Covid Fog

I recovered from COVID-19 over a year ago — or did I?

Fog! by T. Holt Russell

My COVID experience was a family affair. I, my wife, and two grown children went through COVID in November of 2020. Of the four of us, my symptoms were less severe. If I did not know about COVID, I thought I only had the flu. My body ached, my nose was runny, and I had difficulty breathing. These symptoms lasted for approximately five days. We eventually recovered and proceeded to get our shots and boosters, and all ended well. Or at least that is what I thought.

I'm presently at the crossroads of breaking down from aging and surviving through a COVID pandemic. I sometimes don't know which one is the culprit is of malaise. It seems that COVID mimics some of the natural processes that our bodies go through while aging. COVID-19 simulates the natural process and occurrences of the common cold and flu. We will not know which is the case until we are tested. Rapid testing is not a good option because of cost and lower accuracy reliability.

Some COVID symptoms make unwanted visits and remain long after the virus has left, like a ghost coming home. The symptom that haunts me the most long after my illness is the loss of smell. After more than one year, my ability to smell is still hampered. Though I have to admit that this disability sometimes comes in handy, I wonder if it will ever recover to the level before COVID. Sometimes food tastes weird, but I have not lost the sense of taste.

Then there is the emotional aspect to consider. I am much more emotional now than I ever was. I cry more now than I did as a baby. I get worked up now from just watching commercials. Watching movies and listening to music is another way for me to question my emotional and mental stability. I can tear up by just watching a football game!

When I tear up, it is not because of the game itself; it is more like my mind is taking a hike while watching a football game, and I end up going down a side road. Imagine a sporting event that highlights a story on a famous player who was poor, broke, and homeless as a child. At the same time, his mother worked three jobs to keep food on their plates. This type of thing eats me up! I was always emotional, but now I wonder if I can trust myself not to cry when hearing of the death of a celebrity that I cared little to nothing about while they were alive.

Is this because I am getting older, or is it something else? I am not sure because I am aging in the time of COVID and don't know what to blame it on. I can only say that these last two years have brought about a marked change in my emotional state. Some of this can be attributed to what I perceive to be a reverse in race relationships and America's toxic political and social climate.

I can't ignore the images of George Floyd being choked to death and Ahmaud Arbery being hunted and killed. These incidents and the storming of the capital building were not collateral incidents to the pandemic; they were part of the entire caldron of dispair that has blanketed this country in the past two years. When people say anarchists are challenging the legitimacy of our democracy, that is not hyperbole; this is the way people really feel. Our political climate is making me feel so emotional. I am contemplating purchasing a gun for the first time in my life. Or am I thinking of making this purchase because of current events alone? I don't know the answer to that question.

Then there is the problem of memory. I forget things all the time, and I have trouble focusing on what I am supposed to do. This is sometimes very embarrassing. I have forgotten that I have already given my employee instructions or other information, and I repeat it. Other times, I stop in mid-sentence because I forget the point I am supposed to make or even ignore the exact topic I was talking about in the first place.

Memory issues are common when it comes to aging people. But this change has come more quickly than I had anticipated. Is COVID making me feel this way, or is COVID simply speeding up the natural processes that older people routinely experience?

I have been ill with a cold in the past month, or was it the flu, or was it COVID? I do have shortness of breath sometimes because of my asthma. And when I have to cold or flu, difficulty in breathing always accompanies those illnesses. But how can I tell the difference between COVID-induced breathing difficulties or just the old school asthma acting up because of a common cold?

I have received both of my shots and a booster, as well as the annual flu shot. But I became ill again, and it is almost impossible to find out if sickness is a cold, flu, or COVID. Only a test will be able to determine the answer. The symptoms between cold, flu and COVID are so similar, and even doctors have difficulty telling the difference without the aid of a test.

Long-term COVID affects people's cognitive abilities and brings about fatigue, anxiety, depression, PTSD, headaches, persistent shortness of breath, and dyspnea. Some people require oxygen treatment long after the illness has subsided. In other words, any damn thing can be related to COVID. Or not.

Last spring, while my sister was on her hospital bed with COVID, she called me and asked what my family and I did to overcome the illness. My answer was lame. But it was the best I could do; I told her to treat it like she would treat a cold; drink fluids, rest, and stay away from people as much as possible. Inoculation had just started, and we went through all of that before we were able to receive our vaccinations. After about a week in ICU, my sister died in the hospital from COVID.

Since my so-called recovery from COVID, and after receiving vaccinations, I have become ill with those same symptoms three times. Those symptoms, as well as the continued neurological issues, make me wonder not only if I have COVID now, but whether I had recovered at all in the first place.

So, I'm in a fog. Not necessarily a fog brought on by COVID, but a fog caused by lack of a definitively practical way to find out if I have COVID at this moment or just a cold or flu. Also, is COVID responsible for the atrophy of my mind and body, or am I simply experiencing the natural process of aging? Logic tells me my deterioration is a combination of COVID and aging teaming up on me.

Meanwhile, I will continue to treat this like a cold.



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Thomas Holt Russell

Humanist, educator, writer, photographer, and modern-day Luddite. My writing is a living organism.