opinion

'I'm recovering from COVID, and I'm over people trivialising it on social media.'

I unfollowed quite a few people from social media this week. 

There, as I lay in the bed that I hadn’t the energy to make in over a week, with hair in much need of a wash, I was faced with a social feed of influencers, acquaintances and media personalities making light of COVID. 

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It was usually a photo of them looking banging, along with a caption declaring something like, "COVID ain’t so bad!" Or the contrast pics. Look at me a week ago on the couch in trackies with COVID, and look at me now! With make-up! And a hot outfit! And freshly styled – and clean – hair!

And don’t get me wrong. Beyond the hair envy, I am genuinely happy that many people are bouncing back quickly from COVID. That for them, it was, "Just a bit of a sore throat". And gosh, am I thrilled for our crumbling health system, and our exhausted caregivers who support it with their endless sacrifice. They do not need one more serious case.

But this is not everyone’s experience of COVID.  

And while we hear about the tragic dire cases, and those for whom "it was barely a cold", what about the space in between? 

That’s where I was suspended.

For two years, I’ve evaded, avoided, and been a stickler for the rules. I got the jab and played it safe, so scared of catching COVID; much to the chagrin of some whose tone inferred I was a perhaps being "a little over-cautious". 

But my fear wasn’t for myself – I was terrified of passing it on to my mum, who is vulnerable, and with whom I live.

And then, just when I let my guard down, it happened. I had convinced myself that I deserved a little break to Queensland, and I tested positive a few days after my return home. 

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It was textbook Omicron, garnished with every symptom: sore throat, fevers and delirium, what felt like the nastiest of head colds, blocked ears, gastro-like symptoms (no one ever talks about that one, now do they?!), muscle aches, the cough, the my-head-feels-like-it’s-in-a-vice headache, brain-fog, zero appetite (unheard of for me), no taste, and intense fatigue. 

Two days later, mum got it too. 

Not only did she get COVID, but I had given it to her. 

She didn’t get the full repertoire of symptoms that I had, but some were more severe. She looked really sick, and I was worried. I felt bad, like, words can’t convey how bad I felt, and no, I’m not talking physically anymore.

Days were spent in bed, our cocker spaniel Millie on a loop of snuggle shifts from one doona to the next. My ears pricked with every one of mum’s coughs, as I measured the severity in my expert non-medical opinion. Was it getting heavier? (It did, but thankfully, she then began to improve, thank God). 

While on day one I lost myself (and my brain cells) to season two of Emily in Paris, I promptly made the decision to take a screen hiatus for as long as I was sick. No streaming. No scrolling. I didn’t have the interest or energy, and I knew I was fragile enough to not be able to deal with anyone else’s noise.

Instead, with all notifications disabled, I slept. 

It would often take me until the early evenings to find the strength to shower, and then, wrapped in a towel, I would flop on the bed again, fan whirring overhead. Dinner was often a Cruskit, before my partner (bless him!) insisted on "just a little" pasta, bringing freshly cooked batches to our doorstep with much-needed supplies. 

Image: Supplied.

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"You should be fine in a week," they said; the media, the government, well-meaning friends. But as the days stretched beyond seven, we weren’t, really.

Yes, thankfully, most symptoms had eased – and I could now plod from my bed to my favourite chair in the living room, eat two whole pieces of toast, and even open a book – but we were still gripped by others. For me, it was mostly the fatigue and fierce muscle aches.

I know, as far as COVID symptoms go, it could be so much worse. But in my own mind, my personal fears were getting louder. Why weren’t we better already? Would mum’s lingering symptoms go away? What if the fatigue doesn’t leave me? Could this be long COVID? What if the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that abruptly halted my life 10 years ago returns?

It was around this time that I dipped my toe into the murky waters of social media. Yeah, not a good move.

My Instagram feed was flooded by COVID posts. And my reaction was visceral.

So much of it felt so... trite. Tokenistic. The latest piece of on-trend, relevant content. The newest hashtag.

Let me just pause to say, I’m not judging those who choose to share. I understand our need to do so. Really, I do. 

But I also couldn’t help but notice that those who were doing the majority of sharing, were doing so relatively unscathed, boasting of their little to mild illness and quick recovery, and making light of the whole thing. 

And while it's great they were spared the savagery of COVID, their posts also smacked of smugness. An ill-thought, trivialisation of the very real suffering that has been, and continues to be for many.

Those of us who are not fine. 

Image: Supplied.

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Those who are drowning in anxiety, who haven’t been able to source a RAT test, or may not be able to afford them; or who don’t own a car and can't bounce from PCR testing site to site so easily.

For those who have high risk loved ones with complicated medical histories, who pray they will not get so sick that they need to go to hospital. And will an ambulance get them there in time?

For those who are older or confined to aged care. And for their loved ones on the outside, hoping their nannas and poppas are actually getting all the care they need.

For those whose incomes have been slashed, who’ve lost jobs, and businesses, and houses, and had their family breakdown because of this very long, very insidious pandemic. 

For those who are seriously ill. Whose loved ones are seriously ill.

And for those we have already lost to COVID. 

I don’t pretend to know their pain. But I do know, this virus, still playing out from variant to variant, is the source of anguish and pain for so many – particularly those without access to healthcare, and the privilege of a healthy body and bank account from the outset. 

And surely that alone is cause for us to be a little more thoughtful, and sensitive to others?

Today is my first day back at work, 16 days since I became unwell. Mum returns to her work next week. We’re still not 100 per cent, but we’re getting there now.

Time and patience. Gratefulness and humility.  

We are lucky – and I pray that anyone reading this who is suffering from COVID be just as lucky too.

Want to read more from Rebecca Davis? You can find her articles here, or follow her on Instagram, @rebeccadavis___

Feature Image: Supplied.