Hi. My name is John, and I have Longhaul COVID.
It’s 4:15 p.m., and I shouldn’t be writing this. I should be resting. My body is screaming at me to rest. But right now? Screw you, body. I’m writing this.
One of my Longhaul COVID symptoms is insomnia, so I was awake this morning at 3:30, fell back to sleep around 4:15 and got up for good at 5 a.m. I had a pretty involved medical test that started at 8 a.m. to determine if there’s something wrong with my adrenal glands that is causing all this fatigue and assorted other crap. The nurse was kind, but someone must have pissed her off because of the four sticks she gave me — one for an IV and three to draw blood — exactly 100 percent of them felt like she was rummaging around my veins with a crazy straw. And on top of that, as she’s adding the injection to my IV, she says, “This might make you feel a bit nauseous.” Well, that’s not true. What she actually said was, “This might make you feel a bit nau…” Because at that exact moment I felt not just a bit nau but a lot nau and almost yacked in my mask, which really would have tied a nice, neat bow on the whole Longhaul COVID experience so far.
Alas, I kept my chunks from flying. It’s the small wins that make up a good life.
Anywho, I got done with that test around 10, was finally able to eat something and have my coffee (both no-no’s before the “a bit nau…” test). Then I climbed the stairs to my Mancave/home office (out of breath at the top of the stairs, because Longhaul COVID) and started to work. And I just now did my last work thing for the day.
“But John!” you say. “You were able to work from 10:30 to 4:15? That’s amazing!” Oh you stupid little person. Of course I wasn’t able to do that. I had to take a break at around 11:30, a break in which I fell into a deep, exhaustive sleep until 12:45 p.m. I then ate lunch and got back to work. And then my brain started to feel as if it wanted to fall out of my right ear. So I stopped from 2:30 until 3. Feeling secure that my brain would, in fact, not leak out of my ear, I then worked from 3 until 4:15.
And now I am Longhaul COVID Exhausted. We’ll call it “LEC” for short. Why? Well, I made “Longhaul” into one word for the purposes of this blog, and there’s really no one to stop me from coining other terms. So LEC it is.
For me, LEC starts around my eyes. It feels as if the entire area encompassing my eyes, eye sockets, cheeks and forehead are warm and sinking. Yes, sinking.
It’s like that section of my face is falling deeper into my head. And if I talk to someone, I’m never quite sure what words are going to come out of my mouth. I might want to say “retirement” and say “restaurant” instead. Isn’t that just hilarious? But I thought I said “retirement,” so I’m not always quite sure why the person with whom I’m talking is looking at me strangely. Or sometimes I will recognize that I said “restaurant.” And then I’ll feel frustrated and angry and sad and embarrassed. So I tend to talk a lot less in the afternoons these days.
As I’m writing this, I am slouched in my chair because what my LEC-ravaged body is telling me to do is “SLEEP! SLEEP YOU IDIOT! SLEEP!” A-ha! No, I will NOT sleep. Not yet! Because people need to know what this is really like. Everyone needs to know what this is really like, but those who especially need to know what this is really like are those who are not exactly persuaded by the HALF-A-MILLION DEATHS that this whole virus thing really sucks, and while I don’t care about your risky behavior if all it means is that you are going to feel like I do or maybe even die, I do care that you don’t care about making other people feel like I do or maybe even die.
(Phew. Now that was a sentence. I feel mildly better now.)
You see, I wake up every morning (often at an ungodly hour) knowing that I have a battle in front of me. I have to find some way to balance the responsibilities of being a husband, father, host parent, kickass storyteller, social media manager, marketing executive without the title, graphic designer, workplace culture shaper, internal communicator, team builder, basketball coach, totally-not-geeky D&D player, restorative yoga participant, et al all with, sometimes randomly but often quite predictably, being knocked on my ass and needing to do what I should be doing now: Rest. Oh, and I do it all with this horrible taste in my mouth and this feeling that I have some gooey film on my teeth and in my mouth that — hey, how about this for awesome — doesn’t really appear to be there. Yeah. Nice.
And here’s the thing: I am doing it damn well, if I do say so myself. But man, is it hard.
So as my eye area sinks into my head and random wrong words come out of my mouth, there is this desire to want everything to just … stop. All noises. All smells. All light. I am a pretty physical person with those who I allow close to me, but at these times, I don’t want anyone to touch me. I just need all sensory input to cease. So if I’m smart, I’ll fill a bath tub and soak. Because that actually sometimes helps. I’ll sit there and sometimes I’ll sip a glass of whiskey (Oh, shut up. You would too if you had all this crap) and I’ll just… be.
I have known “tired” in my life. I have had mono. I have had Lyme’s Disease. I have thalassemia. I have dealt with the tragedy of losing my son and been tormented for years after that by the dreams that would end any thought of sleeping again that night. I am well acquainted with feeling tired.
But this isn’t tired. This is exhaustion. This is LEC. This is hitting a point in which the actual act of remaining awake is not an option. I am blessed with a great co-worker who let me in on a little secret about a place where I can go and fall into blissful unconsciousness for a while so I can feel just a bit better and continue with my day. And I am blessed with a boss and other co-workers who understand that if I disappear for a while, that’s what I’m doing, that this isn’t a choice, that I would gladly trade all of this with anyone who would even dare suggest that somehow I am shirking my responsibilities. I am also blessed by the fact that I have always been able to do good work fast, so, somehow, the quality and quantity of my work remains high.
Yet I am exhausted. Right now, I am exhausted. I am freaking L.E.C.
And here’s the thing: I know I’m going to make it. I’ll rest. I’ll get that little bit of extra juice I need to be all the roles that I need to be tonight for all the people who look to me to be those things.
Then, around 10 or 10:30, I’ll go to sleep. And the morning will come, most likely ungodly early.
And I’ll have to do it all over again.