The mental and physical effects of coming face to face with COVID

I had been looking forward to life going back to some sort of normality. I was apprehensive about leaving the house prior to having both my jabs – mainly because I’m asthmatic and COVID is a respiratory virus. I also have a daughter with a heart condition and I had no idea how catching something like COVID would affect her. I’ve now sat on a train for two hours and made it into the office, more than once, been to the pub with family and friends and I have even hugged people and I’ve really enjoyed it.

On Friday 9th of July, my partner and the father of my children, Ben, had his second jab and we were starting to look at booking a family holiday before my daughter’s first operation later this year. We were waiting until our appointment with her surgeon who was going to decide on whether she was able to have non-invasive surgery or whether she had to have open heart. It’s something that I had been mentally preparing myself for for the last 6 months. On Thursday 22nd we were going to find out the result.

However, on the 14th of July, a week before, my partner started to feel unwell. He had a cold and aches and pains. He decided to sleep in the spare room, so he didn’t pass it on to me.

It was now Friday morning and I was getting my son ready for school. I was organising his spare clothes as it was his last Friday in reception and they were having a paddling pool party to celebrate his first year.

When I came downstairs, Ben was sitting in the kitchen with that look on his face. (You know the one where someone is about to give you bad news).  In front of him were two positive lateral flow tests.

I went into crisis mode. I told him to call 119 (the COVID helpline) and get that out of the way. I disinfected the kitchen and got the kids breakfast ready, while I waiting to find out what we had to do next.

He told me they advised him to go to the nearest test centre and to do a PCR test so they could determine the accuracy. We ALL had to self-isolate until the result came in and if positive, isolate for a further 10 days.  

I phoned my daughter’s nursery and phoned my son’s school. I then told my children. My 3yr old wasn’t that fazed – she didn’t really understand and couldn’t care less that she could now spend the day at home with mummy. My son on the other hand was devastated. He wasn’t allowed to see his friends, say goodbye to the best teacher he’s ever had and now wasn’t able to go back to school until September. I had to comfort him while he cried as I explained that this horrible bug was mean while filling him with promises about making up for what he’s about to lose.

I warned my team at work that my kids were now both home, but I would be working and I got through the day pretty unscathed.

Over the weekend we had the news we were dreading. The test was positive although by now, Ben was in the spare room 23 hours a day. Coughing continuously, not sleeping and going from freezing cold to boiling hot every half hour. I think we already knew.

I was cleaning the house as though we were living with the plague. Disinfecting everything as I went. Constantly washing my hands and begging the kids to do the same. I was sorting out our food shop delivery for Monday ensuring we had enough supplies to get through the week including anything that Dettol made to ensure I could keep this bug from spreading.

Key supplies during COVID

I then realised I would have to call the Hospital and rearrange my daughter’s appointment. We had waited over 7 months – Although in my head I was screaming, out loud I told myself, it was only a little bit longer to wait.

I had a doctor’s appointment to remove an implant in my arm. Something I had been struggling to get booked in for weeks but now this will be cancelled too. I kept telling myself it was no big deal.

However, I started to overthink everything. I started to think about work next week – I’d have both children at home. My partner couldn’t care for them as he was currently suffering in the hottest room in the house. He started having nose bleeds and my concern for his health was growing by the minute.

And my team – my team went from a 6 to 4 after the first lockdown hit. We’d just got through a very tough fortnight, handling two pitches, one of which was a huge global opportunity and took its toll on the large number of people who had to work on it. And now, one of the team was on annual leave so I was conscious of the fact that I had to be present this coming week and it was playing on my mind.

Questions were flying around my head…

  • Can I do my job well with two small children in the house? (I remember what this was like before so the thought of doing it again ensured my anxiety levels crept up)
  • Can I love and support my two young children and be there for them while juggling work calls and answering emails?
  • Can I work well when I need to keep covering myself in all possible PPE while running up and down stairs, to ensure I could look after Ben?
  • Have I got COVID? Have the kids got COVID? Should we all do another lat flow test? (we were doing them daily despite them coming back negative)

I was paranoid that the house wasn’t clean enough and was convinced it was inevitable that if someone in the house had COVID we were all guaranteed to get it. I wasn’t sleeping. My arms were covered in this awful itchy rash. I took a photo of my arm and sent it to my sisters asking them if they knew what it was.

Apparently its stress eczema!! – who knew that was a thing?

As a trained mental health first aider, I am used to supporting people who need me. I am actually pretty good at spotting a cry for help. Sending the photo of my arm was mine. And although I wasn’t aware it was, thankfully my sister answered.

She phoned me and straight away and I burst into tears. I was not well mentally and we both knew it. She gave me a stern talking to. She asked me if I could control the fact that Ben has COVID. I said “no”. She asked me if I could control the fact that my babies were now at home and I was the only one to look after them. I said “no”. She told me to phone work and tell them I couldn’t come in. I started to try and explain the situation my team were currently facing. She was having none of it. She said something had to give and that was the only thing in my control. She was right.

I sent my line manger a photo of my arm (not realising I didn’t really need to do that to explain how bad I was affected) and told him I had to spend a couple of days looking after my family and nothing else. He was amazing. He told me to concentrate on myself and that work could wait. 

The rest of my family chimed in with “Two days isn’t enough!” However, I had a week of annual leave coming up so I wanted to see if I could get through some work before I took it.

I popped on my OOO and the weight that was holding me down over the weekend had instantly lightened. Yes, I was still cleaning everything like mad, my arms were still sore as anti bac gel on sore skin burns like fire. But for two whole days in between running upstairs with paracetamol and food & water, I made paper aeroplanes, glitter pictures, put on a magic show, and had water fights.

The kids making the most of isolation

Ben started to feel better and two days later, took his first negative lateral flow test. While the rest of us took our PCR test – great family group activity by the way! (NOT!)

My resilience paid off. By Wednesday, I eased myself back into work. I left my OOO on but started to reply to emails. I had video chats with my team and took some work back off them to ease the pressure.

I was still having to tell my children off during those calls, but I wasn’t embarrassed anymore. This was life right now and it is was it is. I felt good. I was back. My children started to play with each other. Like properly play – less fighting and less shouting. We were all recovering.

I did more work on Thursday and by Friday, my OOO was off. I was ready again to take on the world.

And the PCR results…?

Yup. You’ve gussed it. Positive! We had a further ten days of isolation ahead of us. I was rough for two days, my kids…? Barely even noticed a symptom?!

So, my message to you all is this: It is absolutely possible to look after someone with COVID. In my case, it was almost impossible to protect the rest of the household from getting it. However, the worry, panic, stress and anxiety of what it might be like was way worse than COVID itself. ***

*In my experience.

**I was double vaccinated at the time.

By prioritising what mattered most, and relying on the people around me, who, luckily for me, had my back, we survived COVID.


 *It was anything but easy. However with the right support, it was certainly possible!

Published by Em@InsanelyNormal

I am Em, the Author of Insanely Normal. A mother of two, a marketer and copywriter and huge advocate for normalising the conversations around mental health.

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