Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler.
Lindsey is perhaps the most positive person I’e ever met. I worked with her for about six or seven years last decade, and I watched as she smiled her way into a management position. Every single thing was met with an overly enthusiastic smile, and when she would walk away her ponytail would swing back and forth like she was Jan Brady thinking about George Glass.
I’m quite convinced you could kill Lindsey’s dog in front of her and she’d find some reason to thank you while flashing those pearly whites.
Then there’s me. While I am certainly not an eeyore …
… never have I been accused of being overly positive. Quite the contrary, I was raised to be a worrier, always on guard for the person out there who was going to try to put one over on me or for the next bad thing that was going to happen. Whether it’s nature or nurture doesn’t matter; the reality is, I’m not exactly a glass-half-full kinda guy.
My view of the world tends to skew toward the opinion that we’re having the wrong debate. This isn’t a matter of perception over whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. That glass is only a quarter full — at best — and those who can’t see that aren’t paying close enough attention to exactly how crappy human beings tend to be to each other.
In the span of a week, I’ve had two people whom I would consider knowledgeable in neuroscience tell me that, if I truly want to recover from this Longhauler stuff, I have to be positive. Not surprisingly, I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around this.
The essence of what these two people are trying to say is that the mind can help itself and the body heal by believing healing is occurring. Academically, I do believe this. I’m all about the mind-body connection. But practically? As it applies to this situation? I know I’m not the only Longhauler in the midst of this slog who has some trouble believing this is all going to turn out OK.
One of the people who talked with me about the power of positivity also asked me this question: What does life look like on the other side of this? I was speechless for a good 10 seconds, which is quite a long time for me when I’m engaged in an intellectual discussion. I had not once thought about the “other side of this” precisely because I don’t know that there is an “other side of this.” I know not one Longhauler who is now symptom-free, not one person who was a Longhauler and now is not. I imagine those people might be out there, but I haven’t met any.
Were I positive, I might believe that I will be the first person I know who will exit the ranks of Longhaulers, the one guy in my life who no longer will have symptoms come back for no reason and knock me off the perch where I sit today — feeling relatively clear-headed, energetic and mostly symptom-free. Someone’s gotta be first. Why not me?
Because the odds of that happening are astronomically large, the true me replies. Why you? Why not one of the other Longhaulers you’ve met, one of the folks who have suffered longer or greater than you?
The two people I talked with about this seemingly automatic response to attempted positivity would say that my attitude is precisely what ensures I won’t be the lucky one — or at least part of the reason why.
Of all the things I value in people, one of the top traits is authenticity. I have an exceedingly sharp bullshit detector and often have seen through people’s well-designed smokescreens meant to obscure their true nature long before others do. And if I’m going to value authenticity in others so strongly, I need to put the same standards on myself.
That means I am 100 percent against “fake it ’til you make it” and “put on a happy face.” I know and understand how completely annoying this is to people who love me, but I would much rather be authentically miserable than inauthentically happy. I’d much rather people see the real and ugly me than some plastic, fake version.
So when we’re talking about being positive in the face of the grind that is Longhaul COVID, well, I’m struggling to find the line between positive and delusional.
I totally understand the danger here. I get that by essentially saying, “i’ll be positive when there’s a reason to be positive,” there might not ever be a reason to be positive. I believe in the idea that being positive could help give me a reason to be positive. But actually being positive? Well…
The person I talked to challenged me to look at my situation a little differently. She asked me to not look at things in the day-to-day or week-to-week but rather compare how I am now to how I was back in, say, February or March.
Those were dark times, my friends. Back then, I couldn’t get through a day without significant rest periods and at least one lengthy nap. Now, even on bad days, I don’t need to do all that much resting or napping, and on good days I have enough energy to function pretty much like a mostly normal person.
Back then, I was sleeping maybe four hours a night. Now I’m sleeping six or seven, though the quality remains poor and we’re still trying to get this whole sleep apnea thing under control.
Back then, I regularly would get winded by climbing the stairs. Now, that rarely happens, and I recently went to a St. Louis Cardinals game with no problems walking from the parking area a half-mile away from the stadium all the way to our upper-deck seats. Just a few months ago that journey required a slow pace, a few stops and wrecked me for the next two or three days.
Yes, some symptoms remain — hand pain, a foul taste in my mouth, random brain fog — but some are gone. I don’t remember the last time my heart went all jiggy for no apparent reason.
So there have been improvements. And, said this person who challenged me, if improvements can happen, doesn’t that at least leave open the possibility for the fact that future improvements could happen — improvements up to and including having no Longhauler symptoms?
Sure. Sure it does. That’s logical and doesn’t require me playing fantasy world or be annoyingly optimistic about everything like Lindsey. I have gotten better in some ways, so I definitely could continue to get better and eventually be better.
It’s possible. For me. For you. For all of us Longhaulers.
Of that, I’m positively hopeful.
More From ‘Longhauler: A COVID Diary’
Time is a fascinating concept to me. I’ve written about it before, but it just seems so arbitrary sometimes. It amazes me how we can suck at it so badly that we have to add an entire extra day every four years to keep our system going — and no one really bats an eye. […]
By the middle of 2021, I was, in a word, fat. Not the cool kind of fat, as in phat, but just plain-old fat. In the middle of my battle with Longhaul Covid and following a course of Hail-Mary high-dose steroids to fix a Longhauler mouth issue that remains to this day, I punished my […]
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩A Year of Hell 😷Where’s Ben? 💔Profiting From Pollution 🏭 Happy Covidaversary to me. On this day one year ago, I had a Q-tip shoved up my nose to confirm what I already knew. Wifey Poo’s sister had been diagnosed with it. Wifey Poo’s mother had been diagnosed with it. Wifey […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. There are times in a person’s life in which he finds himself wondering how he got where he is. I remember feeling that way as I sat in my dorm room before freshman year started at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, more than 1,000 […]
Hi, my name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I finally have had enough. I have sat in my workspace and listened to a coworker talk incessantly about why she wouldn’t be vaccinated against COVID despite being in the demographic of people who die most frequently from it. It was always the same twisted […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. To tell someone suffering from a chronic illness such as Longhaul COVID that “This too shall pass” is to invite a punch to the throat. The origins of this phrase are sketchy. Those of the Christian persuasion often like to trot it out in an […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Saturday was a really, really good day that capped off a really, really good week. Ever since I changed my diet after visiting a functional medicine doctor, I had been feeling so much better than I have since November, when the COVID Fairy visited our […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. When the coronavirus epidemic shut down the country in March 2020, Kent Taylor refused to accept his base salary as chief executive officer of Texas Roadhouse restaurants and instead poured that money back into his frontline restaurant workers to help them stay financially afloat. A […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. It was a quarter ’til why-do-they-start-school-so-early on a Monday morning, and I was about to kick Mike Tyson’s ass. Of course, if history was any indication, what really was about to happen was the separation of my head from my shoulders. That’s what had happened […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I have never and likely will never meet Jeremy Devine. Nor will most of you. Yet that doesn’t stop me from thinking it wouldn’t be an entirely bad thing were he to stumble into a honey-laden pit and become the object of intense interest for […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. There are several truths in my family, among them: When my wife says we’re leaving someplace in 10 minutes, go ahead and get comfortable because she means an hour. At least. My youngest son is biologically unable to close the front door without force he […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. It’s an odd thing to one minute be talking about your childhood and the next be telling the same person how many bowel movements you have in the average day. Of course, the field of functional medicine — and its practitioners — are, by many, […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I read a book this weekend. Well, more accurately, I read 12 pages of a book. This is neither a monumental accomplishment in the history of the world, nor a monumental accomplishment in the history of me. It is monumental for Me-Right-Now. Prior to becoming […]
Dieudonne became a part of our household amidst chaos, grief and weariness. Objectively speaking, it wasn’t a good time for us to welcome a 4-year-old with medical issues who didn’t speak a word of English. Of course, waiting for a “good time” to tackle that challenge is much like saying, “We’ll have kids when we’re […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I’m quite convinced that most adults have at least one of “those stories.” You know what I’m talking about… the stories that gets rehashed ad nauseum every time the family gathers, no matter how old you are. Of course, never do these stories showcase your […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I can do stuff. Some of it, I can do easily all the time. Some of it, I can do easily some of the time. Some of it, I can even do with excellence. Just about every Longhauler has days, hours or minutes when they’re […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Looking back, it’s clear when this little trend started. It was back in January, which, not surprisingly, is when it first hit me that no one knew what the fuck they were talking about with my Longhaul symptoms. It’s also when my father-in-law died. And […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Over in another part of this site, you can meet my California relative, Q.F. Conseco. His branch of the family tree is by far the most interesting to sprout in at least the past 500 years — and as the family genealogist, I should know. […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Many people honestly struggle to see the world through anything other than their own filters. People believe the world is a certain way because their world is a certain way. If you want Reason No. 1 for why things suck, there ya have it. The […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. It is a fact that I would be a 46-year-old high school junior if not for Amanda Bortz. To put it mildly, me and chemistry did not get along, a byproduct of my inability to grasp math once letters said, “We’d like to play, too!” […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Come with me on a journey through time… Way back in the early days of the plague, back when the number of people in the country who had it was in the hundreds and the number of people who had died from it was in […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. And I’m about to lose my shit. Here’s the truth: I am about to break. And the scary thing is, I can feel it. The tiny fissures are becoming spiderweb cracks in my foundation — my brain, my heart, my lungs. Of course, there’s the […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. My son talks a big game. The entire two-hour drive from our then-home in extremely rural Missouri to Six Flags near St. Louis, Joey bravely stated how much he was looking forward to going on American Thunder. From the back seat of my sensible sedan, […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. So let’s put this all out there. All of us. Collectively. As Longhaulers. Let’s just list it all. Everything. All the symptoms. Oh, I’ve seen this list: And then I’ve read of about a dozen or two or ten more from fellow Longhaulers. I’ll add […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Six tiny white pills are piled here on the desk next to me this morning, and I’m going to take them. These pills and their brethren in the safety-capped orange bottle next to them represent what very well might be my last hope to fix […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. It was jarring to be back in a doctor’s office waiting room today, to hand over my insurance card and driver’s license to be copied, to fill out the paperwork answering questions that were just going to be asked again by a nurse and then […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. This morning on my 41-minute drive to work, I was a different person. Two people, actually. Bad versions of those two people, to be exact. The year was 1992, and something big was happening for 18-year-old me. High school had just become part of my […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I was late to the game for the TV show “House,” but I caught up quickly. I love the concept of the flawed hero, and Dr. Gregory House is definitely one of those. Absolutely brilliant, he is recognized and grudgingly accepted as The Man when […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Driving down a rain-soaked highway, the morning sun cutting through angry black clouds at a severe angle. Cars flying past me on the left, doing far more than the 7 mph over the speed limit I do because I have one of those insurance company […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. So before we begin, let me set the scene a bit by saying this: Toxic optimism is annoying. Christian toxic optimism is even worse. I have suffered for extended periods of time under more than a few clouds without a lining of any remotely precious […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. “Your insurance doesn’t cover it, so it’ll be $90 if you want it,” said the kind young woman who would be present as a tooth was ripped from my jaw for the first time since I was a tween, back before “tween” was even a […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I sat in my car as the late-morning sun warmed the interior, the only sound the soft purr of my Nissan Versa’s unimpressive engine. And I thought: “I think that’s it. I think I’m just … done.” I had spent the past 45 minutes inside […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I have never wanted so badly to have a cavity. Or an impacted wisdom tooth (whatever that is). Or need a root canal. No sane person ever wants these things. Longhaul COVID has a way of chipping away at a person’s sanity. As I recently […]
HI. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. The most powerful force on the planet has nothing to do with gravity, the ever-changing magnetic poles, love or faith in a deity. Not even close. Rather, the most powerful force on the planet is your tongue’s need to probe any place in your mouth […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. It takes a lot to get me outwardly, visibly angry. This is not to say that I don’t have a temper or that things don’t piss me off. They do. I’m just fantastic at turning those emotions inward to avoid unnecessary confrontations and to not […]
Hi. My name is John, and I am a COVID Longhauler. By the time the doctor came into the closet-like exam room in a non-descript medical building that is part of an enormous hospital complex, I was done. Fried. Finished. He stood in the doorway for a moment as I sat in a chair with […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. Her name is Sarah and she lives across an ocean and the only reason I know her at all is because, despite a thousand differences, she now is a lot like me. Or I am a lot like her. Whatever. We are both Longhaulers. Sarah […]
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 […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I am blessed to have a really good feel for people. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but I just know someone’s nature instinctively. Rarely … very rarely … am I ever off in my initial impression of someone. I don’t even have […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I grew up in the suburbs of New York City, a white middle class kid in a mostly white school district. And I loved the emerging 1980s East Coast rap scene. Run DMC? Yes please. Beastie Boys? Uh, yes! In this, I was not unlike […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. I hate you, CNN. I hate you for many reasons, of course. You pioneered the 24-hour news cycle, which is what kicked off the degradation of journalism because, with all those hours to fill, you turned to people who could squawk the loudest for the […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. So this afternoon I go to see an actual doctor at an actual doctor’s office. He will look into my actual eyes, the ones that once were a sparkling and dazzling green (if I do say so meownself) but now are shadowed by dark circles […]
Hi. My name is John. And I’m a COVID Longhauler. If you missed the first part of this series, well, that’s fine with me, but you might want to read it for a little background. I’ve even made this a hyperlink so you don’t have to do any searching around, because, hey, I’m just that […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler. My earliest symptom of COVID was this horrible, disgusting, metallic taste in my mouth. Before the exhaustion, before the brain fog, before the positive test, there was this invasion that made me feel like I had some sort of liquid, nasty, blech squishing from my […]
Hi. My name is John, and I’m a Longhauler. “So there it is. It’s right there on the end table. It’s, like, two feet away from your hand. You know you want it. You know you need it. Just reach out and grab it.” The “it” is a water bottle. And it is mocking me. […]
Hi, my name is John, and I’m a Longhauler. Today we’re going to start the list of “Five Things Longhaulers Hate to Hear.” So here’s the deal: People mean well. They do. I’ve been through some pretty bad stuff in my life, and I know that, when confronted with a difficult situation, good people stay […]
“It’s inevitable, and it’s not going to be good.” There was a certain moment in October when I remember feeling in my soul that I would get COVID. While I was being safe, wearing a mask, yada yada yada, there were loved ones around me who, since the start of the pandemic, played things anywhere […]