Of all the household tasks, perhaps the most vexing is the putting on of the duvet cover. For those who don’t know, the duvet cover is a giant pillowcase-type-thing that goes on a down (or whatever) quilt. But unlike a pillow, the down duvet has no body to it, no structure, so you’re basically just jamming marshmallows into a bag and hoping it ends up flat. Or something.
There was a day, post Covid infection, when I thought I should change the sheets. I have always taken sheet changing and a desire to shower as the official end of sickness, a time to shake off the infection and start anew. In the winter, I don’t use a top sheet, preferring a bottom sheet and then a duvet (ok, two duvets, I’m a cold sleeper, you caught me). So when I changed the fitted sheet, I also changed out the bottom duvet cover, which meant I had to put a new one on.
I laid the clean duvet cover out on my bed, inside out and methodically laid the duvet on top. I thought long and hard about which corner I would hold onto, while flipping the duvet cover right side out and pulling the
marshmallows duvet along the seam. Normally I engage in a more violent sport, which involves holding the two corners of duvet-in-cover, opening my arms like a cormorant opens its wings in the wind and flapping the duvet down the length of the cover. But on this day I had no energy for flapping. So I had to be strategic. Methodical. It was slow going, but I did it.
And I knew.
I knew that the confusion (some call this brain fog) and the vertigo, which might be dizziness because I am not sure where one ends and the next begins, were lifting. If I could suss out how to put on a duvet cover, healing was at hand.
Of the many weird things that happened when I got Covid it was not so much the pulse and the blood pressure and the temperature, though these too were very strange, and continued to be strange until just about day 11-12, when they mysteriously stabilized. They were all of the unmeasurable (at least by me) symptoms, that I experienced, which left me wondering, “am I better or worse in this department today than yesterday?” And in the interest of being transparent, the departments are as follows.
inability to concentrate
loss of smell
loss of taste
absence of anxiety
jumbly in the word department
Because there are no metrics for these, it was hard to know how bad they were, or if they were getting worse/staying the same/getting better. It reminds me of a time in the 80s when people matched their shirts to their socks. I had a giant, oversized sweatshirt in an inadvisable (for me) shade of yellow, some where between eggshell and manila folder. I dutifully went to Canal Jeans and bought pair after pair of socks to bring home to combine with said sweatshirt and kept on getting the color wrong. I had no way to store the memory of the color of my shirt in my brain. In this case, I had no way of storing the knowlege of how bad my hearing/tasting/smelling/concentration/disconnection/brainfog/dizziness/ word jumbliness and poor memory were to compare them from day to day.
It was quite confusing, especially because well-meaning people kept on asking me how I was feeling, and it was both hard to know and hard to tell them, and I didn’t even get any new socks.
I had a very mild case of Covid, post two vaccinations (Sinovac) and also a couple of months after I’d had a common cold, which apparently can diminish the severity of symptoms, or so the internet tells me. I got the cold when someone literally coughed on me. At the time, I developed cold-like symptoms and just to be safe, got a PCR, and it came back negative. But then a few months later, and a month ago, on Saturday, May 22, I first started up with symptoms that turned out to be Covid. Link to that here.
It all started with a sharp pain in my lower back, followed by that weird “my swallow feels achy, but does it really, here let me try again, yes it does, no it doesn’t etc.” feeling, plus a tightness in my chest and so much sneezing. For a while I thought it was allergies. Usually for me a cold is one sneeze, and allergies are anywhere from 2-6. But Covid is a strange beast and gave me 3-4 sneezes many times a day. This might have been a preview to how weird the rest of course of this virus would be for me.
But despite the mildness of the Covid, the infection affected all of the things I listed above, and many people have asked me at what point I felt different symptoms, and I took copious notes because I felt it was important. Then a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine (who has Covid now) told me she’d lost her sense of smell. I was able to look at my notes and tell her that for me it happened on day 6. I am about two weeks ahead of her, and she said it was good to hear how my symptoms had developed or resolved because it oriented her and gave her hope. Maybe it will do the same for you. At the very least it will remind me of how it once was, and how much better it is now, even as I still can’t precisely quantify what percentage of each thing I am or am not experiencing still.
Below is a list of each symptom, along with an explanation of which days they happened on. I was going to make a chart and then I realized this is not really part of my skillset, and wisely desisted.
brain fog/confusion/spaciness/dissociation It’s like there was a veil between me and the world, or even me and myself. A slight disconnect, like I just landed from another planet, or like I was a few beats behind on the soundtrack. (days 4-28)
dizziness/vertigo/lightheadedness These are overlapping circles in my brain and I do not know which one is which. There is a sense that I had just been whirling around and had just stopped. Like there was a space that my brain hadn’t yet arrived into. I could stand on one foot, didn’t seem like balance was affected, but my brain was not in quite the right spot. I felt it less when in motion. (day 3-25)
inability to concentrate I could not follow a story for the longest time. People would talk to me and I would trail off into other places. A the beginning, in order to do a multistep task, like making pasta, I would have to talk myself through it. You will take out a pot, you will put water in the pot, you will boil the pasta etc. (day 3-7 most severe, continuing to about day 14)
loss of smell As I detailed before in the previous post, this is not just that I couldn’t smell. I could see it waning, and even as it is coming back, I have had phantom smells and smelled the wrong thing on numerous occasions. Mint seems particularly vexing, as I smell it as briney or candy-smelling. Phantom smells tend to be unpleasant and burny. (day 6-14 most severe, to day 21 almost all gone, day 25 I smelled lavender through my mask. Some crossed smells still happen, looking at you, formerly “honey” scented soap from Lush which smells floral and lemony to me now). I continue to be a bit nearsighted in the nose department, having to get quite close before I can smell things.
loss of taste I never fully lost the ability to taste things exactly, I could feel chemesthesis, or the acid, or spiciness of things, and I could always taste sweet, though I could not taste salt. The first thing I realized I could taste was the elderberry syrup I was taking as part of an antiviral cocktail. It never lagged as much as my sense of smell, which I don’t quite understand the mechanics of. (day 6-9 were the worst for loss of taste).
physical fatigue One of the first signs that I should go get tested was the sense that taking a shower might kill me. It wasn’t that my body felt heavy, but more like my motor wouldn’t catch. I just had no get up and go. Normally I’m a pretty peppy person. I move around a lot. When I was so so so tired, I thought ok, you HAVE to go to the kitchen, you haven’t eaten yet today, and it is 3 PM. Then I would make whatever was fastest and go lie down again. (mainly day 3-7. By day 21 I could bike several km at a time).
dampened hearing I got tinnitus from the first vaccine, then it waned. Then I noticed that my hearing was dampened with the smell and taste during Covid. This added to feelings of disconnection, and an infectólogo told me it was due to swelling in my brain/head/skull, and would likely dissipate. (day 6-14 most severe)
absence of anxiety I think this was related to the dissociation and dampened senses. I couldn’t get anxious for the life of me, and while this sounds like it was good, it kind of added to my feelings of disconnectedness. Like before everyone else leaves the house, they say “wallet, keys and phone” and I am like, “anxiety, curiosity, noticing.” It was relaxing to not be anxious, but also unsettling. (day 1 to day 28 unsettling, still ongoing to some extent, but less bothersome)
jumbly in the word department I either can’t find words, or the wrong ones will come out, or combinations of words like “peligrar” when I was trying to say “caminar es peligroso.” I noticed it alot and it was annoying, and it happens in both languages, but no one else sees/hears it as unusual. I often type homonyms (there for they’re, etc) and sometimes words that are similar, like incorporate for incarcerate, and I do not notice it until I am editing. This did not happen before. I cannot distinguish when one of those i-before-e words is write (see, I did it again, I mean right) or wrong. I have had to google to correctly spell receive and seize. (day 7-present, possibly before, but I wasn’t really speaking in those first days).
poor memory I just can’t remember what I was talking about, or especially, who I have told what. For my friends that I keep on telling the same thing, thank you for listening and not making me feel badly about it. (day 7-present, might be getting better, hard to quantify).
If you have gotten this far, congratulations! I hope it is not because you have Covid and you are trying to figure out how long your symptoms might last. There is a long Covid survivors group on Facebook called Survivor Corps that I am in because I am curious to see what people are saying about mast cells and histamine intolerance there. It seems Covid can ramp up mast cell degranulation which can cause a histamine overload in people, and I would like to help people on that front if I can. BTW, I started a newsletter about histamine intolerance, and it’s called Intolerant, because that’s funny (go sign up, it’s free, and a good time). But also, all my sympathy and well-wishes to the long Covid survivors group, because they are really going through it, and that was a really terrible fear of mine, and so far I seem to have, with the magic of science and luck and who knows what else, walked away from Covid without it.
Every day I keep on waking up feeling more and more like myself. The other day I did a weights/resistance workout in my “home gym” (formerly known as the guestroom) and it felt great, like I was really me again. I have gone on several bike rides, uphill, even and have resumed my crazy long walks and my noticing. I am so lucky (and so happy) to be back. Wishing all of you vaccines, rest, Vitamin D and the speediest possible recovery to you and yours. And as always my deepest condolences for those of you who have people who have not recovered.
(also thanks for all the patience while the blog was a mess, Two very long chat sessions with my hosting and one very generous friend whose gorgeous illustrated YA fiction book I will soon be shouting about, got me sorted, whew. It really does take a village).