healthcare professionals, we will see the other side of this.”

Courtesy of Nicole Webber

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nicole Webber of Chicago, Illinois. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here.

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