Lessons I Learned From COVID

Sep 16, 2020


As many of you know, I came down with COVID in early July. I wrote a blog post when I was initially diagnosed, which you can read here. Today, I want to discuss a little bit about what my experience of the recovery process was like, and what I learned from it. 

Before I launch into that, I want to say, oh my goodness, thank you so much for caring. I’ve never gotten so many beautiful emails and notes sent my way, and I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to feel cared about.

I know that I have delayed and delayed giving you an update, because I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I was trying to gather my thoughts. But today I’m going to make the rubber meet the road, suck it up, and give you a little update. First of all, I am well, as you can see. My partner, who many of you were concerned about, never tested positive. In fact, she had three negative tests, so I really don’t think she got it. We’re both doing great. 

What a big experience! My symptoms were mild and they never really got severe. It was a lot like having a cold, except kind of a weird cold. In terms of physical symptoms, I was snuffly, I had a sore throat, I had leg pains and muscle aches, and I had a little bit of heaviness in my chest at one point, which was actually the symptom that led me to get tested. 

However, the most inconvenient symptom by far was that the whole experience was a  huge emotional roller-coaster. I think that part of that is because it’s such a complicated thing to have COVID in this cultural moment. Some people are in denial about it, and some people are obsessively terrified by it; neither of those reactions are actually particularly helpful, and both are kind of hard to handle if you’re feeling under the weather. 

I also had a lot of fatigue, and I still have fluctuating energy levels. That is what I want to focus on today, because I think there is a lot of rich learning for me in that. As most of you know, I have a complicated business. I teach therapists all around the world, I have a lot of clients of my own in my private practice, and I consult, so I’ve got a lot of spinning plates to manage. 

First of all, the project of hitting the brakes on all that turned out to take more than three weeks. That was a lesson! Thank goodness I wasn’t super-duper sick or hospitalized, because just hitting the brakes and saying “stop” is something I’m not that good at. I do think it’s possible to get good at it. I would like to, because some people take vacations, and I would like to become one of them. So, from the Department of Self-Care, that’s one of the lessons that I’m learning. I might want to learn how to hit “stop” more quickly and more effectively than I ever have done before, not just because I might get sick with something and need to do that, but because I’d like to live a life where I’m able to do that. Realizing that I’m so far away from being a person who takes a break well was a bit of a wake-up call. 

Imagine a scale from about 0 to 100. At one end are the things that you do that completely feed your soul, and make you feel amazing and strong and incredible, and on the other end of the scale are things that really deplete you. I’m a pretty high-functioning person, but the interesting thing is that I mostly didn’t used to be able to tell the difference between those things. One of the huge gifts that COVID gave me, personally, is the ability to distinguish between those things quite specifically, because if I overdo it, I’ll get a relapse of my symptoms. I’ll get a sore throat and muscle aches for 5-7 days! With that level of energy titration, I can really tell, at the end of a day, or while I’m doing an activity, whether it is regenerating my energy or taking it away. To a certain degree, all activity takes away energy, so I’ve also become much better at figuring out what rebuilds that–what activities actually are restful. I didn’t really know! I had some theories and some things I liked to do, but I didn’t have a clear and nuanced internal read about what pleasurable activities still are taking energy away, and what kinds of things actually bring more resources to me in terms of energy, vitality, interest, joy, happiness, and pleasure. Developing this awareness has been incredible. 

At this point, I have to issue a disclaimer. I understand that there are people who got way, way sicker than I got, and had a completely different experience. I don’t want in any way, shape, or form for this to be taken as a universal message about the COVID experience. I’m much more interested in sharing with you some of the things that I wish I could have learned without getting sick. The truth is, I’ve had opportunities to learn these things before, and I haven’t. 

As you know if you read my blog post, this really was an emotional regulation project for me. The mood swings caused me to roll up my sleeves and figure out how to choose an emotion because I wanted it, because the alternative was really unpleasant and I didn’t want to be that unhappy. I’ve gotten much better at emotional regulation, and I’ve gotten much better at actually making time for myself to rest and rebuild, and I’ve gotten better at figuring out what that looks like, which ranges from meditation, to day-dreaming, to laying in the hammock and watching the birds, to holding my cat, and sometimes doing those things simultaneously with other things, but I’m much less of a multi-tasker than I used to be. 

These are gains that I don’t plan to let go of. These are the kinds of things that I think contribute to a sustainable lifestyle, and by that I mean energy coming in to feed the systems that I’m upholding with my energy expenditures. Figuring out how to balance those systems is quite a unique and individual project, and I want to do what I can to encourage you to take on that project, so that you can get some of the benefits of my experience without actually having to go through my experience.

In my next vlog, I’ll discuss some other aspects of my experience with COVID, but for now, think about self-care, and see if you can parse out for yourself what feeds you and what depletes you–what really does refill the well, what’s merely relaxing, and how important those things are to you. Also, what is the hidden cost of multi-tasking for you, if any? 

Again, thank you so much for all of the love and well-wishes. I’ll talk to you soon!

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